Chaos ahead as Brits hoard holiday bookings

Holidaymakers are hedging their bets this summer by booking multiple hotel stays with a view to cancelling unwanted trips when they see how the international travel situation plays out.

Many UK hotels have been forced to offer fully flexible cancellations this year to attract bookings. The majority of accommodation providers allow guests to cancel penalty-free with just a day or two’s notice.

This policy allows people to book UK accommodation but with a plan to ditch it if they feel they can safely travel abroad in the summer instead.

Avvio, a hotel technology provider, said its data showed that UK hotel cancellation rates were running at “scarily low” levels as consumers hedged their bets and “hoarded” bookings.

International travel re-started yesterday with most departing holidaymakers going to green list countries which don’t require quarantine on return. The list is set to be reviewed every three weeks. But concerns about the spread of the Indian variant of coronavirus and confusion about the Covid-19 cover offered by travel insurers could make travellers wary of jetting off abroad until the situation is clearer.

Avvio said many holidaymakers who were hoping to go abroad in the next few months were holding on to their UK hotel bookings, with cancellation rates running at about 4%, far below the usual 30% levels.

Michael De Jongh, Avvio’s chief commercial officer, said: “Many holidaymakers have booked both a foreign holiday and a UK stay, and our data shows they are often holding on to both. If they decide at the last minute to risk a holiday abroad, a late rush of cancellations in the UK would create chaos across the whole industry as hotels scramble to fill their suddenly vacant rooms. Many of these just won’t be filled, resulting in tens of millions of pounds in lost revenue.”

Avvio also said it had spotted a growing trend among some Britons for booking rooms at multiple UK hotels, presumably with a plan to cancel some of the accommodation just before the trip. This could cause major inconvenience for businesses that had ordered food and hired staff, and may struggle to fill the room at the last minute.

De Jongh added: “This causes incredible problems for hotels, in the same way as multiple restaurant bookings did during Eat Out To Help Out. If someone does have to cancel for any reason, I’d urge them to always give the hotel as much notice as possible or, better still, move the booking to an alternative date.

“If they cancel just before they were supposed to check in, even if it’s within the incredibly flexible Covid-related terms, then it’s likely the hotel will lose that revenue altogether as the room now won’t be booked at all.”

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