Travel firms see ‘surge’ in staycation bookings because of coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 18:01 02 March 2020 | UPDATED: 21:13 03 March 2020
Holiday agents are reporting a ‘surge’ in bookings across East Anglia by as much as 30% as people opt to take a holiday closer to home because of coronavirus.
A business with self-catering cottages in Norfolk and Suffolk state customers have told them they are booking with them after cancelling their break abroad. But the reason is more to do with people being scared of being trapped abroad in quarantine than fears over catching coronavirus.
Meanwhile, as some firms nationwide are reportedly asking staff to take annual leave now rather than later when there may be shortages, a Norwich employment lawyer called on the government to 'pass urgent legislation' regarding the issue.
Holiday firm Norfolk Cottages, with offices in Holt, Wells-next-the-Sea and Reepham and sister firm Suffolk Secrets, based in Southwold, have reported massive increases in bookings and enquiries. A spokeswoman said:
"We've seen a surge in booking enquiries, an increase of around 15%, for Easter and the summer holidays by around 30% certainly in the last week or so, as the first European cases (of coronavirus) were confirmed.
"Anecdotally, we're being told by customers who are thinking about cancelling their overseas break that it's not particularly the fear of becoming ill, rather the prospect of becoming unable to leave an overseas location for an extended period of time that is their main concern.
"As well as all the other benefits of taking a Suffolk or Norfolk staycation - value for money and no potential flight disruption, it's the guarantee that you can hop in the car and drive back home at the end of the holiday which is driving this rise in enquiries."
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A spokesperson for Hoseasons, based in Lowestoft, also said they'd seen an increase. "We've definitely seen a surge in interest in UK breaks as people weigh up their holidaying options in the light of the spread of coronavirus.
"Searches on our website are up 15% over the last seven days compared to where we were this time last year as people look for quick, convenient ways to get away on their doorstep."
Nicholas Lee, director of Broadland Travel in North Walsham, said there was no interest in travel to China but that he'd had very few other cancellations.
Jeanette Wheeler, partner and head of employment at Birketts solicitors in Norwich, said new laws were needed because it was difficult for an employer to legally lay off a worker because of coronavirus. However, employers did hold considerable control in saying when staff could take holiday, she said, including the power to refuse it. "If an employer doesn't want you to take holiday they can issue a counter notice refusing it."