UK hotels, B&Bs and holiday parks saw a 20% to 30% surge in inquiries after the mid-term travel chaos as families think twice about going abroad this summer.
Businesses said a surge in last-minute bookings is providing a much-needed boost as sales have slumped after booming in 2020 and 2021 thanks to the lifting of restrictions on outbound travel.
The cost of living crisis has also dampened family holiday plans for this summer, with many bookings being postponed over concerns about having extra cash.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of the UK Hospitality Trade Body, which represents thousands of accommodation providers, said bookings are generally lower than in the past two years, when outbound travel resumed.
However, she said there had been a surge in inquiries for the late summer and mid-October half-year, particularly for city breaks and rural and coastal locations, after airlines were forced to cancel flights.
“We’re not sure if this was a direct response to the travel chaos and difficulties of traveling abroad, or cost of living pressures, or that people realize how good the UK is after platinum jubilee,” she added added domestic bookings international visitors are also coming back.
Nicholls said the trend of last-minute bookings seen in recent years due to Covid concerns has continued, but businesses are being held back by staff shortages as hoteliers close rooms for lack of cleaning or kitchen staff are to serve them.
Paul Hardingham, managing director of holiday park operator Landal GreenParks UK, which has a number of sites across the UK including Cornwall, Scotland, the Peak District and Yorkshire, showed a similar pattern. He said bookings were up 20% in June from pre-pandemic levels, with strong demand for last-minute breaks, but overall summer bookings are currently lower than last year.
“We are expecting high bookings for the summer, with short breaks selling out at the last minute, with same-day and next-day bookings at a record high this year. We saw around 20% of all bookings for arrivals in the next seven days and almost 30% for the next 14 days,” he said.
Online campsite Pitch Up said its bookings in the UK were just over double what they were before the pandemic, with traditional campsites doing better than glamping, which had surged when overseas destinations went into lockdown.
Dan Yates, the founder, said: “The disruptions to international travel have definitely helped more holidaymakers choose to stay in the UK this year as people prefer security and peace of mind in the wake of the pandemic.
“The rising cost of living is also a driver of the rise, with many choosing to camp or glamping close to home rather than embark on an expensive flight abroad to stretch their household budgets.”
However, the group said bookings were down slightly compared to this time last year, when families had fewer holiday options.
Sally Mynard, co-owner of Alpine Park Cottages near Sydmouth in Devon, said the company had seen bookings up 7% for the half-year as news of the chaos at the airport broke.
But she said: “We are still at pre-Covid levels. We had the worst start to the season in 10 years in terms of advance bookings, which are down 20%.”
She said bookings for the school holidays have been particularly weak as some families are tight on cash and others have used up vouchers for trips abroad that have been delayed because of the pandemic.
“People leave late and see how much money they have on their hands,” she said. “Because of the price of gas, people are looking at how much it’s going to cost to get here and if they can afford to do things when they get there.”
Campervan hire group Indie Campers said 39% more Brits reserved one of their vehicles in the UK this year, with a slight increase in the length of travel they booked.
A spokesman said: “We are already noticing a shift as people think ahead of the potential chaos of the school holidays and book their family outings in advance as demand surges this August.”
According to Visit Cornwall, companies had a strong start to the year as they were able to trade between January and March for the first time in several years. However, May and June were “sluggish”.
A spokesman said bookings are at pre-pandemic levels but lower than the last two “staycation-boom” years for late spring and summer, and some businesses have been experiencing cancellations.