Fears over the Omicron Covid variant have led to a spate of hotel cancellations, with many customers changing their Christmas plans.
Best Western GB, which operates 300 hotels in the UK, told the BBC that around three-quarters of its hotels had suffered event and room booking cancellations.
Uncertainty over the Omicron variant has exacerbated safety concerns regarding large gatherings of people.
It also led to the toughening of travel rules.
Jonathan Fletcher, who runs a Best Western hotel in Dorset called The Grange, said guests have been calling all week to cancel meals and parties.
“This Saturday night we were supposed to have 100 people eating in our restaurant. Now there will only be 12, ”he said.
“A local business was canceled because head office told it not to meet in groups of more than 20 people. A total of 268 people have been booked for the Christmas holidays this week. We are now at 130. ”
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Mr. Fletcher says people are canceling overnight stays as well.
“We were full for four nights this week, but 35% of our rooms have now been canceled and we are not receiving any reservations to replace them.
“Business guests who came from abroad also canceled,” he adds.
He says cancellations will cost him and his staff a lot of money
“We have already placed orders with suppliers, we have spent a fortune redecorating the hotel for the Christmas period,” he says.
“If this continues, financially, we would be almost better locked up and on leave,” he adds.
Cancellations have also been reported by the Arora Group, which is the largest private owner and operator of hotels in the UK.
“It has been a roller coaster ride,” said Surinder Arora, founder and chairman of the group.
“Customers who travel out of the country normally tend to stay overnight with us, especially on early morning flights, now a lot of them are canceled. “
Call for clarity
Earlier this week, the government introduced new travel rules, with everyone entering the UK now having to take a PCR test.
There are also signs that post-Christmas bookings are affected.
The Arora Group said some business customers are considering opting out of New Year’s events.
“We’ve had big companies that had bookings in January, now saying, ‘Actually, we really want to push it back until later in the year,’” Mr. Arora said.
But the UKHospitality trade body, which represents hotels and bed and breakfasts, said that while members are reporting cancellations, most bookings are strong.
“Anecdotally, some members are seeing cancellation rates of around 10%, so it looks like most people are considering moving forward. “
Victoria Erasmus has a rural hotel in Inverness, Scotland called Glen Mhor and her guests are mainly from the UK. She remains optimistic about the holiday season.
“We haven’t had any cancellations yet, but a few said they weren’t sure. These were last minute bookings so people are waiting to see what happens this Christmas, ”she said.
“Covid and all the latest variants make it very difficult to plan ahead. “
Best Western general manager Tim Rumney called for clarification on what people should be doing.
“We had a week of mixed messages on whether or not people should socialize or not, cancel parties or not and small independent businesses like our hotels are on the front lines feeling the effects of this indecision,” a- he declared.
“My fear is that the damage has already been done, and this festive period will have to be canceled like last Christmas. “
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