‘There will be a shortage of holiday cottages’


Perranporth beach, Cornwall

As English hotels and other forms of accommodation prepare to reopen on 4 July, there is a “frenzy” of appetite for holidays, says one listings site.

Sarah and Steve Jarvis, who run the Independent Cottages website, say traffic in the past week has been 150% up on the same time last year.

“We’re very excited and very busy,” said Steve, adding that the lifting of restrictions on Tuesday was “very welcome news”.

But he added that not all holidaymakers will get the accommodation they want.

“There will be a shortage of holiday cottages,” he told the BBC. “There are forward bookings to be honoured and there will be fewer properties available.”

Independent Cottages has more than 1,800 properties on its books, with more than 1,500 of them in England.

Unlike online travel agents, it does not take a percentage on bookings, but charges an annual listing fee and allows property owners to deal directly with holidaymakers.

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Sarah and Steve Jarvis

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Sarah and Steve Jarvis say demand for cottages is high

Sarah said travel industry guidelines on coronavirus allowed holiday lets to cope with back-to-back bookings.

However, some holiday cottage owners were opting to leave two to three days between bookings to allow for thorough cleaning, further constraining the supply of accommodation.

“There’s a lot to clean,” she said. “It’s all very achievable, but some owners will feel that they want to leave a gap.”

One issue that is still unclear is the question of accommodation for stag and hen parties and other mass gatherings.

Such occasions can bring together as many as 18 to 20 people from different households, all using shared areas.

“We’re being asked about this a lot,” said Sarah. “The 2m rule isn’t much of an issue in a self-catering cottage. but we don’t know how many households are allowed.”

‘End of the tunnel’

Hotels, too, are busy preparing to open their doors to guests on 4 July.

Accor, which operates 270 hotels in the UK, says it will be reopening them gradually. It hopes to have 90% of them back in business by the end of August.

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Accor

Those booking in will see plenty of changes. Restaurants and bars will be serving food and drink on a “grab-and-go” basis, while fridges in the rooms will not contain any mini-bar items.

Every other room will be unoccupied and rooms will be left empty for 24 hours after a guest checks out.

Thomas Dubaere, Accor’s chief operating officer for Northern Europe, told the BBC Accor had been able to test its safety measures in other countries which had already eased lockdown.

He said guests were comfortable with the measures “as long as we keep good service and a friendly smile”.

“They still get the service. It’s just in a different way for the time being,” he added.

Mr Dubaere welcomed the government’s moves to allow hotels to reopen.

“We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.



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