Published on Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Charities top Which? list of best holiday cottage providers

Charities The Landmark Trust and National Trust have topped the first-ever Which? survey of the best UK holiday providers beating big name brands Sykes,, Homeaway and Hoseasons.

The consumer champion asked more than 6,500 people about their experiences with 19 UK holiday cottage providers across a range of criteria, including quality of accommodation, ease of making a booking, customer service and value for money.

Which? also looked at companies' refund policies for bookings cancelled as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

With only 200 properties, The Landmark Trust was the smallest provider in Which?'s survey scoring 88%, but the only one to score five stars across every category.

However, the charity just missed out on receiving Which? Recommended Provider status, as while it offers refunds or free rebooking options for holidays it has to cancel, it does not automatically issue refunds to customers who cancel holidays themselves because of coronavirus, or who are unable to take their holidays because of local lockdowns.

The National Trust received the next highest customer rating, with a score of 85%. Also a charity, the National Trust was named a Which? Recommended Provider due to its high scores and generous refund policy, giving any customer unable to travel because of Covid-19 a full refund if they do not want to reschedule.

Customers raved about the attractive properties in great locations, with one saying: "We stayed in a house that I had dreamed of stopping in when I visited the Lakes as a young adult. To have my children there with us was magical."

Well-known brands in the bottom half of the table include Sykes, Hoseasons, Homeaway and, which host more than 200,000 property listings between them., Hoseasons and Homeaway all received a customer score of 70%, while Sykes sat at the bottom of the table with a score of 69%.

Toad Hall Cottages, with approximately 900 properties, also scored 69%, while, with around 6,000 properties, received a score of 70%.

While some survey respondents spoke of satisfactory experiences with Sykes, other customers told Which? of inaccurate website descriptions, disappointing properties, and issues with cleanliness.

As well as complaints about the standard of some of the properties, there were recurring comments regarding problems with contacting Sykes and unsuccessful attempts to secure refunds for cancelled bookings, with one customer saying: "I am appalled by the way the company has treated those who booked pre-lockdown and then had to cancel. The delay with refunds is not acceptable and I will not use the company again."

Which? previously revealed that both Hoseasons and Sykes were potentially breaching consumer law as their contracts contained terms that could deny customers a refund if an owner was forced to cancel because of circumstances outside of their control. The consumer champion reported both firms - along with and English Country Cottages - to the regulator.

In June, the Competition and Markets Authority successfully received undertakings from both Sykes and Vacation Rentals, the parent company of Hoseasons, and English Country Cottages, to offer refunds for all cancelled bookings because of restrictions associated with the coronavirus outbreak.

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: "With international travel restrictions still in place across the country and bookings for UK holidays extending into next year, it's clear that self-catered accommodation providers will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

"While holidaymakers value interesting and well-presented properties at a good price, the importance of fair and flexible terms when it comes to cancellations and refunds cannot be understated. Always do your research before booking, to make sure you're not stung if coronavirus restrictions prevent your holiday from going ahead."

By Louise Longman, Contributing Editor (UK)

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