Holiday cottage booking companies have reported huge demand from people hoping to book holidays in England when lockdown restrictions are eased from 12 April.
The holiday home firm Cottages.com said two-thirds of its properties in coastal locations or with hot tubs have already been booked that week. It is the earliest date that self-contained accommodation providers and outdoor visitor attractions can start welcoming back customers under Boris Johnson’s plans for easing the coronavirus lockdown in England.
Simon Altham, the chief commercial officer at Cottages.com’s parent company, Awaze, told the PA Media news agency there was “no doubt” that continued uncertainty about foreign travel had led to a rise in “staycation” bookings.
He said: “We’ve definitely seen a marked increase in demand and traffic to our sites over the last week or so as we get nearer to restrictions being lifted and people look to lock in a UK getaway.
“The south-west and traditional honeypot locations are booking up fast for the summer already, with Cornwall more than 80% sold and Devon nearly 70% sold.”
Altham said bookings were “way ahead” of where they were at the same point last year and the year before.
Government ministers have warned the public repeatedly against booking overseas summer holidays over concerns that new variants of the virus could limit foreign travel even after 17 May, the date when the ban on non-essential overseas travel is scheduled to be lifted according to the roadmap plan.
Johnson suggested on Thursday that Britons would need some kind of vaccine passport before going on holiday abroad. He is expected to make interim announcements on international travel and Covid “certification” on Easter Monday. Reports suggest the prime minister will outline the first stages of a “traffic light” system for foreign travel but it has been claimed there could be as few as 12 nations on the so-called “green” list of safe countries.
Feather Down, a company that offers luxury camping – or “glamping” – on farms across Britain, said it was “nearly sold out” for several weeks from 12 April as people look to book outdoor escapes after months of lockdown.
“If you and your family have been cooped up for the best part of a year, I think it’s going to literally be a breath of fresh air,” Mark Gordon, co-founder of Feather Down, said. “If foreign travel opens up but is an almighty hassle in terms of testing, this really is a simple option.”
He said bookings for the summer were more than double what they were at the same point last year, and more than 70% higher than in 2019.
Meanwhile, a number of outdoor visitor attractions such as theme parks and zoos were also preparing to reopen. Bernard Donoghue, the director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, said customers’ appetite to return to their favourite venues from 12 April was “absolutely enormous”.
“People are really wanting to go back to visitor attractions to share experiences with their families and friends, and create memories together after lockdown,” he said. “We already know there’s been huge demand in terms of booking tickets, booking time slots. I’m really confident that the British public will come back in their droves to places that are special to them.”
Self-contained holiday accommodation reopened in Wales on 27 March for people living within the country. Self-catering accommodation can reopen from 26 April in Scotland, but no date has been announced for Northern Ireland.