OPINION: Shame on you if you cancel a back-up staycation holiday

UK staycation

Pulling the plug on a UK staycation in favour of a foreign holiday does plenty of damage to the UK holiday industry, says Rachel Moore - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

"Just out of interest, is there anywhere left to book for a UK holiday?" breakfast TV journalist Susanna Reid asked on Twitter.

Short answer. No. But keep trying.

If travel restrictions loosen, all those selfish grabbers who have hedged their bets and double booked a UK seaside holiday as well as a (much preferred) jetaway abroad will dump the UK holiday as fast as you can say 'kiss me quick' leaving accommodation owners high and dry.

Available UK bookings are as rare as hen’s teeth, with the great British seaside, countryside, downs, broads and moors all enjoying a refreshingly welcome revival.

Beaches look like 1950s summer days, full of family camps behind cheery-coloured windbreaks and sandcastles with feet of all generations paddling in the North Sea, English Channel and Irish Sea instead of the Med this year.

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As rosy and cosy as rediscovering the nostalgic delights of the good old British summer holiday might sound, every week hangs in the balance for those who make a living out of hospitality.

It could crumble on the switch of a travel restriction because of 'spread bookers’, apparently now a ‘thing’ without a thought of the livelihoods impacted by letting them down at the last moment, or other people deprived of a holiday.

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Hang on, though. These poor old accommodation owners have hiked up prices this year so are just as bad, protest the scummy double-bookers. They’re trying to cash in on post pandemic restrictions with eye-watering prices - thousands of pounds a week for a family stay in the West Country. Daylight robbery. Fair point.

But it’s not everyone. Most people running holiday accommodation are decent fair-minded people who need to make a living. Tourism is a big chunk of our regional economy.

They deserve honesty and fairness they afford their customers, not people ready to exploit a refund policy at the drop of a restriction and a “green list” extension and leave them high and dry.

If you’ve done this, making sure your ‘insurance policy’ UK holiday property can be cancelled at late notice with full refunds because of decent-minded owners, shame on you.

Considering the horrors the hospitality sector has endured in the last 18 months it’s immoral, as bad as restaurant no-shows.

Tourism was hit first and hardest and will take the longest to recover. Every room, ticket, pint or meal is crucial for businesses to recover and survive.

It’s so disappointing that people don’t have the desire to support our own recovery but want to spend their money in another nation’s economy when our own needs bolstering so badly. It says a lot about our national attitude to recovery.

Owners of barns or complexes which take up to 20, 30 people are righty nervous that summer bookings could go pop tomorrow lading them with considerable financial problems.

Fully booked status sits on a knife-edge

The situation is so acute, say the Bed and Breakfast Association, if each of the UK’s 35,000 B&Bs had a week’s worth of cancellations this summer, they could lose £17m in total.

For self-catering properties losing just one week’s work of bookings could cut up to eight per cent of their annual income.

Alistair Handyside, executive chair of the Professional Association of Self-Caterers UK, rightly described spread-booking as “really appalling” and “inexcusable”.

Worse still is lying customers pretending Covid-19 has influenced their decision to cancel when they’re really flying off abroad.

This type of taking the mickey will only impact on everyone in future with new more stringent cancellation policies and higher prices.

Every time an accommodation is cancelled, there’s a knock-on effect on attractions, restaurants, and all the activities that family would do when in the area.

Show some consideration, please.

Coastal reality check:
So many who have taken pandemic coastal breaks have become so besotted by the charm they’ve sold up and moved seawards enabled by a work-from-home future.

Seaside property prices are soaring because of demand.

I wonder how they’ll feel after the first winter and the true picture of poverty, poor health, drug problems and below-par services of coastal communities slowly unravels.

Chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty wants a national strategy to address the disproportionately high concentrations of chronic disease, mental illness and poor life expectancy in coastal communities where low life expectancy and high concentrations of chronic disease lurk beneath the surface.

Behind the striking beaches and fresh sea air are some of the poorest health outcomes, with people “old before their time.” Drug abuse has always been high in seaside communities.

Mental illness and heart and kidney disease are roughly 10% higher than the national average on the coast and “far shorter lives are spent in far poorer health”.

Our coastal areas have been largely overlooked in the government’s levelling up with focus on northern industrial heartlands that have louder political voices.

Now Whitty is urging investment in education, jobs, housing and transport, as well as action to tackle NHS recruitment problems to tackle health problems of coastal communities to address a long tail of preventable ill health, which will get worse as populations age.

This is us in Norfolk and Suffolk, hampered by the 180-degree limited market of skills, training and labour.

You can’t smell the decay and desperation behind the holiday façade, but it’s very real for too many.

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