‘We’ve booked two summer holidays for the same time’
Lee and Louise Chambers know they’ll be taking their two children on holiday this summer.
What they don’t know is where they’ll go – it might be Norfolk or it might be their preference – Fuerteventura.
They booked both in case Covid restrictions prevented them from going to the Canary Islands.
And because they’re not the only ones doing this, some UK resorts fear they could be facing a rush of cancellations.
Low and no-deposit bookings have been offered by lots of companies this summer to allow extra flexibility because of the Covid pandemic.
While that’s led to record bookings for lots of UK resorts, plenty of customers have taken advantage by booking not one, but two holidays for the same time slot, knowing they’ll not lose any money at all.
I spoke to Lee and Louise under a gazebo in their garden, in the pouring rain, in Lancashire, so it’s no surprise that they are holding onto a dream of basking in the sunshine.
They’ve booked time off work and are determined to get away somewhere. When they splashed out on a holiday to the Canary islands they weren’t sure if travel there would be allowed, so they booked a reserve option too.
They’re keeping both bookings and hedging their bets a little longer, in the hopes of guaranteed heat, while ensuring themselves a get-away somewhere.
Although they love Cromer in Norfolk, there is no hesitation when I ask which holiday they’d rather go on. “Fuerteventura, fingers-crossed”, says Louise.
She says: “In this country it can be a bit more difficult to find things to do if the weather is not great.”
Lee says the family all get so excited about the prospect of a holiday, that after a tough year, they are determined to make sure they have a great summer.
“You start planning, you start preparing, and if that’s suddenly taken away it can actually impact our mental well-being,” explains Lee. That’s why they are keeping the Norfolk booking and will decide nearer the time.
And it seems the Chambers family may not be alone.
The peak for holiday bookings came early on in the year, before the government issued its rules on travel. Plenty of people are still hoping for some amendments before the summer holiday season begins, so some industry insiders reckon they may have doubled-booked in order to keep their options open.
Avvio provides the software behind 500 of the UK’s top hotels. They say bookings are very high but cancellation rates at the moment are running at just 4%, far below the usual 30% levels.
Chief commercial officer Michael De Jongh says this is because of double-bookings, although concrete evidence of the phenomenon won’t kick in until later this summer, when consumers actually start cancelling UK trips in favour of European ones or vice versa.
He says cancellations would cause problems for hotels, in the same way as multiple restaurant bookings did during the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
“There’s a growing trend to book rooms at multiple hotels, with a view to cancelling all but one at the last minute. This causes so many problems for hotels, in the same way as multiple restaurant bookings did during Eat Out To Help Out.
“If someone does have to cancel,” he says, “I’d urge them to always give the hotel as much notice as possible or better still modify the booking to an alternative date.”
Hipping Hall, like most venues, has kept its bookings policy as flexible as possible to allow people to book without fear of losing money.
It’s a small boutique hotel in Kirkby Lonsdale, part-way between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. It’s only been able to open its doors to guests again this week, and its 15 rooms are fully booked for months to come.
General manager George Norrie says if people cancel with enough notice, the hotel should be able to fill the slot, because on some nights it even has a waiting list.
He thinks the bigger challenge for them is giving first-time staycation holidaymakers a brilliant experience so that they come back again next year.
“When our guests get here we’re going to do our best to make sure they get the best experience they possibly can. Next year they might go abroad, but they might come and see us for a two-day stay as well.”
The Chambers family say they’ll make sure they give enough notice for either of their chosen destinations to fill the slot, and the flexible booking they were given means they won’t lose any money. For them it’s a win-win.
While a late flurry of cancellations may cause headaches for UK hoteliers, there is good news for disorganised holiday makers. There’ll be plenty of last-minute bargains for UK holidays, whatever the weather.