A staycation stampede has seen lockdown-weary Britons accuse holiday cottage firms of doubling prices and charging more than £1,000 for short breaks after the roadmap to end England’s third shutdown was unveiled.
Price rises of 25 to 100 per cent are being imposed by companies running websites marketing thousands of cottages on behalf of owners around the country, it is being claimed by eagle-eyed customers.
Sykes Cottages, which is one of the biggest accommodation providers with over 15,000 properties, has been accused of trying to take advantage of families desperate to escape the brutal national lockdown.
Concerns were raised by the chairman of the South West Tourism Alliance, Alistair Handyside, who operates three holiday cottages in Devon. At the same time, critics of Sykes alleged huge price increases on Facebook.
The allegations have been denied by the company, with a spokesman insisting that it would be wrong to accuse it of changing its prices because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes as campsites and holiday lets across Britain saw a surge in bookings as Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his roadmap out of lockdown, with some rentals selling out within minutes.
However, holidaymakers have been told not to book foreign trips this summer amid uncertainty over the speed at which lockdown can be eased, with one SAGE adviser admitting he would not go abroad until 2023.
One woman looking for accommodation close to the Dorset coast posted: ‘Watch out ‘Sykes Price Hikes’ !!! The cottage we booked for last April – 2020 – was £580 per week. This year – 2021 – same week £1,010.’
Another woman based in Wales, who has rented her property to holidaymakers through Sykes and is in the process of leaving, insisted she has no control over the prices.
She wrote: ‘I’m an owner, have just checked my prices and they’ve gone from £459 to £1,145 !! I’ve questioned this and they have said it’s due to demand. Quite frankly I’m embarrassed and have told them to sort themselves out.’
Concerns were raised yesterday by the chairman of the South West Tourism Alliance, Alistair Handyside, and his wife, who operate three holiday cottages in Devon
Mr Handyside said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to push back the end of lockdown until after Easter has been a disaster. He also accused Sykes of looking to make ‘a quick buck’
Sykes Cottages, which is one of the biggest accommodation providers with over 15,000 properties, has been accused of trying to take advantage of families desperate to escape England’s brutal third lockdown. Its critics made their complaints on Facebook
How will lockdown ease in the roadmap?
Step One Part One: March 8
From March 8, all pupils and students will return to schools and colleges across England.
So-called wrap-around childcare will also be allowed to resume, paving the way for after and before school clubs to reopen.
People will be allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee.
Care home residents will be able to have one regular named visitor.
The Government’s stay at home order will remain in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned.
Step One Part Two: March 29
From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed. These gatherings will be allowed to happen in private gardens.
Outdoor sports like tennis and basketball will be allowed to reopen and people will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’.
However, the Government is expected not to define what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys.
People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes.
Step Two: April 12
Nom-essential retail will be allowed to reopen as well as personal care premises like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons.
Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers.
Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form.
However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household.
Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with their own household.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors.
Any visits to a pub or restuarant will have to comply with the rules on social contact, so no more than two households or the rule of six.
The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will be ditched.
All customers at hospitality venues will also have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.
Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted a single household.
Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15.
Step Three: May 17
The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be banned.
Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet.
However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further.
This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. But groups meeting outdoors at pubs will be allowed to be bigger.
Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.
Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full
Mr Handyside said Sykes, which is owned by private equity investors, is looking to make ‘a quick buck’.
He said: ‘If you look at what some of the large agents are charging – for cottages – they are increasing their prices dramatically. I have seen that some are doubling the prices and that is not uncommon.
‘Capacity is down. Lots of people have left the sector because they can’t cope with dealing with the Covid preparations or they have gone bust.
‘When there is less capacity and greater demand, you get price hiking. It was inevitable, but not at these levels.’
Sykes was criticised last year for failing to give customers proper refunds. It required an intervention by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to ensure people got their money back.
Mr Handyside said Mr Johnson’s decision to push back the end of lockdown until after Easter has been a disaster.
Under the Government’s roadmap, people will be able to book a self-catering staycation from April 12 – but no booking that involves more than one household, for example a family plus grandparents, will be allowed until May 17.
‘The sector was very hopeful of being open at Easter, because it is such an important revenue earner. But, now, we are dealing with cancellation after cancellation,’ he said.
His wife Lorna added: ‘All the people that have booked for Easter will now have to be refunded their money.
‘It is going to be devastating. We still have the overheads, we still have our loans and we still have to keep the cottages warm so they don’t get damp.
‘The daffodils are coming out, bulbs are coming out. Normally we have lots of people here, going for walks and enjoying being in the countryside. Now they can’t.’
The Handysides are furious that while restrictions will run on for many weeks, there has been no extension of financial support. A business rates holiday and a VAT cut from 20per cent to 5per cent are due to lapse on March 31.
The hospitality sector will have to wait until the Budget next week to find out if these – along with other measures – will continue.
Sykes Holiday Cottages insisted it would be wrong to accuse the company of changing its prices because of the pandemic. It said prices are set according to availability and demand.
A spokesman said: ‘We have not changed our approach to pricing and our holiday prices are and will always be competitive.
‘Like lots of other businesses throughout the travel industry, we operate a pricing system that automatically sets prices based on availability and demand.’
It said it was unable to comment on the examples posted on Facebook because of a lack of detail.
It comes as Britain’s travel industry was given a host in the arm by the Prime Minister’s announcement that staycations could be allowed as early as mid-April.
The news provided a welcome boost for the sector, with companies seeing an increase in website traffic before Mr Johnson had even finished his address.
Staycation giant Awaze, the owner of UK self-catering company Cottages.com, said it sold a record 10,000 breaks on Monday – recording one booking every second.
Pitchup.com, meanwhile, has taken one booking every seven seconds in the past 24 hours. And Habitat Escapes, which offers luxury holiday in the Cotswolds and Dorset, told MailOnline that sales were up 343 per cent compared with last week by this morning – and a staggering 9,559 per cent up on the same day last year.
Cool Camping, which runs sites across the UK, saw an instant doubling in website traffic between 3 and 4pm followed by record numbers in the evening.
A spokesman for the company told MailOnline: ‘By the end of the day, bookings were up by an incredible 1,500 per cent on the same day last year.’
Cornwall was the most booked location, with some of the most popular spots already fully booked for some August weekends.
Under the blueprint revealed last night, key sectors of the economy will gradually re-open at only four-weekly intervals as the Government plots a cautious easing of restrictions.
It comes as a SAGE professor warned holidaymakers not to go on foreign trips before 2023. Professor Graham Medley, who sits on SAGE and is the UK’s chief pandemic modeller, said today he wouldn’t book a holiday until 2023.
The Prime Minister announced that self-catered breaks in holiday lets will be permitted from April 12.
But hotels and B&Bs will have to wait until May 17 at the earliest before they can open their doors.
Staycation giant Awaze recorded one booking every second and sold more than 10,000 UK breaks yesterday, as customers scrambled to secure their post-lockdown getaway.
Following yesterday’s announcement, year-on-year growth compared to the same day last year saw Cornwall up by 671 per cent; Devon up 623 per cent; and the two locations combined up by 643 per cent.
Habitat Escapes, which offers luxury holiday rentals at Lower Mill Estate in the Cotswolds and Silverlake in Dorset, has reported a surge in bookings and enquiries.
As of this morning, sales were up 343 per cent compared with last week, and 9,559 per cent up on the same day last year.
Red Paxton, Director of Habitat Escapes, said: ‘The Prime Minister has unlocked the summer we were all waiting for. We are delighted to see so many consumers booking again and looking forward to their habitat escape in England.’
By the end of Monday, bookings for Cool Camping sites (pictured) were up by some 1,500% on the same day last year
Habitat Escapes, which offers luxury holiday in the Cotswolds and Dorset, told MailOnline that by this morning, sales were up 343 per cent compared with last week, and a staggering 9,559 per cent up on the same day last year. Pictured, one of its luxury retreats in Dorset
SAGE scientist warns don’t book a trip abroad before 2023
Professor Graham Medley, who sits on SAGE and is the UK’s chief pandemic modeller, said today he wouldn’t book a holiday until 2023.
He said: ‘I’m not, I didn’t last year and I won’t next year probably either.
‘I think it’s a time of caution and we have to see. While we’re doing very well with the vaccine in this country, other countries are not doing so well.’
Asked to clarify he would not even book a foreign holiday for 2022, he added: ‘Not at the moment. I wouldn’t book anything.
‘I think the whole situation’s going to be uncertain for a long time.
‘We’ve got more optimism and certainty now in this country than we have for most other places.’
Despite the demand there is still availability to book a post lockdown escape at one of its two locations.
James Warner Smith from Cool Camping told MailOnline: ‘What we witnessed yesterday was a huge surge in bookings following Boris Johnson’s announcement, with an instant doubling in our website traffic between 3 and 4pm when he was making his announcement in the House of Commons and then record numbers in the evening.
‘By the end of the day, bookings were up by more than 750 per cent on the same date last year (February 22, which was a Saturday) and were up by an incredible 1,500 per cent on the same day last year (the last Monday of the month; Feb 24).
‘Cornwall was the most booked location, with one or two of the most popular spots, like Mount Pleasant Eco Park, now fully booked for some August weekends, but plenty of availability still remains, though we expect key weekends like the May and August bank holidays to fill up quickly.
‘The late May bank holiday, in particular, was amongst the most-booked dates last night.’
Mr Johnson said the travel industry will not reopen before Step Two begins on April 12, when people will be able to stay in self-contained accommodation.
No household mixing will be allowed at that stage and only cottages or Airbnb lets that do not have shared facilities will be permitted to open.
Outdoor hospitality will begin at this point, meaning holidaymakers will be able to enjoy beer gardens and restaurants or cafes that have outside seating.
However, those wanting to stay in hotels, B&Bs or hostels will have to wait until at least May 17. At this point, indoor hospitality in pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes will begin again.
The exact timing will depend on four key tests, which include the continued rollout of the vaccine programme and evidence that the jabs are reducing Covid hospitalisation and death rates.
Awaze owns self-catering brands including cottages.com, Hoseasons and Landal GreenParks UK.
Group Chief Commercial Officer Simon Altham said: ‘We welcome yesterday’s roadmap from the Government, which gives holidaymakers and property owners in England clarity over taking and enjoying a staycation this year.
‘Last year following similar announcements we saw bookings peak at one every 11 seconds, but this time demand has exceeded our expectations and comfortably broken that record.
‘It is clear that Brits are desperate to get away, and now have the clarity and confidence to book.
‘This will be welcome news for many businesses that rely on tourism across England and will allow them to plan their reopening carefully and considerately.
‘We do recognise that some people will be disappointed they can’t get away sooner, but since the start of the pandemic the health and safety of our customers, property owners and local communities has been a top priority and we will continue to work carefully to follow all the Government guidelines in the coming weeks and months.
At the close of play on Monday, bookings for Cool Camping locations were up by more than 750% on the same date last year (February 22, which was a Saturday) and were up by an incredible 1,500% on the same day last year (the last Monday of the month; Feb 24)
Cool Camping, which runs sites across the UK, saw an instant doubling in website traffic between 3-4pm followed by record numbers in the evening
‘Most of all we look forward to welcoming our customers back and playing our part in helping them experience and enjoy a well-earned break following an incredibly tough year.’
Mr Johnson hit back at Tories and scientists suggesting lockdown could ease faster – as Wales and Scotland warned his roadmap might be too quick.
The Prime Minister said he was being ‘sensible and prudent’ with his four-stage plan after attacks on the approach from both sides.
‘Some people will say we’re going to be going too fast, some people will say we’re going too slow,’ he said on a visit to a school in South London.
Mr Johnson refused to guarantee that all restrictions will definitely be lifted by June 21 as scheduled, but insisted he was ‘hopeful’ it can happen.
The intervention came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock slapped down Professor Neil Ferguson for suggesting the government’s blueprint for England could be accelerated if things go well.
Tories and business have been voicing disquiet about the ultra-cautious approach being taken by ministers, even though the vaccination drive has been surging ahead.
Schools will return on March 8, but there will be almost no further loosening of the draconian curbs before Easter.
There will be a five week gap between each of the four main stages of the plan, with scientists having won the argument in government that time is needed to assess the impact.
Have you been hit by a staycation rip-off since the roadmap was unveiled? Email Tips@dailymail.com.
Holidaymakers rush to book summer getaways to Greece, Spain and Turkey after PM announced aim to restart international travel from May 17 – but SAGE scientist warns don’t book a trip abroad before 2023
Britons are rushing to book their summer getaways ahead of the return of international travel from May 17 – despite a SAGE professor warning holidaymakers not to go on foreign trips before 2023.
Some of Britain’s biggest airlines and travel firms revealed a surge in holiday bookings to destinations including Greece, Spain and Turkey in the hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the roadmap out of lockdown.
Britons were quick to act on the news, with easyJet revealing a 337 per cent surge in flight bookings and a 630 per cent jump in holiday bookings for destinations such as Alicante, Malaga, Palma, Faro and Crete after 3pm on Monday.
Of the rising bookings, most are for August, followed by July and then September.
Jet2 saw a 600 per cent increase in summer holiday bookings after the announcement, with bookings surging for destinations across the board including mainland Spain and its islands, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.
Tui reported its best day for bookings in over a month, with Britons particularly interested in holidays in Greece, Spain and Turkey for the summer and Thomas Cook said it saw a 100 per cent surge on website traffic after the announcement.
However, Professor Graham Medley, who sits on SAGE and is the UK’s chief pandemic modeller, said today he wouldn’t book a holiday until 2023.
He said: ‘I’m not, I didn’t last year and I won’t next year probably either. I think it’s a time of caution and we have to see. While we’re doing very well with the vaccine in this country, other countries are not doing so well.’
Asked to clarify he would not even book a foreign holiday for 2022, he added: ‘Not at the moment. I wouldn’t book anything. I think the whole situation’s going to be uncertain for a long time. We’ve got more optimism and certainty now in this country than we have for most other places.’
Pictured is a beach in Magaluf, Spain. The surge in holiday bookings included places such as Greece, Spain and Turkey