Wave of cancellations at hotels due to Omicron Fears

By Laura Heighton-Ginns & Oliver Smith
BBC Business Reporters

Image source, Jonathan Fletcher
Image caption

Jonathan Fletcher noticed a rise in cancellations at The Grange

Hotels have been cancelling their reservations due to fears about Omicron Covid, and many people are changing Christmas plans.

Best Western GB (300 UK hotels) told BBC that three quarters of their hotels experienced cancellations for event or room bookings.

Safety concerns have increased due to uncertainty about the Omicron version.

This has led to tighter travel rules.

Jonathan Fletcher is the manager of The Grange Best Western Hotel in Dorset. He says that customers are calling all week to cancel meals or parties.

We were expecting 100 guests to eat in our restaurant on Saturday night. “Now there’ll only 12 of us,” he states.

One local company cancelled after being told by the head office that they shouldn’t gather more than 20 people. This week, Christmas party bookings were made for 268 persons. We are now down to 130.

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Fletcher claims that people cancel overnight stay reservations.

We were full for 4 nights, however 35% of our rooms had been cancelled.

He adds, “Corporate guest who are coming from overseas have also been cancelling”.

According to him, cancellations could cost him and his employees a lot.

He said, “We’ve placed orders from suppliers. We’ve spent an enormous amount on redecorating our hotel for the Christmas season.”

“If it continues financially, then we’d almost have to be in lockdown, having furlough back,” says he.

The Arora Group is also reporting cancellations as it is the biggest private operator and owner of UK hotels.

Surinder, founder and chairman of the group, said that it was “a rollercoaster ride”.

“Typically, guests who fly out of the country spend one night with us. Especially on morning flights. However, a lot are being cancelled.”

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The government has introduced some new rules regarding travel earlier this week. All people entering the UK will now need to undergo a PCR testing.

Also, there are signs that reservations beyond Christmas could be being affected.

Arora Group stated that some of its business clients were contemplating pulling out at events this year.

According to Mr Arora, large corporates that had booked for January are saying now: “Actually many of us want to push the booking back to later this year.”

But trade body UKHospitality, which represents hotels and B&Bs, said that while members were reporting some cancellations, most bookings are robust.

According to anecdotally it is reported that some members see cancellation rates as high as 10%. This suggests that most people intend on going ahead.

Tim Rumney (CEO of Best Western) has demanded clarity about what employees should do.

He said, “We’ve had mixed messages over whether or not people should socialise, cancel parties, or not. Small, independent businesses such as our hotels feel the consequences of this indecision.”

“My fear is that the damage has already been done and this festive season will have to be forgotten like last Christmas.

Source: BBC.com

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