The government must tweak its international travel rules in order for high-end London hotels to recuperate after the pandemic, according to one trade leader.
London is currently “very uncompetitive” in the international tourism market, Joss Croft, boss of trade body UKinbound, told CityA.M.
While changes to allow travellers arriving in the UK to test with a cheaper, quicker lateral flow test (as opposed to a PCR) have been welcomed, visitors will still be deterred, UKinbound said.
“There’s an element of positivity but this is on the back of 20 months of zero business if you’re involved in international tourism, to the UK,” he explained.
Tourists will still be faced with the “hassle and expense” of a rapid test, as well as the daunting prospect of booking through another country’s website, Croft said. “You can go to France and not have to do any test.”
While budget hotels may have benefited from domestic tourism and staycations, four and five star hotels in the capital have continued to struggle despite the global vaccination roll out.
Hesitancy from tourists from the US and the Middle East has subdued occupancy levels at the city’s high-end hotels, PwC analysis showed.
UKinbound is pressing ministers for “vaccine reciprocity,” calling on the government to recognise the vaccination programmes of more countries.
At present, travellers who are defined as not fully vaccinated must quarantine at home for 10 days and complete two tests in this time. UKinbound wants to see more countries given the green light, including China and Russia.
London is expected to improve under a moderate recovery, according to PwC’s growth forecast for 2022.
It estimated that the Average Daily Rate will recover to £112.26 in 2022, an increase of £27.78 since 2021. This drives an overall revenue per available room of £63.69 in 2022.
Of those shopping in central London before the pandemic, 25 per cent were international tourists, but this group made up of 50 per cent of spend, UKinbound said.
Bosses including Croft want to see an international version of Sadiq Khan’s Let’s Do London campaign, to entice others to London.
The hotels sector has also been hit hard with labour shortages.
Federico J. González, CEO of Radisson Hotel Group, recently told City.A.M. that Covid had brought “new opportunities” for people who may have been eager to work in hotels before. While his hotels business has marked recruitment strains across France, Italy and the US, the UK has marked the added pressures of overseas workers leaving after Brexit.
“We will have to try and recover those jobs,” he said. “I recall two or three years ago, you would hear different accents in restaurants. Now, you may not find the people.”