Laurence_HicksThis year has seen a boom in the demand for overseas holiday rentals as people still seek to enjoy a holiday abroad but on a restricted budget.

Specialist holiday rentals companies such as ours see this as a great opportunity to grow market share and convert first timers to the delights of a self-catering holiday but if standards slip the opportunity will be lost.

A holiday rental can easily be half the cost of the hotel equivalent and that will be a big draw this year. However I am concerned that some letting companies will try to meet the increased demand with substandard accommodation. Unsuspecting holidaymakers who find their accommodation is not up to scratch are going to be very disappointed and will not come back. As a result the reputation of the holiday letting industry as a whole will suffer.

The industry has worked very hard on building a more positive reputation. The days of a holiday rental in a Soviet style apartment block with flat-pack furnishings and basic kitchen equipment are long gone. Customers can now expect the same or ideally better than they have at home - showroom standard furnishings, the latest labour saving devices, gadgets and premium resort facilities. We are talking about flat screens in every room, Jacuzzis, ceramic hobs, dishwashers, Wi-Fi, satellite TV, DVD players and games consoles. Pool access is a basic standard. At our resorts we have a perpetual programme of modernisation and upgrading just to keep pace.

This year presents a golden opportunity to promote the advantages of a self-catering holiday. They are great for families or large groups; you have the flexibility to do what you want, when you want; you get more space; often better privacy; you have your own cooking facilities or you can eat out if you want. But all that counts for nothing if the accommodation is rubbish. We must maintain standards and holidaymakers should be encouraged to be more demanding. Before booking they should ask to see current photos of the property and a complete list of facilities and amenities.

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