After the news that British residents arriving in England from Covid hotspots will have to quarantine in hotels, many would-be holidaymakers are thinking of opting for UK destinations this summer.
Understandably, they don’t want to undergo the “managed isolation process” requiring them to spend 10 days in a hotel on their return to the UK.
But there may be a shortage of the kind of UK accommodation they are looking for, say providers of holiday lets.
From cottages to campsites, demand is on the increase. Even the UK’s luxury hotels are expecting the move to give them a boost.
Sarah and Steve Jarvis, who run the Independent Cottages website listing more than 1,800 properties, say inquiries during the current lockdown in England are 300% up on the first lockdown in March to July 2020.
However, they also point out that many properties still need to honour bookings that were rolled over from 2020 because of earlier virus curbs, restricting availability for new requests.
“People started the year with bookings already in the calendar,” Sarah said. “We’re going to end up in a situation where we have demand outstripping supply again.”
“It’s almost like the perfect storm,” adds Steve. “People will be hesitant about going abroad with the new travel restrictions and the UK is looking like a very good option.
“People have got confidence in UK self-catering holidays, because the bookings are coming in thick and fast.”
In normal times, says Sarah, people are looking for accommodation for an average of four people to go away on holiday together.
But at the moment, they are getting lots of inquiries for groups of up to nine people, as extended families or groups of friends seek to make up for the family Christmas celebrations they missed out on.
“Families are going to go away and they want to take their parents with them,” Sarah says. “It’s a safe option for elderly relatives.”
Unusually, some are also booking ahead for next Christmas already.
“Straight after Boxing Day, people usually start thinking about summer holidays, but we’re also seeing very early bookings for the festive season,” says Steve.
Another holiday provider, holidaycottages.co.uk, says it has seen a sharp increase in demand since mid-January.
The firm’s chief marketing officer, James Starkey, says: “In the past week, bookings taken for May half-term onwards are up 39% compared to last year, with the summer holidays up 98%.
We do still have just over half of our properties available for seven-night breaks in the summer holidays but, with them booking more quickly this year, we anticipate another strong summer for the UK staycation industry.”
At Trencreek Holiday Park in Newquay, Cornwall, there is definitely a pick-up in interest from holidaymakers.
The park offers a mixture of camping and self-catering accommodation, covering a wide range of travel needs.
“Since Monday, the phone’s been getting a lot busier,” says Julliette Hautot, who runs the business with her husband.
“The calls are on the up and it’s definitely going to be busy for the summer,”.
“Slots are filling up for July and August. There’s not a lot left, especially for the school holidays.”
She is also noticing more inquiries for September than usual, perhaps reflecting a feeling that pandemic restrictions will ease later rather than sooner.
Hotels are noticing the staycation trend as well. The Best Western chain has just done a survey of 6,000 of its UK customers and found that 90% of them felt safer holidaying in Britain this summer rather than abroad.
“With the worries around quarantine, we are now starting to see bookings landing for the big summer months coming through in the last 24 hours,” spokesperson Andrew Denton told Business Matters.
“The experience of last summer has taught people not to leave it to the last minute as Britain gets booked, so to book ahead and quit worrying about quarantine, which might impact an international trip.”
At the upper end of the spectrum, the UK’s luxury hotels are anticipating opportunities as a result of the hotel quarantine measures for international travel.
Pride of Britain Hotels, a collection of 50 of independently-owned luxury hotels including the Athenaeum in London’s Mayfair, says the measures are set to benefit home-grown tourism.
“Anything that makes international travel more difficult will clearly add to the appeal of a holiday taken within one’s own country this year,” said the consortium’s chief executive, Peter Hancock.
“For luxury hotels in the UK, we believe there is huge pent-up demand that is just waiting for the restrictions to be eased.
“It could be a brilliant summer for domestic tourism, marking a desperately-needed return to profitability in our sector.”