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UK Resorts: staycations on whole new level 

By Paul Wells, Partner

For a full year and half, repeated lockdowns and restrictions in movement across borders prevented many of us from travelling abroad. While for many this led to disappointment, for others it highlighted an opportunity for growth in the UK and, to my mind, the two sides to this coin each came with their own rewards.

On one side, it forced many people to experience a UK ‘big’ holiday, and that this was not actually such a terrible thing. The UK has a huge mount to offer from varied landscape of mountain or sea, to the diverse experiences from urban cities to country cottage. But what it also highlighted was the huge variation in the quality of accommodation on offer.

While independent rental cottages and seaside apartments saw a huge surge in demand, for others it opened up the possibility of the ‘UK Resort’ and this is reflective in a number of projects in which Studio Moren are currently involved.

The idea of a UK resort is nothing new, we just had a different name for it. The world of Hi-de-Hi and the holiday camp dates back to the 1936 when Billy Butlin, tired of, well, 'tired' boarding houses, built the first Butlin’s Holiday Camp in Skegness.

Things have moved on a long way and the decline of the holiday camp, bought about by the advent of cheap international travel, saw the UK travel industry play second fiddle to sunnier climes for half a century, however, with this option removed for much of 2020-2021 travellers have rediscovered the UK, particularly for experiential travel and/or luxury relaxation.

Studio Moren are working on a number of these country ‘resorts’, ranging from destination spa hotels to exclusive retreats, but all with ‘experience’ at the core. Escaping one’s reality, if only for a couple of days. Becoming one with nature but with support on hand. We have seen a huge rise in this sector offering everything from open water swimming, cycling and trekking to cooking courses, yoga retreats and high-end spas - the options are endless and hospitality is leading the way.

We recently obtained planning for the new build sustainability led Magnolia Park Golf and Spa in Buckinghamshire.

Here, like many of our schemes, the focus is not an outdoor pool area or beach but around the idea of experience and escape with a luxurious spa proposed alongside golf and culinary experiences. Activities on site designed to allow you to relax and unwind without further travel, unless you want too.

On other sites we are also looking at different opportunities for accommodation, private experience lead retreat spaces including ‘treehouses’, ‘stargazing pods’ and contemporary lodges. These could have private fire pits and spa facilities (hot tubs or private saunas with the ability to dive straight into open water) along with that ability to sit privately away from the main hotel accommodation; with all the benefits of service a luxury hotel brings.

Of course, on the flip side of the coin, there was a massive pent up demand for internatonal travel and that too appears to have got back on track with many of our clients talking of huge pipelines abroad.

With a lightening of travel restrictions airlines saw an immediate uplift in demand, despite the cost increases.

This in turn lead to a new phrase; 'Revenge Travel'. The act of taking ‘revenge” on COVID-19 by travelling more, travelling further and travelling for longer.

No one has a crystal ball but currently, despite talk of a recession, it appears that people have an insatiable desire to travel, be it in the UK or further afield and, with our hospitality experience, Studio Moren are ideally suited to ride the revenge wave!