Across the country, hotels that were shuttered at the start of the coronavirus pandemic have become eerie, empty shells. Front desks are devoid of receptionists ready to check-in guests, rooms are collecting dust. And with the summer season on the horizon, life for UK hoteliers is about to get much harder.
“It couldn’t have come at a worse time,” says Sheena Kennedy, owner and manager of the Lindeth Fell Country House, a 14-room bed and breakfast in the Lake District owned by her family for 35 years. “We usually hope for a very good Easter, May, and the summer, of course, to keep us going over the quieter winters.” As soon as lockdown started, Kennedy cancelled all of her bookings and returned all customer deposits up to June. “I’m now very worried about the bookings that I have in place for July, August and September,” she says. “We’re waiting to hear on Sunday if there’s any news on that, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I’m doing the exact same and refunding those remaining deposits.”
The majority of Britons who had planned a domestic holiday in the UK this year believe that it is unlikely to go ahead, according to domestic tourism research from VisitBritain. “Those domestic summer holidays lost are not likely to be replaced with only a minority who have cancelled holidays looking to replace them,” says Patricia Yates, chief executive of VisitBritain.
If lockdown doesn’t lift by this summer, it would be a huge financial blow to many of the 13,000 hotels and over 35,000 B&Bs and guest houses in the UK, which make around 30 per cent of their annual revenue during the summer months. Chris Tate, partner at audit, tax and consulting firm RSM, says hotels that host corporate events skew the market’s revenue figures because they are busiest from October through November — hiding just how dire the summer drop-off can be for the rest of the market.