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Staycation � the shape of things to come?

I took a staycation
this year, I spent August in Faversham ? I had planned to daytrip and enjoy Kent. I did,
but I didn?t go far. With visitors coming to stay I found myself as guide
rediscovering the place where I am rooted, relishing its past and thinking
about its future. In St Mary’s, the parish church which I watch, as the seasons
change, from my study window, we have one remnant of the medieval frescoes
which before the Puritans would have covered the whole interior. We have that
remnant fresco because some individuals were brave enough not to scrape off the
frescoes before whitewashing the pillars.


Staycation, the word is ugly an Americanism, a contraction
meaning a stay-at-home-vacation. No English alternative has yet emerged. An
opportunity to rediscover people and place to see your place, your home, as
visitors see it.  Inviting friends to stay
ensures that in showing them around your rediscover what makes your place
special ? a function of landscape, the vernacular architecture and most
important the people. Being on the receiving end of VFR turns the tables the
?holidaymaker enjoying their staycation becomes host and guide and to take
extended leisure where they might otherwise work ? well that’s the case for
workaholics anyway.


Will the staycation catch on ? obviously a lot of people tried
it this year as consequence of the economic downturn and because it is the only
way you can avoid the congestion on the roads and railways and the misery of
Heathrow or Gatwick.


The weather drives us
to travel

There is one obvious problem for those of us for whom the UK is
home. Climate change and global warming is not proving us with those good
summers some anticipated. We live on islands with weather coming off the Atlantic and that means that increased rain fall and
cloud cover, rain and the absence of sunshine are characterising our summer
climate. Extreme weather is becoming a more common occurrence.


August 2008 has been the sixth wettest August since 1912,
and with one third less sunshine  ? in Kent we hardly
saw blue sky. The 30?C barrier was breached only twice. As an autumn sets in
the tour operators are reporting Mediterranean bookings up by as much 150% year
on year. UK
resorts were reported to be busier than usual this year. and both reported higher domestic UK sales this year.



Counting the cost of

The main drivers of the staycation were the credit crunch
and concerns about the impact of inflation in food and energy costs and
declining property values on people’s disposable incomes. It was the actual
rather than the ethical cost of travel which restrained us.


The annual holiday is for affluent consumers one of three
big budget item purchases; moving, the annual holiday and the new car. The housing
market is falling and in August new car purchases were at their lowest level
since 1996 an 18.6% decline year on year, gas guzzling Land Rover sales were
down 58% and Aston Martins down 67%.  The
number of people putting money into private pensions declined by 1m to 7m,
there will be fewer British affluent retired cruising in the future. Whitbread
reports that sales are booming at its budget chain Premier Hotels, like-for-like
sales up 10.2% and Whitbread plans to open a further 4,000 rooms, not
surprising with its revenue PAR up 5.8%. Travelodge launched a credit crunch
sale with rooms at ?9 per night The Guardian reports that organic food sales
had shrunk from ?100m a month to ?81m. These are turbulent times as disposable
incomes shrink and the value of the ? falls.


Protourisme reports that booked nights are only down 2% in France
(although that compares with steady year on year growth of 3% in recent years);
holidays are being booked later, sales in bars and restaurants are reported to
be down 10 to 30%. Spain
reports an 8% drop in the number of foreign visitors year-on-year in July. 


UK consumers are going to feel substantially less well off, food and fuel inflation will reduce our standard of living but wetter summers, a likley consequence of climate change, may perversely maintain or increase our predisposition to jet off to the sun.

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