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BOOKINGS for holiday homes in Oxfordshire surged by 50 per cent this year.

This makes the county one of the most sought-after destinations, according to holiday properties firm Sykes Cottages.

Rachel Kilgallon, Sykes’ property consultant for this area, said the weakness of the pound has persuaded more holiday makers to staycation and pulled in more overseas tourists.

She said: “This can also be attributed to the countryside’s resurgence in popularity.

“There is also an uplift in people wanting to explore the iconic city of Oxford, famous for its university and nearby Blenheim Palace, which has seen a 15 per cent growth in visitors in the past year.”

The county’s tourism is also boosted by a longer-term trend for shorter but more frequent breaks.

And the boost has prompted more Oxford residents to cash-in on the area’s popularity, by offering their home or a second property as a holiday rental.

Sykes, which has 8,000 properties on its books, reports a 75 per cent year-on-year rise in the number of enquiries from people thinking of letting a property in Oxfordshire.

And with rental fees around £300-£550 a week in high season, it can be a good earner.

Ms Kilgallon added: “Oxford residents are increasingly looking for opportunities to capitalise on this growth in tourism.”

Recent tax changes which penalise buy-to-let landlords do not apply to holiday rental properties.

Ms Kilgallon said: “Owning a holiday home is now a great alternative to long-term buy-to-lets and many of our owners are using their second homes in this way to generate additional income, especially during retirement.”

Sonya Wood started holiday letting in August last year after converting a run-down 18th-century stone barn on the family’s land in Hook Norton.

After gaining planning permission, the renovations took a year.

Some parts of the barn had to be re-built but she kept as much character as possible.

She added a wood-burning stove and had an original drinking well restored and covered with glass to transform it into a character feature.

She explained: “My husband can remember it being covered when he was six years old.

“Our surveyor was excited when we opened it and found it was as good as the day it had been sealed up.”

Ms Wood, 52, who works part time as the marketing manager for her husband’s family farming and motor trade firm, said guests expect modern comforts such as broadband, wifi and dishwashers.

And holiday let owners are kept on their toes by guests who often post brutally frank reviews online.

Ms Wood pointed out: “My advice is to be honest with the photography you use to advertise your property.

“That’s really important, because if people feel they have been tricked, that is not a good start.”