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Norfolk Business Awards 2018

Hoseasons base ‘should remain in region’ if Airbnb takeover goes ahead

The new Woods social area where staff can also work, at Hoseasons in Lowestoft. Airbnb is rumoured to have an interest in buying the company, along with others owned by Wyndham Worldwide Corporation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The new Woods social area where staff can also work, at Hoseasons in Lowestoft. Airbnb is rumoured to have an interest in buying the company, along with others owned by Wyndham Worldwide Corporation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Sector leaders say efforts must be made to ensure East Anglia’s tourism industry doesn’t lose out should Airbnb be successful in buying one of the region’s top holiday companies.

Larking Gowen tourism and leisure partner, Chris Scargill. Picture: Sonya DuncanLarking Gowen tourism and leisure partner, Chris Scargill. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Rumours are circulating that Lowestoft-based Hoseasons could be sold to the online lettings giant – along with other holiday businesses owned by parent company Wyndham Worldwide Corporation – in a $1bn deal.

But the group has so far refused to be drawn on the issue, saying it would not comment on “industry speculation”.

A tourism expert has said that while welcoming a global force like Airbnb more intimately could turbocharge the “overnight stay” sector in Norfolk and Suffolk, any such benefit would be contingent on Hoseasons’ operations remaining in the region.

Chris Scargill, tourism partner at accountancy firm Larking Gowen, said the fall in the value of the pound had made the UK a more attractive location for investment for large tourism companies – who bring credibility for customers with them.

Tom Ellis, director of Norfolk Country Cottages in Holt.

 Picture: MARK BULLIMORETom Ellis, director of Norfolk Country Cottages in Holt. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

“Airbnb may have a better worldwide appeal and a greater worldwide brand which might bring in more visitors to the UK from overseas,” he said.

“VisitBritain’s last volume and value survey indicated that £93m is generated in Norfolk alone on ‘stay nights’ – approximately 12% of the overnight stay market – but that could clearly be increased if there is wider appeal.

“Airbnb is not just about filling spare rooms and empty city dwellings, they are a competitor in the staying market and I am aware of a number of businesses that use their model rather than local cottage letting companies.”

He added: “I think this is going to be the start of an investment programme and let’s hope Norfolk gets its fair share. The UK base for Hoseasons could still be focused within our region.”

Director of Norfolk Country Cottages Tom Ellis believes the traditional lettings model will be safe in East Anglia should Airbnb take over Hoseasons. Mr Ellis, who oversees other lettings firms including Suffolk Secrets, said the firm was diversifying to improve customer service with projects such as its new maintenance arm Norfolk Country Cottages Care.

“Airbnb has done well with shaking up the market with new technology, but we service holiday makers and home owners in a way Airbnb cannot. I don’t think it will change our strategy,” he said.

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