What staycations are left for Brits whose foreign holidays have been ruined?

Britain’s cottages, hotels and holiday sites are seeing a rush in bookings as people give up on travelling abroad amid quarantine fears and opt for a staycation instead.

Families are booking up dates for UK holidays in 2021 despite the cost of some stays going up by 50 per cent as operators try to recoup some of their lockdown losses.

Those hoping for a last-minute stay in a holiday hotspot this weekend will find campsites for £150 a night or £200 a night for three-star hotels as demand soars.

One four-star hotel on the beach in Newquay, Cornwall, comes in at nearly £350 a night, while a one-bedroom cottage in the Cotswolds will set you back £280 a night.

It comes as: 

  • Up to 14million Britons are expected to go on a UK holiday before September;
  • Havens said bookings at its 36 parks in Britain are up 96 per cent year-on-year;
  • Some cottages have just three weekends free from March until September 2021;
  • Demand for caravan sites across the Devon area has increased by 140 per cent;
  • Call volumes for Hoseasons cottage bookings are ten times higher than normal.

Demand will also be boosted by rising temperatures over the next few days, with Friday expected to be the hottest day of the year so far with 91F (33C) highs.

Slots at campsites, B&Bs and cottages across Britain are also running out because holidays postponed during the lockdown are now being rebooked for next year. 

A family room at the three-star Best Western Livermead Cliff Hotel in Devon costs £440 for two nights this weekend as demand surges for hotels and cottages amid the staycations boom

A family room at the three-star Best Western Livermead Cliff Hotel in Devon costs £440 for two nights this weekend as demand surges for hotels and cottages amid the staycations boom

It comes as the UK Government advised against all but essential travel to Spain after the emergence of a second wave of coronavirus in parts of the country. 

Charles Millward, the owner of Staycation Holidays, told The Times: ‘People should be worried about finding availability next year.

What can I do if I’ve booked a holiday to Spain?

Can I get a refund on my flights?

Airlines are refusing to cancel flights to Spain – despite the Government advising against all but essential travel.

The move puts hundreds of thousands of British families in limbo and at risk of losing thousands of pounds. It also puts the airline industry at odds with the UK Government by ignoring a public safety edict. The Government issued the travel warning after the emergence of a second wave of coronavirus in parts of Spain.

Customers would normally expect travel firms to cancel the flights and offer refunds. But all the major carriers, which have suffered massive losses following the collapse of air travel, have snubbed the Government and continue to offer the flights. This means families will potentially lose their holidays and their money.

People could ignore the Government and take their flights. But they would have to quarantine for 14 days when they get back and their travel insurance may be void. Alternatively, they could cancel their trip without any guarantee of a refund. 

Can I switch my flight date or change destination? 

British Airways and easyJet have suggested they will offer vouchers for future flights, rather than a refund, for those who cancel.

Ryanair has refused to offer anything. It even suggested people who changed their flights could incur charges of up to £95 per person.

What if I have booked a package holiday?

If you booked a package holiday which cannot go ahead as planned, you are entitled to a refund and it should be returned within 14 days.

However, a number of airlines have not cancelled flights and some tour operators are also doing the same – this means you might not get a refund without a fight.

Companies will be expected to cancel package holidays to Spain and its islands and offer refunds. An estimated 1.8m bookings will be affected. 

Tui has suspended all holidays to Spain up to and including August 9. It said customers travelling ‘will be able to cancel or amend holidays and will be able to receive a full refund or the option to rebook their holiday with a booking incentive and our customer service team will proactively email these customers’.

Jet2 and Tui have cancelled trips up to certain dates in August. Kuoni, even though it is not cancelling trips, is offering refunds or rebookings at a later date. 

Will I be able to cancel a direct hotel booking?

If you have booked directly with a hotel it is unlikely that they will let you cancel without abiding by their cancellation charges.

You could try appealing to their goodwill and there is certainly no harm in asking. They may for instance let you move to a later date.

If you have booked through a third-party website like Booking.com, Expedia or Lastminute, you may find that the cancellation terms are more generous, depending on what sort of reservation you made.

If it is not offering either option, contact your travel insurer to see if you can claim on your policy instead. 

Will my insurance cover it?

Only Nationwide’s FlexPlus travel insurance, which comes with its £13-a-month current account, covers trips cancelled because Foreign Office advice changed after a booking was made – while it also covers a trip being cut short because of a local lockdown. 

Other policies from the likes of Trailfinders, Nationwide, Axa, All Clear, Coverwise and Insure For will cover coronavirus-related cancellations, but not because of a change in government travel restrictions.

The Civil Aviation Authority said there was nothing it could do to ensure those with a flight-only booking got a refund. It suggested they claim money back from a travel insurance policy, but most insurers have clauses that reject any claims linked to coronavirus.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said it is ‘likely’ that travel insurance will remain in place for holidaymakers already in Spain until they return home. However, those attempting to travel to countries against FCO advice would invalidate their travel insurance.

The ABI said people who booked a trip or took out travel insurance after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic may not be covered for travel disruption or cancellation. In either circumstance, travellers should check with their insurer. 

What if my trip isn’t cancelled but I want to cancel it?

If your trip isn’t cancelled, contact your travel provider in the first instance to see if they are offering refunds, or again, a change of date.

If they are not, you may have to swallow the cost of cancelling your holiday and then fighting to get a refund through your insurance, credit card provider through Section 75 or a chargeback, offered by some banks.

While most tour providers still haven’t shown their hand, it is thought likely most will cancel holidays given the Government advice.

What should I do if I am already in Spain?

People currently on holiday in Spain have been encouraged to follow the local rules, return home as normal and check the FCO’s travel advice pages on gov.uk for further information. 

The FCO is not advising those already travelling in Spain to leave. Abta – the UK’s travel trade association – has advised customers in the country to continue their holidays and return as normal. 

What if I am going on holiday elsewhere?

The FCO continues to advise against non-essential international travel except to the countries and territories on its exemption list. 

But local government minister Simon Clarke said the reality is that holidaymakers travelling abroad during the coronavirus outbreak will have to accept there is a ‘degree of uncertainty’.

He said people going on holiday should understand that they may be asked to self-isolate on their return and the Government must reserve the right to keep the British public safe.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said anyone making travel arrangements needs to recognise the restrictions that may be placed upon them by the Government on their return to the UK.

What will happen when I get back from Spain?

If you’re returning to the UK from Spain you will need to provide your journey and contact details and self-isolate for 14 days. This may drop to 10 days soon.

You may be fined up to £100 if you refuse to provide your contact details or more if you break this rule more than once. You may also be fined up to £1,000 if you refuse to self-isolate, or you could face further action.

Will my employer pay me if I have to quarantine?

This will depend on your employer and their rules. If, for example, you can still work from home, there should – in theory – be no problem with you quarantining.

However, you are not automatically entitled to statutory sick pay from your employer if you have to quarantine after coming back off holiday, according to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

Some employers will offer sick pay – either statutory or a higher level, depending on their policy.

It could be that if your employer is unable to offer you sick pay, you could take annual leave to avoid missing out on any payment, although this may not be possible if you do not have enough left to take.

However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers, including by being put on to sick pay.

‘A lot of dates are already taken because they will have been moved from this year – one of our properties only has three weekends free next year from March until September.

‘In general our properties will increase in price next year by 20 per cent to recoup the cost owners lost during the lockdown.

‘One property we’re booking for next year has gone up by 50 per cent. I think that will happen more and more as owners have lost thousands of pounds and need it back.’

Up to 14million Britons are expected to go on a UK holiday before children go back to school in September, giving the country’s economy a £3.7billion boost.

Havens said bookings at its 36 parks are up 96 per cent year-on-year, while demand for caravan sites is up 140 per cent in Devon and bookings are surging at Butlins.

UK holiday agent Hoseasons said it has employed extra telesales staff to cope with extra demand with bookings made for the next year up by a third on normal levels.

Its cottage break bookings are up 223 per cent over the last month compared to the same period in 2019, while call volumes are at more than ten times the normal level.

Writer and broadcaster Sally Jones, who lives in Warwick, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I do think it’s totally bonkers to encourage people to go abroad at the moment when we don’t know which countries are going to be shut down, where we’re going to have quarantine coming back from, say, Croatia or France.

‘There’s wonderful, wonderful places in England. I think most people don’t really know their own country that well.’

She added: ‘Why not go and explore places like, say, Scotland or the beaches of Northumberland? 

‘There are these incredible places in England – most of us have never been there.’ 

British campsites have also seen a boom in bookings as people give up on foreign trips.

The website Pitchup.com, which sends 800,000 people a year to 2,000 UK campsites, said bookings on Sunday were double last year’s high for a single day.

It took some 6,100 bookings, representing around 18,000 people, which was up by 20 per cent on the previous Sunday. Founder of the booking platform, Dan Yates, said there is a clear switch to staycations.

He said: ‘For many who were just starting to consider booking a trip abroad this is probably the nail in the coffin, with the change in regulations fundamentally damaging consumer confidence to travel overseas.

‘The tightened financial climate means British holidaymakers are unlikely to take the risk of not being able to work when they return which has likely been the catalyst for this weekend’s surge in UK bookings.’ 

The website also offers bookings to campsites across Europe. Mr Yates said: ‘The tourism and hospitality sector has been decimated by Covid and our Spanish site owners are in uproar. 

‘They believe a more localised approach which focuses on quarantine in the specific regions which have been affected by the Covid peaks would have been a more appropriate and effective response by the UK government.

‘This is, however, good news for domestic campsites and caravan parks as thousands will substitute a UK holiday for their usual one abroad.’ 

Mr Yates said: ‘The ever changing guidance is likely to cause mass confusion and concern amongst Brits, with many likely to elect to play it safe and staying closer to home this year.’

Airbnb has said that on bookings made on the weekend of June 27/28, more than 70 per cent were staycations.

A spokesman said: ‘Staycations are great for Brits who want to explore beyond their own four walls again, but also for the hospitality industry and Airbnb hosts who depend on the income from listing on our platform.

‘We’ve seen a significant spike in demand as travel becomes a reality again, with our trending destinations showing people are keen to explore the many interesting towns and rural areas the nation has to offer, providing a welcome boost to local businesses.’

Speaking about going abroad, Guy Anker from MoneySavingExpert told The Times: ‘People who booked a holiday or took out insurance after mid-March are not going to be covered by a local lockdown or the decision to change travel advice.

‘My advice would be, do not spend any money at the moment that you can’t afford to lose, or where flexibility is not written into your airline ticket or hotel booking.’

Meanwhile Boris Johnson has indicated that quarantine restrictions could be imposed on further European countries if a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus hits the continent. 

The Prime Minister already faces a diplomatic row with Spain after warning against all but essential travel to the country – and its resort islands – and insisting that travellers arriving in the UK from there spend a fortnight in quarantine due to an increase in cases.

But he defended the move and insisted the Government would not hesitate to act if flare-ups of coronavirus occurred in other destinations.

‘I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic,’ the Prime Minister warned.

With holidaymakers already facing uncertainty over trips abroad this summer, Mr Johnson indicated further action could be considered by the Government.

‘It’s vital that when people are coming back from abroad, if they are coming back from a place where I’m afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine,’ he said.

‘That’s why we have taken the action that we have and we will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary.’

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described the restrictions on travel to the country as an ‘error’.

He pointed out that the upsurge in coronavirus cases is focused in two regions, Catalonia and Aragon, adding: ‘In most of Spain, the incidence is very much inferior to even the numbers registered in the United Kingdom.’

Madrid had been urging the UK to exclude the Canaries and Balearics – which include popular tourist resorts on Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca – from its quarantine requirements.

But instead, official travel advice was tightened to bring the islands in line with the Spanish mainland.

The move has dealt a further blow to the travel industry, which was already reeling after the lockdown.

Mr Johnson said it was up to individuals to decide whether they wanted to take the risk of travelling in the present circumstances.

‘These are decisions for families, for individuals, about where they want to go,’ he said.

The decision to impose quarantine restrictions was made after England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty reportedly told ministers that 10 Britons who tested positive for coronavirus after July 1 had reported visiting Spain in the 14 days before their test.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m afraid if we do see signs of a second wave in other countries, it is really our job, our duty, to act swiftly and decisively to stop … travellers coming back from those places seeding the disease here in the UK.’

Britons make up over a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain, which relies heavily on tourism, and Madrid has said the UK Government gave it no warning that the quarantine move was coming over the weekend.

Travel firm Tui UK cancelled all holidays to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) updated travel advice.

Tui’s decision runs from Tuesday July 28 up to and including Friday July 31.

Holidays to Spain’s mainland were already cancelled from Sunday July 26 up to and including Sunday August 9.

A camp rental in the Cornish countryside in Truro will cost £366 for two nights this weekend

A camp rental in the Cornish countryside in Truro will cost £366 for two nights this weekend

A two-night stay this weekend at another campsite in Chiddingly, East Sussex, will cost £332

A two-night stay this weekend at another campsite in Chiddingly, East Sussex, will cost £332

The company said: ‘The UK Government must work closely with the travel industry as this level of uncertainty and confusion is damaging for business and disappointing for those looking forward to a well-deserved break.’ 

Jet2 has suspended flights and holidays to Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza up to and including August 9, after the Government changed its advice on travel to the Balearic and Canary Islands.

The company had already suspended flights and holidays to mainland Spain until August 16, and yesterday evening advised customers due to travel to the Balearic and Canary Islands today not to go to the airport.

‘Where customers are affected by any programme changes, we have been repeatedly recognised for how we have been looking after customers, offering the option to rebook with no admin fee, a Refund Credit Note or a full cash refund, and we will be contacting customers to discuss these options,’ Jet2 said. 

‘We will also be contacting customers who are currently in these destinations to advise them of their options regarding flying back to the UK, so we urge customers not to contact us.

Rooms at this beach hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, this weekend will cost £685 for two nights

Rooms at this beach hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, this weekend will cost £685 for two nights

For customers who are due to travel to these destinations after the dates given above, we will provide an additional update once we receive more information from the Government.

‘What we need now is clarity and consistency from the Government. We understand that this is a fast-moving situation, however the information we are receiving is contradictory and often comes with little or no notice.

‘We want to provide customers, who work hard and save hard for their well-deserved holidays, with timely information and we need this from the Government. We would like to sincerely thank our customers for their understanding and patience.’ 

Labour said the Government must abandon its one-size-fits-all approach and introduce sectoral support for struggling businesses to ensure that public health measures such as the change in quarantine rules for people returning from Spain do not lead to mass job losses.  

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: ‘The Government’s handling of this issue has been nothing short of chaotic.’

A triple room at the Clachaig Inn in the Highlands this weekend will cost £439 for two nights

A triple room at the Clachaig Inn in the Highlands this weekend will cost £439 for two nights

Acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘The Prime Minister is right… to warn that some countries face the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus.

‘However, it is extremely worrying that he has not acknowledged or acted upon the risk of a second wave here in the UK.

‘Yesterday, I met with families who had lost loved ones due to Covid-19. Many just want the Prime Minister to start an independent inquiry immediately, so that the Government does not make the same mistakes that cost so many lives earlier this year.

‘Back in March, as the coronavirus wreaked havoc across Spain and Italy, Boris Johnson acted too slowly.  

‘The UK was not immune and it still is not. That is why the Prime Minister must take immediate action and begin an independent inquiry, so that we have learned the lessons should there be a second wave of the virus.’

The Daily Telegraph reported that quarantine for people arriving from Spain or other countries with high coronavirus levels could be cut to 10 days under plans being looked at by ministers.

A one-bedroom home in Woodmancote in the Chilterns costs £573 for two nights this weekend

A one-bedroom home in Woodmancote in the Chilterns costs £573 for two nights this weekend

Returned travellers would need to quarantine for eight days before being tested, and then only remain in quarantine for another two days should they test negative.

The paper reports the Government is also considering instructing everyone who has returned from Spain since July 23 to get tested.

Mr Johnson said: ‘We are always looking at ways in which we can mitigate the impact of the quarantine, try to help people, try to make sure that the science is working to help travellers and holidaymakers.’ 

In better news for travellers, five more countries were added to the quarantine exemption list on Tuesday – Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Issuing advice to those concerned about holidays in Spain, Brian Brown of Defaqto said: ‘If you are in Spain now your insurance will cover you as normal. This will include curtailment and medical claims. However, it will not include curtailment if you just want to come home early.

‘You won’t however have any compensation from your travel insurer for any enforced quarantine on your return to the UK. If you are on your way to Spain right now by car you might also have problems. 

‘If you enter Spain after the FCO advised you not to, then you will have no cover at all, including medical insurance. 

‘So, if you are driving through France to Spain, you should turn around and come home, or find somewhere else to have your holiday.’

He added that those who have a booking to Spain but can’t now travel because the FCO has advised against it, should first go to the travel provider.

Mr Brown continued: ‘Airlines and package operators will likely cancel the flight/holiday. You should ask them for a refund, or to transfer your holiday to another destination or time.

‘If you can’t get refunds, for instance if you booked your accommodation directly with the hotel, your travel insurance might pay out, but only if the policy covers you for change of government advice and you booked the holiday and bought the insurance before the FCO changed its advice. 

‘You will need to check your insurance policy wording.

‘If you are planning to travel somewhere else, where the FCO currently says you can go, but now don’t want to take the risk then no travel insurance policy will cover you for cancellation. Disinclination to travel is not an insured peril.’ 

It comes after one of the country’s most popular holidays seemed to be struggling with the onslaught of guests.

Swathes of people have descended on St Ives, Cornwall – famed for its narrow streets – seemingly struggling to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Car parks in the area are reaching capacity, and people are packing on to the town’s popular beach and into cafes and restaurants surrounding it.

Officials in St Ives have introduced a ‘keep to the left’ policy in an attempt to ensure everyone can keep to the one-metre plus distance currently advised.

Guests in the town have also been advised to wear a face mask and to avoid cramming into smaller shops. And in an effort to further reduce congestion in St Ives, access for most vehicles has been restricted between 10am and 6pm.

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, admitted some locals were still ‘nervous’ about the sudden rush of tourists. In spite of that, he added that on the whole ‘everyone is sticking to social distancing rules’ despite some of the historic towns being ‘close to capacity’.

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