Scarborough hotel says guests were willing to pay '50% more than normal' for rooms during 2021 staycation summer

2021’s staycation boom boosted business for Yorkshire’s hotels but a cloud has appeared on the horizon with emergence of the new Omicron Covid variant.

The region’s tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire (WtY) said accommodation and hospitality had prospered in the summer while one of Scarborough’s large hotels said it had enjoyed a “tremendous financial year”.

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WtY chairman Peter Box CBE said: “Many accommodation businesses across the county saw a real positive increase in interest in people holidaying in the county and domestic holidays at large, with some hospitality venues seeing a surge in bookings in 2021, particularly throughout the summer.”

Scarborough

He said more visitors had booked longer stays, making the destination their primary holiday rather than just short breaks.

But Mr Box added: “With current news of the coronavirus pandemic status changing rapidly as a result of the new variant and some businesses receiving cancellations for the immediate period, it’s important for Government guidelines to be clear and supportive for visitors and hospitality venue owners alike.”

The general manager of the Crown Spa Hotel in Scarborough said it had been virtually full from reopening in May, when Covid restrictions eased, to the end of October.

Simon Williams said: “Not only that but rate wise, what people were willing to pay was at least 50 per cent higher than normal. So in terms of recovery it was immediate and hugely impactful. It was very, very positive.

“In terms of the financial year it’s been tremendous, it’s been incredibly positive. Not only that but also the government’s assistance that we received in hospitality - so the reduction in VAT that added 15 per cent to the bottom line through to October and 7.5 per cent to the bottom line from October onwards. That was helpful. In fact, it was more than helpful, it was great."

Mr Williams said other hotels had similarly benefited from more people taking domestic holidays.

“We receive reports on a daily basis that show market demand and occupancy in the area and everyone was full within our competitor set.”

Looking ahead, Mr Williams said any restrictions on overseas travel next year because of Covid would likely deliver a similar benefit.

“There’s two ways of looking at that. One way is wouldn’t it be great if Covid just disappeared. But in hospitality wouldn’t it be great if there were huge international restrictions everywhere because if people can’t fly off to Magaluf, they’re going to come to Scarborough.”

Nationally, the picture has been more mixed with venues that rely more on overseas visitors than traditional British seaside resorts struggling to reach the same level of recovery.

Bed and Breakfast Association chairman David Weston said: “Yes, there was a boost from staycations but not enough to counteract the periods of closure and the total absence of travellers from overseas. Hence this year being down some 10 per cent on 2019 as an average projection by our members.”

He added: “I am now worried that B&Bs - and UK domestic tourism generally - will suffer a double whammy next year, as (a) inbound tourism will not rebound to pre-Covid levels, and (b) there may be a huge boost in outbound tourism from the UK as people try to make up for ’two lost years’ of foreign holidays. You could call that the ‘anti-staycation’ - or ‘away-cation'.”

Income from inbound tourism to the UK this year is expected to be less than a quarter of pre-Covid levels.

National tourism agency VisitBritain forecasts £6.9billion in overseas visitor spending in 2021, down from £28.4billion in 2019.

In contrast with seaside resorts, cities, city visitor attractions and regional gateways have been particularly badly hit by the absence of international visitors.

But Patricia Yates, deputy CEO of VisitBritain, said there were signs of encouragement from strong domestic bookings heading into winter and early 2022 and “a sustained uptick” in interest and enquiries for holidays at home.