UK’s top short stay locations
With accommodation expected to provide location, luxury, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness, one hospitality offering is ticking all the boxes for ever-more discerning recreational and business travellers – the serviced apartment. Traditionally focused around capital cities across the UK and Europe, the serviced apartment is now becoming a mainstream form of accommodation across cities of all sizes as the pandemic and visa requirements for European travel have boosted domestic travel levels.
York – a tourism hot spot
From historic city breaks to adventure tourism, walking breaks, business trips and family weekends away, the UK offers something for all styles of traveller. One such city enjoying a boom in temporary accommodation demand is historic York in North Yorkshire, a permanent fixture on the UK’s best places to live and buy property lists and attracting more than seven million visitors from across the globe each year. According to the Sunday Times newspaper, flocks are drawn to its cobbled streets thanks to a perfect blend of “heritage and high-tech.” Indeed, York offers a “mini-metropolis with cool cafes, destination restaurants and innovative companies,” the newspaper adds. Couple this with its rich history as a Roman outpost, a home to Vikings, its character-filled streets of magnificent Medieval homes and gothic York Minster and you have a pressing need for varied accommodation options within those 13th Century walls.
If you are wondering why York is a good place to visit families flock to make history books come alive for schoolchildren, with tales of the city’s infamous son, Guy Fawkes, and to visit some of the UK’s top museums and attractions, including the National Railway Museum, Fairfax House, known as the ‘finest Georgian town house in England,’ and the York Army Museum. Those hungry for more history will not be left wanting – York is also home to a fully restored two-storey, semi-subterranean Cold War bunker, built in 1961 to track nuclear explosions and fallout in the event of a nuclear war.
With so many appealing attributes, it is no wonder that the temporary accommodation sector is on fire in the walled city. Developers are pouring in and expansive regeneration projects are set to transform regions of the city into work/play meccas for business and recreational travellers. One such area is the formerly industrial Layerthorpe, lying just to the north-east of York city centre, which has a number of prime sites already earmarked for large residential and commercial schemes, including popular serviced apartment offerings. Icona York on Redeness Street is one such development helping to recast the area as a cosmopolitan, hugely sought-after zone set to see rising property prices over the coming years.
Located under ten minutes away from the city’s key business areas and the facilities, eateries and attractions of central York itself, Icona York boasts 32 one and two-bedroom apartments across five floors, with a communal rooftop, gym and dedicated concierge service. Views over the historic York Minster, Italian quartz kitchens, balconies, three penthouses with private terraces and residents parking, make Icona the ideal choice for York accommodation. Completed at the end of last year, everything is brand new and therefore provides a worry-free investment offering convenient low-maintenance accommodation and solid rental returns. With prices starting at £255,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, Icona York compares favourably with other new-build developments when it comes to pricing. While Icona’s sq/ft price is £442, equivalent new builds have an average price per sq/ft of £475.
The historic town of Chester
Another historic town popular with staycation visitors is Chester, the county town of Cheshire, located in Northwest England close to the border with Wales on the banks of the River Dee. This walled cathedral city is famed for its Roman walls made of local red sandstone – the most complete city walls of any historic city in England – which tell of its history as a fortress in the 1st century A.D. The city is also home to the largest Roman Amphitheatre in the country, the oldest racecourse and a 1,000-year-old cathedral boasting some of the finest examples of medieval carvings in Europe.
Visitors looking for a short weekend break in Chester are increasingly turning to serviced accommodation thanks to its flexibility for families and groups of friends travelling together. The savings that this form of accommodation can provide – including the provision of self-catering in the fully-equipped kitchen – will allow for more shopping in Chester’s famous 700-year-old Rows galleries or a day out at Chester Zoo, the UK’s most popular attraction outside the capital. Chester is easily accessible from London with regular train services taking just two hours, making the city appealing for visitors and investors alike. Families of four should expect to pay around £560 for four nights for a one-bedroom city-centre serviced apartment in the peak season of mid-August.
Coastal getaways in the UK
Coastal towns are also extremely popular getaway spots in the UK, with popularity peaking over the summer months and during school holidays as families flock to enjoy the beaches in the sunshine. Winter walkers also frequent these coastal resort areas, with some of the most popular being the sandy shores of Bournemouth on the south coast of England, Southwold in Suffolk, Brighton in East Sussex and Newquay in Cornwall. Days out by the sea with fish and chips for lunch are a great British tradition, with the brightly painted beach huts, piers stretching into the water and sticks of rock only adding to the appeal.
The seven miles of sandy beaches and some of the warmest sea temperatures in the UK make Bournemouth, on the south coast of England, one of the country’s go-to’s when it comes to a sun, sand and sea holiday. Indeed, the Dorset town’s flagship beach was named the best beach in the UK and the sixth best in Europe in the 2019 TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards. Bournemouth boasts five Blue Flag beaches, Alum Chine, Manor Steps, Southbourne, Fisherman’s Walk and Durley Chine, which means they have all met high standards as regards water quality and safety. The town, which lies within easy reach of London and Gatwick Airport for international visitors, enjoys its own micro-climate, as well as a stunning cliff line, and those factors, coupled with views across to the Purbecks and the Isle of Wight, attract visitors back year after year.
One of the great traditions of a British seaside holiday is to hire a brightly painted beach hut right on the sand. Bournemouth and nearby Poole boast more than 250 beach huts for hire, while Boscombe Beach offers stylish architecturally-designed beach pods that are exclusive to Bournemouth, featuring private balconies with views of the Isle of Wight and the Purbeck coast. Sporty visitors will also enjoy the range of watersports on offer at Poole Harbour, including windsurfing, sailing and kitesurfing, as well as a wander around the marina. Families may want to visit the Oceanarium, Bournemouth’s popular aquarium, along with the iconic pier, which is crowded with amusement arcades and ice-cream stalls to suit every taste. Go for a stroll along the pretty promenade and admire the waterfront ‘Millionaire’s row’ homes in Sandbanks to the west, which is known for having the ‘most expensive seaside in the world.’
Art lovers and culture vultures will want to check out one of the UK’s finest art museums, the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum at East Cliff Promenade, just a few minutes’ walk from Bournemouth Pier. Constructed at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries, this cliff-side mansion, which was once home to art collector Sir Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife Annie, now houses a collection of world-famous Pre-Raphaelite works. Such is the enduring appeal of Bournemouth as one of the UK’s most loved seaside resorts, that accommodation in the area is extremely sought after, especially during peak times. A one-bedroom serviced apartment-style offering designed to sleep a family of four, would cost around £710 for four nights over a weekend in the peak season of mid-August.
Another seaside resort that never goes out of style is Newquay on the north coast of Cornwall, in southwest England. Easily accessible thanks to its own small airport and daily train service from London, Newquay has been a mecca for surfing enthusiasts from across the UK and beyond for decades who adore Cornwall’s ‘Atlantic Coast’ for its pounding waves and stunning sandy Fistral and Watergate Bay beaches. Voted one of the UK’s Favourite Seaside Towns in the Which Holiday Survey, Newquay has also claimed the title of Best Family Holiday Destination in COAST magazine and Best Seaside Town for Families 2019.
Away from the famous surf, Newquay offers an impressive zoo with beautiful tropical gardens and the Blue Reef Aquarium, which is sure to delight the kids with its underwater tunnel laden with pufferfish, sharks and stingrays. Newquay is also a gateway to the South West region of England, known for its popular South West Coast Path, a 630-mile National Trail coastal path starting in Somerset’s Minehead and delighting walkers all the way through Devon and Cornwall. A family of four would be looking to pay around £695 for a one-bedroom serviced apartment for four nights during the peak season of August.
The future of serviced accommodation
The serviced accommodation sector has weathered the storm of the last year far better than many other hospitality offerings and this has served to highlight its ongoing agility and resilience. Indeed, a tracking study carried out by trade body the UK Short Term Accommodation Association and data firm STR, confirmed, “Over the last five years, we have seen a mushrooming in demand for the ‘home from home’ experience that short term rentals offer customers but now, with the added requirement for social distancing and high standards of cleanliness and safety, it seems that customers recognise that short term rentals are better placed to deliver this than other types of accommodation.”
As a broad spectrum of guests continue to opt for this style of accommodation, unable to look past the flexibility and practicality it offers, the sector looks set to see growing investor confidence as we move forwards from the demand shocks caused by recent events. A gateway city such as the aforementioned York, which is always going to be in demand and not subject to seasonal peaks and troughs, could see returns of more than seven per cent net achieved on a serviced apartment investment. Indeed, these strong numbers, when coupled with the profitable holiday homes are being run as a business to make it even more tax efficient, could make the asset a far stronger investment than a traditional buy-to-let property.