Thursday 12 August 2021 3:14 pm

London hotel rooms empty as holidaymakers favour rural staycations

London hotels have been dealt an unenthusiastic staycation trade while their regional counterparts have capitalised on international tourism constraints.

Online travel platform Booking.com told City A.M. that while staycations were at the forefront of UK holidaymakers’ minds with travel restrictions not going anywhere, cities were not the top choice.

“In terms of locations, it appears that coastal and country breaks are continuing to be favoured, which is unsurprising given that our recent research reveals only 5 per cent of people in the UK cite a city break as the first type of trip they are keen to take,” a spokesperson for the platform said.

In Travelodge’s 2021 holiday index, London did not make the list for 10 most popular English staycation destinations while historic cathedral cities Oxford, Bath and Bristol topped the list.

The Zetter group operates a handful of boutique venues in Marylebone and Clerkenwell and has noted a “very strong decline” compared to occupancy levels pre-pandemic. 

Low level mid-week trade has “dragged down” the slightly stronger weekend visits but the brand is hopeful corporate and mid-season tourists will return in droves from September onwards.

“Traditionally, we would get the highest number of new bookings in January – March time, the lion share of those arriving in summer months. Due to uncertainty and restrictions back then, this cycle has been missed and it’s unlikely that there will be sufficient pick up this summer,” Zetter managing director, Liutauras Vaitkevicius explained.

Occasional staycation

Bethnal Green hotel 40 Winks decided to close after the pandemic decimated its overseas guest base, which made up 95 per cent of bookings. 

“Now that the lockdown has finished, we are simply surviving on the occasional ‘staycation’. Before the pandemic, we would be dealing with lots of booking requests every day and would generally be booked up months ahead,” owner David Carter told CityA.M. 

“Now, we are lucky if we get a couple of bookings a month! It really is that bad.”

Carter will open a new site in France, named La Maison des Reves, and predicted further London closures in the wake of Shoreditch’s Ace Hotel shutting.

“We have received thousands of pages of press since we opened in 2009, and have a long list of accolades from the world’s most prestigious travel, fashion and lifestyle magazines, but none of that helps if people can’t travel, the travel restrictions remain onerous, or the fairs, events and parties they would normally be coming to London for still aren’t happening.”

Hotels offering cheap rooms in locations commutable to central London have had a better summer than some of their peers.

Staycations in the capital are the most popular they have ever been with Brits keen to explore cities after initially rushing to the coast and countryside when restrictions were lifted, Travelodge spokesperson Shakila Ahmed said.

Holidaymakers are finding that “there’s never been a better time” to explore London in the summer as they don’t have to wait as long thanks to the lack of tourists, Ahmed added.

Different world

However, the company – which operates 77 hotels in London – would not make a comparison to pre-pandemic occupancy rates as hotels are now “operating in a different world”. 

Travelodge accredited its competitive rate, around £75 a night, for its summer success but said the “telling time” for post-pandemic trade will be when schools reopen next month.

Some hotels in London have been hit with cancellation rates of 50 per cent or more as international travel rules relax with couples the most likely culprits to cancel, according to booking engine provider Avvio.

“Come September there’ll be no families to fill the resort hotel bookings. If cancellation rates remain the same, it will be a disastrous autumn for both resort and city centre hotels,” Avvio’s chief commercial officer, Michael De Jongh said.

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