Visitors booking later

James Finnegan

Despite earlier predictions of a ‘staycation’ boom in visitors to the south west, more than a third of hotels and tourism businesses are reporting fewer bookings than this time last year.

In addition to the 39% declaring a decline, 45% expect to see their income decrease for the year.

A majority (65%) have seen a big increase in last-minute bookings, while 43% say that this year’s visitors are spending less during their stay.

These are among the top line findings of an early season snap survey of hotels and tourism businesses throughout Devon and Cornwall, conducted by the tourism & leisure team at accountancy firm, Bishop Fleming.

Team leader, James Finnegan, said: “New trends are emerging, driven by the economic climate, the weather, and the internet.

“While tighter household budgets and uncertainties about jobs have boosted plans for holidaying in the UK, reinforced by unfavourable exchange rates and yet another ash cloud episode, our respondents are seeing those potential visitors leaving their booking to the last moment.

“The internet is now empowering potential visitors to delay booking in the hope of last-minute discounts and until they have a reliable weather forecast. 2009’s long-range prediction of a ‘barbecue summer’ has not been forgotten.”

Asked about bookings from international visitors, most respondents have seen little change, while more than 10% are noticing an increase in bookings from overseas visitors.

Meanwhile, many recent visitors to Devon and Cornwall have been spending less. Almost half of the survey respondents (43%) have noticed that their visitors have spent less than in previous years on extras, including food and wine.