Sat, 23 Sep 2023

LONDON, England: Fears about the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have led to cancellations at UK hotels, as Christmas plans are being changed by many people.

In a statement to the BBC, Best Western GB, which operates 300 UK hotels, said three-quarters of its hotels had experienced event and room booking cancellations.

Uncertainty over Omicron also added to safety concerns in hosting large gatherings and caused the tightening of travel rules, with every person entering the UK now needing to undergo a PCR test.

Jonathan Fletcher, who manages The Grange Best Western hotel, said customers have been phoning to cancel meals and parties.

"This Saturday night, we were supposed to have 100 people eating in our restaurant. Now there will only be 12," he said, adding people are also cancelling overnight stays, as quoted by the BBC.

"Corporate guests who were coming from abroad have also been cancelling," he added, acknowledging that the cancellations will affect the entire staff financially.

The Arora Group, which is the largest private owner and operator of hotels in the UK, also reported cancellations.

Surinder Arora, the group's founder and chairman, said, "It has been a rollercoaster ride," according to the BBC.

Bookings after Christmas are also being affected. According to the Arora Group, some business customers were considering pulling out of events in 2022.

"We had large corporates who had bookings in January, who are now saying 'actually, we many want to push it back to later in the year'," an official added.

However, trade body UKHospitality, which represents hotels and B&Bs, said most bookings are robust, even though members were reporting some cancellations.

"Anecdotally, some members are seeing cancellation rates of around 10 percent, so it seems most people are planning to go ahead," a spokesman said, as reported by the BBC.

Victoria Erasmus, who owns Glen Mhor, a rural hotel in Inverness, Scotland, said her guests are predominantly from the UK, and she remains optimistic about the holiday period.

"We have not had cancellations yet, but we have had a few say they are unsure. It is all been last minute bookings, so people are waiting to see what is happening this Christmas," she added, as quoted by the BBC.

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