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The end of the staycation boom: What does it mean for activity centres

by Daniel Steele

The last two years brought a surge of domestic tourism to British seaside towns, as lockdowns and travel restrictions drove a boom in staycation demand. For activity centres offering everything from surf lessons to amusement rides, the influx of visitors was a welcome relief.

But new data suggests the staycation boom is over. As the cost-of-living crisis deters vacations and foreign travel rebounds, seaside towns are already seeing far fewer job postings in hospitality and tourism.

For activity centres in coastal communities, this rapid decline in domestic holidays poses a real risk. Many invested in expanding their facilities, staff and operations to capitalise on the staycation demand during the pandemic. Now, they could be left with excess capacity and struggling to generate enough revenue to cover higher costs.

Seasonality has always been an issue for seaside businesses. But the rollercoaster of the pandemic exaggerated the peaks and troughs. The key summer months are crucial for activity centres to turn a profit and carry them through the winter. So a cooling of demand over this past summer could hit hard.

Centre owners also face mounting competition in staycation locations from pop-up attractions and new market entrants who jumped in to fill excess demand. As demand shrinks, pricing pressures and lower margins may squeeze out some operators.

While the boom times of the past two years were exceptional, activity centres must now adapt to life after the staycation surge. 

Here are some practical steps you can take:

Get Lean for the Off-Season

  • Review staffing needs and shift schedules to scale back during quieter periods. Avoid overstaffing that cuts into profits.

  • Renegotiate supplier and vendor contracts to bring down off-season costs. Secure discounts on quiet days.

  • Explore energy saving measures to reduce utility bills in the winter months. Smart heating and lighting can reduce waste.

Diversify Your Offerings

  • Add extra experiences like escape rooms, craft workshops or yoga retreats that appeal year-round.

  • Cater for functions like corporate team building days to generate bookings in low season.

  • Partner with local schools or councils for group activity days tied to curriculum or health initiatives.

Leverage Local Alliances

  • Offer special loyalty packages for locals to incentivise repeat visits.

  • Cross-promote with nearby hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and other attractions to package deals.

  • List activities on tourism sites and pioneer "stay and play" deals with accommodation partners.

Automate and Modernise Operations

  • Streamline cumbersome admin by using online activity management platforms like Eola which offer free solutions tailored to centres.

  • Update booking systems to enable easy online reservations and save staff time.

  • Boost your digital presence and social media to connect with customers old and new.

By taking proactive steps to stabilise finances, create new revenue streams, and operate smarter, activity centres can build resilience in the face of declining staycations. The key is adaptability, innovation and making the most of partnerships and technology.

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