'Don't be put off booking a summer holiday': Firms' plea

A busy Cromer beach on one of the hottest days of summer - but will it soon be empty again? Picture:

People enjoying Cromer beach last summer. Holidaymakers are being urged to book for this year in hope the staycation will go ahead. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Owners of holiday firms in the East are urging people not to be put off by government advice to ditch booking a break in the UK.

And it seems many people have not been deterred - booking up trips home and abroad despite ministers' mixed messages.

It comes as transport secretary Grant Shapps said it was too early to book a holiday at home or abroad. However, health secretary Matt Hancock revealed he had already booked a trip to Cornwall.

For those whose livelihoods depend on people taking a staycation, the message was to book - with procedures in place if holidays could not go ahead.

And for those who have got holidays booked most accept they will have wait to see if their plans will be scuppered or not.

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But bosses have warned that those who decide not to book early could face disappointment amid the scramble to get away.

Michelle Woodman and husband Tim, who have been running four holiday barns at Brick Kiln barns, Dilham, near North Walsham for three and a half years, said they were about half as busy with bookings as they would be normally at this time of year.

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However, Mrs Woodman said people did not seem to be put off by the government advice.

"I've had four bookings this morning and three yesterday. Bookings really took off about 10 days ago when we passed the 10 million mark for coronavirus vaccines," she said.

"It is difficult though because we are getting different people booking a staycation - last year we found people were coming to Norfolk who would normally book a holiday abroad. If you're used to a week in Benidorm sitting around a pool, and there's nothing wrong with that, having a holiday in Norfolk is a different experience. 

"We're also urging people to book direct with us, 20-30pc of the price of a holiday can go on commission for agencies and they may not be able to react as quickly as we can to Covid.

"We came off some sites because they demanded thousands in cancellation fees. We will offer a refund if travel is prevented because of Covid and will change the booking if someone is worried about taking the holiday but often we will give you a refund as well."

Many people booking a trip said they had got contingency plans.

Aaron Smith, 29, from Norwich, and his fiancee Megan Doddington, 25, were hoping to go to Australia for their honeymoon but have now booked in Scotland instead. 

Mr Smith said: "We are currently planning three weddings as we aren’t sure if we will be having 15, 30 or 60 guests. We are getting married on October 23 and we've booked two separate honeymoons - one from Monday-Friday in a lodge with a hot tub and another from Friday-Sunday in Edinburgh. 

"We are determined to get some form of honeymoon."

Meanwhile Tui stated 2.8m bookings have been made for holidays abroad later this year.

One holiday hopeful, Jill Davies said: "We had a holiday booked for May 2020 which got cancelled so we rebooked for June 2021 with the £2,000 already paid. This holiday is about 16 weeks away and the balance is due next month.

"We just haven’t a clue what to do, I don’t want to lose any money or have to pay extra to move it, at the moment we are just sitting tight in the hope the holiday company will cancel it."

How might a vaccines passport work?

A digital health passport allowing people on a plane is being considered by Sweden and Denmark. Greece has already stated it may allow holidaymakers in with no restrictions if they can show they've been vaccinated.

Can I get my money back if a holiday doesn't go ahead?

If a business cancels your booking or you can't go because the rules would make it illegal, people should receive a full refund under most circumstances.

If you decide to cancel a holiday due to government guidance the CMA suggests you should not face 'disproportionately high' charges for doing so. 

Can you book a holiday in the UK?

There is nothing preventing people from booking but under the current lockdown, holiday travel is not allowed in the UK. People cannot stay overnight anywhere outside their main residence unless they have a "reasonable excuse". This includes staying in a second home, caravan or boat.

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