A leading independent property consultancy with expertise covering a broad spectrum of property related services

Making the most of the Cottage Industry

Most farms will have at least one former farm-worker’s cottage. Typically these are either  let long term on a residential tenancy,  or short term as self-catering holiday accommodation, providing useful diversified income. 

In a previous edition of Rural Matters, we examined the pros and cons of both these options, but this article focuses on properties made available for self-catering holidays.  In light of the current health crisis, holiday accommodation providers have had to adjust to significant new routines and procedures. 

So what exactly are providers facing? We asked Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scottish Self Caterers (ASSC), and Melinda and Robert Kennedy of Supercontrol, a company  which provides management software and expert guidance for those in the self-catering business. 

With holidaying abroad facing restrictions, and an increasing number of countries joining the quarantine list, holiday accommodation providers across the UK are experiencing increased demand from British tourists. However, it is not quite as simple as greeting eager holidaymakers as they arrive. The self-catering industry dried up completely during the lockdown, meaning that many lost out on at least three months of income, on top of having to refund those who could no longer come. So, when the self-catering sector cautiously re-opened, many providers were met with a surge in demand, while also adhering to cleaning and Health and Safety measures which have increased immeasurably compared with previous standards.  The role of the Association of Scottish Self Caterers (ASSC) has arguably never been more important. The ASSC has been around for over 40 years, and  its members  maintain the principles of “quality, integrity, cleanliness, comfort, courtesy and efficiency” offering visitors to Scotland consistently high standards of accommodation. 

The self-catering industry is a £723 million sector in Scotland, and therefore a significant part of the national economy. The crisis will have reduced this contribution, however, it  may serve as an opportunity for change, and innovation.

Fiona Campbell of the Association of Scottish Self Caterers  commented:

We’re optimistic about the future and welcome the incredible demand for staycations, which adds significantly to that atmosphere of positivity and determination.

The ASSC continues to undertake critical activities to support its members against threats to the industry, such as the Short-Term Lets Regulatory Framework, Transient Visitor Levy/Tourist Tax,  Business Rates Review and the increasing ‘cost of doing business’.

Guests can rest assured that the accommodation on offer through ASSC members is not only comfortable and clean, but that it is also compliant with government guidelines, and that guests are offered flexibility and the promise of a refund in the face of ‘force majeur’ cancellations.  As bookings and cancellations now need to be managed so quickly and frequently, property owners are looking to technology to help them stay one step ahead. For this reason Robert and Melinda Kennedy of Orroland Farm founded Supercontrol in 2007. Supercontrol is a platform designed  for the self-catering market, providing an online management system enabling more bookings with less work. The software has specific tools to analyse turnover and occupancy rates. Supercontrol recently introduced its Master Cancel software. 

Robert Kennedy explains:

The owner or agency changes their terms to offer flexible cancellation terms to their guests. They will offer a full refund of any accommodation costs up to two days prior to arrival. If the cancellation falls between 60 and 2 days prior to arrival then they can make a claim to Master Cancel.Undoubtedly this has been an invaluable procedure during the last few months. Robert continues: Making a claim is a simple process. If the dates aren’t rebooked, or if they are re-booked at a lower price, then Master Cancel will reimburse you 90% of the accommodation value.

With this simple system, it is clear to see why there has been a significant increase in owners engaging Supercontrol’s services through the Covid-19 period.  

Another area where Supercontrol can help self-caterers is through their price optimisation packages. The key software for this is Beyond Pricing, which sets prices for individual properties, based on local market data. This software has been proven to increase revenue by 10-40% and enhances flexibility for owners.

Robert concludes:

Despite months of lockdown and the inevitable hit on revenue, we are extremely optimistic for the future. Covid has already brought a boost to selfcatering since the market re-opened and demand is higher than ever. Overseas travel is likely to be impacted for some time, making UK self-catering the first  choice for many. This will include a large number who haven’t used self-catering previously, driving yet more opportunity to our sector in 2021 and beyond.

So while the debate remains whether to enter into the short let holiday market, or to let longer term, with the inevitable pros and cons of both options, there is assistance available from the Association of Scottish Self Caterers and Supercontrol. If you are considering changing from letting a property long term to a holiday rental, or vice-versa, or for advice on any aspect of letting a property please contact your local Galbraith office.