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Prospects are positive as PBSA bookings exceed 2019 levels

Stewart Moore, CEO, CRM Students

Prospects for the next academic year starting in the autumn look very bright, experts agreed at Real Asset Media’s Student Housing in post-pandemic times briefing, which took place online this week.

“Our bookings are matching and in some cases exceeding our bookings of 2019, especially in the UK,” said Stewart Moore, CEO, CRM Students. “Domestic demand is actually higher than it was before the pandemic. There is confidence in the market, but international bookings are not where they were yet.”

It has been a rollercoaster year for the sector but it looks like it will end on a high note.

“In January we were 70% down, in May we are 130% up and we are above 2019 levels,” said Dan Baker, general manager EMEA, student.com. “May has been a real shift for us, getting back to business. We’re seeing a huge compression of demand in the last months of the booking cycle. People are booking in multiple locations and waiting to see what happens.”

Students hedge their bets amidst virus uncertainty

Given the uncertainty over coronavirus restrictions, many international students are hedging their bets.

“Asian students are booking in multiple countries, reserving places at universities around the world and then choosing where to go depending on the situation, so August and September will be very busy months for accommodation,” said Moore.

Bonard research shows that first-year applications have increased despite the pandemic. In the US in March 2021 there was an 11% increase compared to March 2020. In the UK and in Ireland applications went up by 8.5% this year compared to last year.

“The fact that student applications are increasing sends a strong message for the next academic year,” said Martin Varga, business development manager, Bonard. “There is a great willingness on the part of students to be back on campus and on the part of universities to offer face-to-face tuition. It’s a positive trend that is supported by the vaccine rollout.”

A snap poll conducted at the briefing showed a strong belief that the vast majority of international students will arrive on site in September 2021: three quarters of delegates expect that between 80% and 100% of places will be filled.

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