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News & Advice

Kate Simon: Every little helps on a British holiday

Two fresh loaves, eggs, butter, tea, fresh coffee, jam, milk, cheese and crackers, cold meats, fruit, ice cream, juice and a bottle of sparkling wine.

It sounds like a shopping list, yet this was what was waiting in the kitchen for me and friends upon arrival at a holiday home in Norfolk that we stayed at this month through Rural Retreats. The generous owner had even gone to the trouble of making us some delicious brownies.

Seasoned self-caterers have come to expect a "welcome hamper" of this kind – it costs very little but says a great deal about customer care. Now this sort of thoughtful touch is being seen as one of the ways that British holiday providers can capitalise long term on this summer's boom in domestic bookings, as more of us stay on home soil in an effort to make our money go further or avoid getting caught up in an ash-cloud crisis. And the ideas are coming thick and fast.

Best of Suffolk, another self-catering cottage company, has been working with fellow local businesses, from food shops to tourist attractions, over the past few years to give guests extra value. Now it has created a "club". "Our clients get exclusive offers and deals they wouldn't otherwise have," says owner Naomi Tarry. "For example, a popular seaside restaurant is offering a free bottle of wine with meals."

Meanwhile, Marsdens Cottage Holidays has teamed up with local activity company Devon Adventure to give guests savings on activities including kayaking and paintballing.

Among the hotels putting on their thinking caps is Old Swan & Minster Mill at Minster Lovell in the Cotswolds, which is working with walking holiday specialist Upland Escapes to create a range of self-guided walks. And The Lake of Menteith Hotel, the Roman Camp Hotel and Monachyle Mhor in Scotland are linking up to offer a package that includes entrance to attractions, activities, and dining options across restaurants.

Among the bigger operators, Hoseasons has launched Go-Active Breaks. The special package, available at selected parks, is designed to offer activity holidays for families.

Tourist boards are getting in on the act, too. Cumbria Tourism is offering free cycle rides led by top instructors. And The Great Northumberland Picnic is a project designed by the county's tourist board to highlight local food producers and scenic spots for picnics.

But Welcome to Yorkshire wins the prize for the most innovative idea with its free half-day seminars, called "Yorkshire Passion", provided for anyone working in local tourism, from hotel receptionists to taxi drivers. It has enlisted the playwright John Godber, artistic director of the Hull Truck Theatre, to write two short plays on the theme of "delivering quality customer service" to provide a focus for the sessions.

On Friday, Euromonitor International, the global business commentator, published a new report on the state of the UK's outbound tourism industry. It says the market won't start growing again until 2012 – and then slowly. British holiday providers have a limited window of opportunity – so it's thinking caps on. Meanwhile, you and I can sit back and reap the rewards.

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