Concern at peak holiday numbers

Winter Rule partner Tom Roach

The popularity of Cornwall being a traditional peak season holiday destination could be on the wane according to new research.

While marketing Cornwall as a year-round holiday venue has proved to be a major success, figures published by accountant Winter Rule suggest it could be coming at the expense of the peak summer weeks.

The tourism team at Winter Rule, which has been surveying the Cornish hotel sector every month for the last 20 years, has identified a sustained downturn in August visitor numbers over the last five years.

Tom Roach, partner at Winter Rule and tourism team leader, said: “In the first six months of this year we saw a 3.5% rise in hotel occupancy in Cornwall compared with the same period in 2009, and our preliminary data for September and October looks good.

“But we saw lower occupancy levels in August and part of July, and over the last five years the numbers have fallen consistently. In 2005 percentage occupancy rates during the peak summer holidays were running nearly 90%. By 2010 this declined to nearly 80%.

“What we need to guard against is marketing the year-round message at the expense of the crucial peak season”

“Our fear is that the deterioration in August has become a sustained one and that’s a worrying trend because just a small rise or fall in occupancy levels on average can mean a substantial difference in individual hotel trading performances.”

Roach explained the poor weather in recent summers had not helped peak season occupancy rates and although the shoulder months had improved over last year, lower occupancy during peak season was likely to erode these gains.

He added: “In recent years a lot of effort has been put into marketing Cornwall as a year-round tourism destination and with huge success – only this week Cornwall was crowned most popular UK county.

“Although that’s good news for employment, our data would suggest that it has perhaps resulted in some visitors who previously came in August deciding to come to Cornwall in the shoulder months.

“What we need to guard against is marketing the year-round message at the expense of the crucial peak season and we will know at the end of the year what the overall picture is.”

The Winter Rule monthly hotel survey covers 25 of Cornwall’s key hotels of different sizes and markets which between them offer more than 800,000 bed nights a year.



  1. Whilst the findings of this research may be solid the conclusions that are being drawn are more than a little dodgy.
    Let us start with the conclusion that marketing of Cornwall as a year round destination is the cause of the drop in summer numbers. This is simplistic. There are likely to be many other underlying causes and they need investigation. We should look at whether visitors are happy with their experience. Is Cornwall overpriced and poor value for money in the summer?
    We need a much more detailed survey.

    The second issue is whether marketing Cornwall as a year round destination is a “bad thing”.
    Is it a bad thing? Do we want high quality year round hospitality jobs or a surge of part timers in the summer-which links to my first point.
    It is frankly ridiculous to say we must guard against marketing against year round visits. We must guard against drawing false conclusions from a single source of information.
    Really it is time to open the debate up regarding the role and importance of tourism in the Cornish economy. Personally I find it appalilng that the county has no Hotel School. The hospitality industry is hard work but can be immensely rewarding as a a career and give many people opportunities they would never have had.
    Cornwall needs good accurate data on how visitors view their visit and how people working in the industry view their career prospects not a knee jerk response to a set of figures.

  2. Wo, you are interpreting the figures incorrectly, Google Insights for Search uses “Normalised Data” and therefore just about every phrase shows a downward trend as it’s a measure of the phrase against all other search phrases

    This year has been an interesting one for tourism as we’ve seen a bad winter at the start which ate up a lot of people’s holiday time, a change in government, the budget, recession and the World Cup. I wouldn’t advise stopping marketing the shoulder months as we need to take more of what is there all year round and shoulder season traffic can come at a lower marketing cost.

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