The Forge Holiday Group, the short-stay specialist holiday provider which owns Sykes Cottages and Forest Holidays, plans to invest over £150m over the next three years developing its portfolio of UK locations and properties, technology platform, customer experiences and owner services.

The company, which was formed following the acquisitions of Sykes, Forest and caravan rental business UKCaravans4hire, has already begun developing a new site of over 50 cabins in Glentress Forest near Peebles in the Scottish Borders and expanding its site at Strathyre Forest in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Forge said it also planned to invest in new locations and product experiences as well as additional property portfolios for its UK cottage agency division, which operates predominantly under the Sykes brand.

Sykes, which provides a range of technology-based marketing, booking, payment and property management services for owners, has successfully completed and integrated 18 acquisitions to date with a support team in the group reaching 1,700 people.

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Further investment is planned to support a range of biodiversity and woodland management projects, social and community impact initiatives, development of its centralised technology platform, enhanced services for guests and owners and people development.

In its annual trading update, Forge said group revenues for the year ending 30th September 2023 increased 22 per cent on the previous year, with like-for-like sales up 3 per cent, adding that momentum in the current year was continuing despite ongoing pressures on household income.

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It said underlying adjusted profit for the year was broadly flat at £60.7m (2022: £62.4m) due to inflationary pressures in parts of its cost base, including energy prices.

Last year, the company grew its net property portfolio 6 per cent, to 32,921 booking holidays for over 3 million customers.

It also invested £8.5m in its technology infrastructure, including a new app for owners and guests to improve service.

Sykes Cottages and Forest Holidays, both B Corp certified companies, also completed 20 projects to enhance biodiversity and woodland management, raised over £200,000 for charity and community projects and donated over 4,000 hours of time.

Graham Donoghue, chief executive officer of Forge Holiday Group, said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

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