Our industry got out of the blocks early this year and we all know what it will take to make 2021 a fantastic season so, is it going to happen?Last year was an exceptional one for the wet leisure industry and there is every sign that people who dipped their toe in the water of a new spa, hot tub or possibly an above ground pool in 2020 enjoyed the experience enough to want to improve on it this coming summer.
In fact, judging by the extraordinary volume of inlets, skimmers and main drains we are selling there a lot of swimming pools being built out there and if our hot tub accessories order books are anything to go by, there are plenty of people looking forward to soaking in the sun again.
Those are certainly good signs that this coming season is shaping up well but what do we specifically need?
Can we assume that after two years without a holiday abroad the British public have cottoned on to the fact that holidaying at home and having a pool to enjoy all summer long is an attractive alternative to jetting off for two weeks.
Who really knows?
If you want to know what this coming season is going to be like for our industry then you should ask, Boris Johnson, Chris Witty, the European Union and the Met Office.
It used to seem as if our industry went quietly and happily about its business and if you were to ask what influenced it, what made a year good or bad, then people would talk in general terms about the weather, the economy and, of course, competition from the internet.
The forces that are shaping up to influence this coming season are rather more specific than that.
Boris and Chris.
The social and economic effects of our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic made more difference to our industry’s fortunes in 2020 than anything else and they will almost certainly do so again.
Lockdowns and furloughs, travel restrictions and work-from-home practices left families across the country with unspent money in their pockets and nowhere to go to spend it. People found themselves with more disposable income and money that had been earmarked for that holiday abroad didn’t even get changed into euros.
This year we find ourselves on a roadmap to end lockdown, but we aren’t expecting to get to the end of that road, particularly where overseas travel is concerned, for some time to come.
The earliest date for holidaying abroad has been given as 17th May but that is far from certain and of course depends on the situation in the country that holidaymakers would look to travel to.
I think Mr Johnson and Mr Whitty will make sure most people will be spending their summer at home.
Come what may, our industry remains stubbornly solar powered. If it hadn’t been for the glorious weather those people stuck in last summer’s enforced staycation might have spent their money elsewhere.
Happily the weather was good and, importantly for the season to come, 2021 is set to be a scorcher. The Met Office has already forecast that it will be one of the hottest years on record.
Our solar powered industry can run at full throttle.
Not the EU as such, but Brexit; the gift that keeps on giving.
Leaving Europe has played havoc with the speed and reliability of imports from Europe and, in many instances, it has significantly added to the cost. The wet leisure industry imports a lot from Europe.
Last season the demand for hot tubs and spas so outstripped supply that people were happy to buy anything even if it didn’t match what they were looking for – according to the wet Leisure Survey. This year the supply chain is perhaps even more fragile and many businesses are starting the season with low stock levels. It would be a crying shame if the demand was there but our industry simply didn’t have the goods to service it.
It’s in everyone’s interest to sort out problems with customs and border disruption so we can only hope that the situation will improve.
A shot in the arm.
The pandemic is dreadful, no one can deny that, but with any luck the program of vaccinations will start to bring us back to… well, it won’t be normal. Will it?
The world has changed, habits have changed and behaviours have changed. Some of those changes will stay with us. The number of people wanting to work from home, contactless – and cashless – payment, internet shopping; the differences that COVID-19 has wrought here are the cornerstones of tomorrow’s world.
People have tried these things and found they liked them. They have dipped a toe in the water and the water is warm and sparkling.
Attitudes to holidays have changed as well and when that is combined with increased concern for climate change we may well be seeing the staycation as the new normal and that should profit our industry for many years to come.