Urban self catering

All too often self-catering is associated with rural tourism i.e. holiday cottages. However, a very important sector is that of self catering in seaside resorts, urban or more built up areas. Many cities, including London, have quite considerable stocks of self catering units some of which are serviced i.e. maid service.

Self catering in these areas can be in the form of multiple units encompassed by one establishment which are invariably operated by a resident proprietor or manager. These vary in size with some businesses consisting of just a couple of units to some larger establishments of say 25 or more apartments. The larger establishments are invariably operated as a fulltime business. Commitments such as administration, marketing, maintenance and general housekeeping responsibilities require a considerable amount of physical input.

Certainly, in seaside resorts, there are also individual houses and apartments which are operated on a rather more part-time basis than the multiple units. Sometimes these are operated entirely by the owners or in a few cases they are let by a self catering agency specializing in establishments in this type of geographical area. Resort and urban self catering can benefit from a long, almost year round, letting season depending on location and the proprietors’ willingness to attract extra business. There is also the benefit of being able to attract short/weekend breaks particularly in the spring and autumn. In addition to this there is also casual and last minute passing trade – not pre-booked. Some of this trade can come via the local tourist board offices and it is essential for the business operator to have a good working relationship with the Tourist Information Centre. This type of self-catering often benefits from being on the national rail network with the additional advantage of good public transport at the destination. This can appeal to those wishing to indulge in a very “Green” holiday/break or simply those wishing to take a complete change from the rigours of daily driving.

Resort and urban self-catering both benefit from the close proximity of varied catering and eating establishments to suit all tastes. Experience has shown that an apartment can often be let for a two week holiday and the occupants have done no cooking whatsoever, despite having all the facilities to hand! They may make a cuppa though! Also as a generalisation, guests staying in resort/urban areas are usually looking for an active holiday/break and generally spend very little time in their accommodation. They take advantage of the many attractions and places of interest to visit in their immediate vicinity and often enquire of the proprietors for local knowledge of entertainment and attractions.

Finally, with this in mind there can be a considerable amount of customer contact particularly in multiple units. This can be simply guests passing the time of day and engaging in polite conversation or it can be requests for information such as advice on restaurants, shopping or suitable beaches for small children. A conversation can also be that the guest informing the proprietor of a piece of faulty furnishing or equipment such as a malfunctioning toaster. A common (almost weekly) problem is that they have locked themselves out of their apartment. All these problems can be resolved with immediate effect which is appreciated by the guest.

This is a very brief outline of running a self-catering business of this nature. It differs totally from operating an individual cottage and verges on the borders of running an hotel with reception without the responsibilities of providing food and beverage facilities.

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