Forge Holiday Group to invest £150m in platform development

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UK: Short stay specialist group Forge Holiday Group, the parent brand of Sykes Cottages and Forest Holidays, is set to invest more than £150 million developing its UK portfolio, technology platform, customer experiences and owner services over the next three years.

Forge Holiday Group was formed in May 2023 to unite the group’s UK agency division [Sykes Holiday Cottages], its specialist operator offering [Forest Holidays], caravans [UKcaravans4hire] and international travel [Bachcare], as well as to accelerate its ambition to become a leading UK-focused holiday group. To date, the company has integrated 18 acquisitions – primarily when under the Sykes Cottages brand.

Ahead of the investment announcement, the company has already commenced development of a new site to include more than 50 cabins in Glentress Forest near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, in addition to growing its site at Strathyre Forest in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Further investment is planned for launching new locations and product experiences, increasing the property portfolio for Sykes Cottages in the UK, supporting biodiversity and woodland management projects, engaging in social and community impact initiatives, developing a centralised technology platform, and enhancing its services for guests and owners.

Shortly after the creation of Forge Holiday Group, Sykes Cottages announced that it had achieved B Corp certification, in recognition of the company’s environmental and social impact pledges. These include reducing its carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050, working with at least 20 biodiversity projects throughout the year including a partnership with National Parks UK, and achieving Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Business accreditation by the end of this year.

Since then, Sykes Cottages and Forest Holidays [which is also B Corp certified] have completed 20 biodiversity and woodland management projects, raised over £200,000 for charity and community projects, and donated more than 4,000 hours of their employees’ time.

In its most recent annual trading report, Forge Holiday Group reported a 22 per cent increase in group revenues and a three per cent uptick in like-for-like sales for the year ending 30 September 2023. Over the same period, the company grew its net property portfolio by six per cent, served more than three million customers, and invested £8.5 million in enhancing its tech infrastructure, including launching a new app for owners and guests.

Graham Donoghue, chief executive officer of Forge Holiday Group, told BusinessCloud: “Our long-term vision is to build the largest and most diverse technology-driven, impact-focused provider of UK short-stay holidays, offering an unrivalled experience for customers and value-adding services for property owners.

“Our model – as a centralised group of distinct and highly-differentiated offerings – meanwhile enables us to scale quickly and efficiently whilst serving multiple customer groups and supporting our community stakeholders.”

“Despite continuing pressure on consumer spending from the impacts of inflation, the UK short-stay continues to show its resilience, thanks to macro trends in more environmentally conscious travel, more frequent and shorter breaks and the enduring appeal of the UK’s coast, countryside and woodlands.

“Looking ahead, there are some early signals that inflation is easing, which we expect will translate into stronger booking volumes across our divisions,” he added.