Tourism boost as businesses in Devon and Cornwall report surge in visitors
Holiday cottages, hotels and guest houses across the Westcountry are enjoying their best summer business in years with the hot weather and an Olympics after-glow boosting visitor numbers.
Owners and managers are reporting back their best figures for almost a decade with many near fully booked or with only a few spaces remaining.
The positive news has been greeted warmly by tourism bodies and is a welcome reprieve after a months of previous poor weather following a washout summer. It has been attributed to a staycation boost, with Brits keen to take advantage of the hot weather and stay at home, as well as an upsurge in foreign visitors as a results of the 2012 Olympics.
Carolyn Custerson, Chairman of VisitDevon , said that all businesses questioned in a recent survey were reporting bookings up on August 2012.
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She said: "There's no doubt the weather has helped what could be a record summer. I think we are seeing a tremendous boost as a result of the Olympics. VisitEngland estimates that potentially 10% more of the British will holiday at home because of the great patriotic feel. "We are seeing across Devon there's absolutely a significant increase in overseas visitors from Germany, Scandinavia and Holland. There's also a significant uplift in the number of Japanese and South American holidaymakers, that has to be the result of the Olympics. There's an air of optimism that we have not seen for six or seven years."
James Sharp, Chairman of Exeter and the Heart of Devon Hotels and Restaurants Association said one member had seen an 8.6% rise in overall bookings in comparison to last summer with a 6% rise in July alone. He said: "We have seen a substantial rise in bookings this summer, with many members reporting being sold out during the summer holidays. There has been an increase in overseas visitors but one of the main growth areas has been holidaymakers choosing to 'staycation' in Devon due to the fantastic weather we have been experiencing."
According to VisitBritain, in the first half of 2013 the nation attracted 15.2 million visitors, a 4% rise, with the spend up a record 11% to £8.7 billion.
Arnaud Ruetsch, from the Penzance and District Hotel and Restaurant Association, said his guest house has been fully booked between May and September. He said there had been a notable increase in guests from abroad.
"Most of our members are having a very good summer," he said. "The weather has been good so we find a lot of people are booking late. I took two phone calls for bookings this morning that I couldn't take. There have been a lot of Germans, Austrian, Swiss and Scandinavian visitors. I think it's been the best summer we have had in years."
Tim Windibank, owner of Salcombe and Dartmouth Holiday Homes, which lets properties in both South Hams' resorts, said the excellent summer had led to unprecedented bookings in July and August. He said: "Let's hope the sun shines for September – because we have got availability for the early autumn. This is the best summer we have had for many, many years as a business."
Andrew Easton, business manager at self-catering agency Beach Retreats, said bookings were up 68% in July with traffic on its new website up 85%. He said: "We only have five properties left out of 76 to sell for the last two weeks of August. This will mean that the entire summer holidays will have been booked out. Our new responsive website launched just before the hot weather began, meaning we were able to maximise on this surge of interest."
But Alistair Handyside, of the South West Tourism Alliance, warned although bookings were up there were still places available and the region was very much open for business. He said: "Bookings have improved from the end of June dramatically but there's still good availability."