A LEADING East Lancashire holiday firm is aiming to maximise on the 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by slashing prices as part of a ‘staycation’ campaign.
Hoseasons, based in Earby, has joined the national tourist board VisitEngland's ‘Holidays at Home are Great’ scheme that will see holidaymakers offered discounts of 20.12 per cent on accommodation, restaurants and attractions in a major tourism drive.
A £3million TV advertising campaign has been launched featuring celebrities such as Julie Walters, Rupert Grint, Stephen Fry and Michelle Dockery backing the idea of “No passports, no jabs, no visas and no Euros”.
Geoff Cowley, the man at the helm of the Hoseasons Group, attended the launch with other commercial operators and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in London.
He said: “The idea is to remind people of the good stuff going on.
“There is a website which has discounts and we'll be loading offers into that about our different products. As the country's largest domestic holiday company we would naturally want to be involved in these events.”
Mr Cowley said online bookings, quality accommodation and top attractions had transformed the self-catering market.
From Nora Batty's quaint cottage in Holmfirth to plush penthouse apartments to hidden mansions, Hoseasons has a portfolio of more than 27,000 properties across the UK and Europe.
The company, which includes brands Hoseasons, cottages4you, villas4you, Country Cottages, Welcome, Blakes, Dales Holiday Cottages, Chez Nous and Stilwells, increased bookings by 1.5 per cent last year with nearly 2.3 million people holidaying with them.
Mr Cowley said: “The UK has always been popular with UK holidaymakers, that's no secret. From 2009, when the pound came down in value against the Euro, people who had been overseas tried a holiday in the UK or had an additional holiday or short term break and liked what they found.
"There are more things for people to do than, say, 20 years ago. We have the Eden Project in Cornwall, BeWILDer Wood in East Anglia, surfing schools in Cornwall, walks along the coastline, mountain bike trials. Years ago you couldn't take kids into pubs. Now you can pull up at a pub or restaurant and kids are welcome. It's very affordable too."
Hoseasons, which employs 487 people in Earby, began in the 1940s with a small boatyard on the southern broads, owned and run by Oulton Broad harbourmaster, Wally B Hoseason . His son James succeeded him as heir to the family business. In the 1960s, the firm spearheaded the explosion in UK self catering and was the first to advertise on TV for boating holidays and holiday parks. It was also the first company to offer computer reservations.
The firm continued to grow throughout the 1990s and 2000s and was eventually bought by Wyndham Worldwide's Exchange and Rentals business in a deal worth £51 million. Last year Wyndham Worldwide's revenues soared by 10 per cent to $43.3billion.
"It's a significant market. Tourism in the UK is bringing £115billion into the economy," said Mr Cowley."We go to places where there is not a great deal of other infrastructure, such as the Dales or Cornwall. The road network is a lot better and the internet makes it to book. Customers can narrow down what they want and how much they want to pay.
"In the cottage side of the business, homes are so much better equipped and furnished. People are tending to take shorter breaks instead of the two weeks in the summer. We have groups of guys or girls who want to go mountain biking, family breaks, walking or special interests. People like to get away for special anniversaries or birthdays. There are all sorts of opportunities."
Mr Cowley added: "We're in very good shape, whenever we do need staff, we recruit and we get what we need. It's a bit of a hybrid at Earby - we sell cottages on the sales side in the UK, cottages in France, Ireland and Italy. We also handle administration for bookings and service centre for owners of properties and group functions such as finance and marketing."
Looking ahead, he said: "The industry continues to adapt. There are more internet opportunities. People are booking later. Short breaks are growing and people are looking for flexibility. We have launched the autograph range, lodge developments for families and boutique cottages, family and toddler friendly sections''
He paid tribute to Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson for highlighting industry concerns in Westminster over new regulations and costs imposed on thousands of individual cottage owners for waste disposal and Environmental Performance Certification (EPC).
Mr Cowley said: "Andrew Stephenson has been supportive. It goes back to changes proposed under the previous government on the way the owners of cottages were taxed. There was a risk this would reduce the supply of cottages and that could affect some parts of the country.
"We asked for more consultation and Andrew came to see us. He seems to 'get' that tourism is a significant part of the economy. There are increasing costs on cottage owners, private water inspections going up and environmental performance certification. They classify waste from furnished cottages as commercial, which increases the cost on the owner. While we support that polluters have to pay, its simple domestic waste so why should they pay more? The government says the EPC issue is driven by a European directive, but our research has shown that this regulation is not required for holiday lets in most other member states."