Mid-term breaks and hotel bookings crumble as restrictions bite | To travel


Jules Cuthbert gets used to canceling vacations. The 41-year-old mother-of-two, from Bristol, abandoned her plans for a mid-term trip in October to Merthyr Tydfil when the south Wales town went into custody on September 22. It was the fifth public holiday in the UK that she had to postpone since the start of the pandemic and it may not be the last. As coronavirus cases continue to rise, Cuthbert is unsure whether to pursue his Plan B halfway through – days in the South Downs. “I am now wondering if we should travel because we live in a very populated area with a large student population. I am a hospital pharmacist, so I am very aware of the potential risks of moving from an area with a high number of cases to an area with fewer.

Cuthbert’s experience is far from unusual. While many British holidaymakers managed to escape the countryside in July and August, recent measures to contain the spread of the virus have upended autumn and winter holiday plans and dashed any hope that the holidays mid-term can help tourism companies recover some of the losses suffered during the first confinement.

Local closures, the 6am rule and 10pm curfew for restaurants and bars had already resulted in thousands of vacation cancellations and seriously shaken travelers’ confidence. A consumer study conducted by VisitBritain between September 28 and October 2 showed that only 10% of people were planning an overnight trip this month, with the majority (51%) blaming government travel restrictions for not not feeling confident enough to travel, and 48% citing concerns. about catching Covid. With more of the country now under high (level 2) or very high (level 3) alert, tourism bosses say the situation can only get worse.

Merthyr Tydfil has seen vacations canceled following a local lockdown. Photography: Matthew Horwood

“It’s death by the thousands,” said Rob Paterson, managing director of Best Western, a group of 300 independent hotels across the UK. The most recent data shows that bookings for its hotels in the north of England and Scotland are down almost 70% from the same period last year. In London, there was a 65% drop year-over-year. The only part of the UK where bookings were strong was the South West where there was no local foreclosure, but now hotels in the area are also seeing a year-over-year decline in activity . The loss of mid-term bookings on top of the dire Christmas outlook will be the last straw for some of the hotels in the group, Paterson said. “As soon as the new tier system was announced, we noticed a new booking behavior. We will see more cancellations. Many hotel owners will now close until March.

Fran Downtown, managing director of Tourism Southeast, said the ever-changing restrictions are a blow to accommodation providers, attractions and hotel businesses.

“The nervousness has increased dramatically – we’ve seen a significant drop in attendance in the area over the past two weeks,” she said.

The attractions remain open, but the drop in visitor numbers, in addition to an already reduced capacity, has led many people to scale back their plans for events usually held midway through. In a recent survey by Welcome to Yorkshire, the region’s tourism board, a third of tourism businesses said they were canceling their activities for a semester. “Business owners need certainty to invest [in events and activities]. If we continue this stop-start in perpetuity, some companies will simply decide to shut down, ”said CEO James Mason.

VisitBritain forecasts a 49% drop in national tourism spending in 2020, which equates to a loss of £ 44.9 billion to the economy. Thousands of people working in UK travel and tourism have already lost their jobs, with more to come. The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, which represents some of the UK’s most popular institutions, from the National Trust to the Tate, reports that almost all of its 70 members are currently in dismissal consultations with staff. A report published by Globaldata last week summed up the grim outlook. “The coming months are shaping up to be bleak for the UK tourism industry and with the national infection rate continuing to rise, there appear to be no signs of slowing down in the near future.”


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