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Concerns over Christmas bookings for hospitality

Published:  03 December, 2021

Leading trade associations have raised concern about the impact that Covid-19 and the new variant Omicron is having on Christmas bookings for the sector.

UKHospitality, the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said that this time of year should be the “annual bookings bonanza” for venues but added that this has not materialised with the sector seeing a raft of cancellations when the new variant was identified.

However, anecdotal evidence is suggesting that the wave of cancellations in the response to the emergence of Omicron could be slowing, meaning there could be more optimism for Christmas for the sector.

They have welcomed news from the WHO that infections of the new Covid-19 variant are ‘generally mild’ while the Government is continuing to support festive gatherings.

They highlighted that venues such as pubs, bars, restaurants and nightclubs have invested heavily to ensure the safety of staff and customers, focusing on better ventilation, hygiene and sanitation, measures which SAGE recommend are the most effective measures of infection control.

The slow-down in cancellations is small comfort for hospitality, after their latest figures revealed that the sector has been hit by a 30% slump in Christmas bookings even before the emergence of Omicron.

The recent survey, from members of the three trade associations of hundreds of hospitality operators, representing tens of thousands of venues, revealed bookings for the festive period were down 12.4% on average based on expectations from 2019, while 56% of respondents said bookings were below what they had hoped. A fifth (22%) of those polled in the survey said that, even prior to Omicron, festive bookings were more than 30% below expectations.

This has seen business leaders’ confidence levels in the market fall seven percentage points to 51% in this quarter versus Q3 and are down by 16 percentage points to 54% when it comes to their own businesses.

In a joint statement, UKHospitality, BII, and the BBPA said: “The full range of hospitality venues across the UK would usually be experiencing their annual bookings bonanza at this time of year, but it hadn’t materialised even before Omicron was first detected. 

“The WHO announcement that Omicron infections are generally mild, plus government promptings for festive gatherings to go ahead as planned, offer a crumb of comfort, and could at least slow the slew of cancellations the sector has experienced in the week since Omicron was discovered.”

They added: “We’d therefore urge those with bookings not to cancel them, but to carry on and enjoy their festive season parties, safe in the knowledge that hospitality venues are doing everything they can to ensure people have a safe and fun Christmas and New Year.”