UK hotels hit by wave of booking cancellations as concerns over Omicron grow

Hotels in the UK have been hit by a wave of booking cancellations over Christmas as corporate customers halted parties and events amid fears of the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Best Western Hotel Group, a franchise operator, said mixed messages from ministers had hurt commercial activity, with fears Christmas 2021 would have to be “wiped out”, while one owner Independent hotel in Devon has begged the government not to “hang too dry”.

Of the 290 independently-owned Best Western hotels in the UK, three-quarters had seen an increase in cancellations over Christmas, and 89% expressed concern about the festive trading time, the group said. Around 70% have seen a drop in bookings since the Omicron variant came out. More than two-thirds are worried businesses and individuals will still be wary of booking early next year.

Dartmoor Lodge in Devon said diners have withdrawn from their restaurant reservations. In a plea to the prime minister posted on Twitter, the family-owned hotel said: “Please do not belittle hospitality – we have had several Christmas meal cancellations – do not restrict and advise no should socialize without financial support.”

Some restaurant reservations for larger groups have been cancelled, a hotel manager said, including a conference with 40 people scheduled for Monday, although reservations were not affected. .

Tim Rumney, chief executive officer of Best Western GB, criticized confusing signals from the government. “We’ve had a week of mixed messages about whether people should socialize or cancel parties, and small, independent businesses like our hotel are on the front lines feeling the pinch. effects of that hesitation.

“I fear the damage has already been done, and this festive period will need to be erased like last Christmas, which will be devastating for many small businesses who had hoped for a good end. beautiful in 2021, after the last two years of Covid’s hiatus. Commerce.”

Advertising boss Sir Martin Sorrell said on Thursday that clients on his marketing team, S4C, have canceled Christmas events in response to Omicron.

Boris Johnson has urged people not to cancel Christmas parties or plays, contrary to advice from top scientists and one of his most senior health officials, who advised people to cut back on non-essential social activities in response to Omicron.

The Government has tightened travel restrictions and reintroduced PCR testing for travelers to the UK, who must remain in isolation until a negative result is received.

Jonathan Fletcher, manager of a Best Western hotel in Dorset called The Grange, said this week he received numerous calls from customers asking to cancel meals and parties.

“This Saturday night, we expect to have 100 people dining in our restaurant. Now there will be only 12 people,” he told the BBC.

UKHospitality, which represents hotels, bars and nightclubs, says there has been an increase in cancellations since Omicron’s arrival, with some venues reporting a 10 per cent cancellation rate, but expressed hope that this will slow after the World Health Organization said early signs were that most Omicron cases were mild.

Rumney added: “We need clarity from above – not to confuse what the government is saying with what the chief medical officer is saying – because these numbers show the impact Omicron has had on the planet. consumer confidence. Businesses can’t plan right, customers can’t plan right.”

He said hospitality next year should be on the government’s priority list, with an extension of VAT relief to support small, independent businesses.

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