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Snow and flu dampen holiday spirit

The first week of the New Year dished up a double dose of misery for hoteliers and caterers, who saw bookings fall victim to both freezing weather and the flu epidemic.

As the UK welcomed 1997 with Siberian winds bearing snow and -21ºC temperatures, hotels and restaurants counted the cost of New Year’s Eve revellers who heeded warnings to stay at home.

“We lost a party of 10 diners with overnight accommodation on New Year’s Eve. As we only have 15 rooms, that cost us a great deal,” said Gail Wadsworth, general manager of Rombalds Hotel on the edge of Ilkley Moor, North Yorkshire.

Guest numbers at the seven-bedroom Dower House hotel in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, were halved on New Year’s Eve when snowdrifts blocked roads.

Businesses in Guernsey suffered when the island was covered by the heaviest snowfall in the UK. “The weather has affected bookings badly,” said Carlo d’Silva, general manager of Hotel Bon Port in St Martin. “On New Year’s Eve we were down from 30 diners to 11.”

Although Kent was hit last week by several feet of snow, the flu outbreak was even more of a worry to some businesses.

“Bookings have been decimated by flu,” said proprietor of 10-bedroom Kennel Holt Hotel in Cranbrook, Sally Chalmers.

At the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, catering manager Colin White had to cancel his Christmas break to help prepare patient meals as flu filled the wards and depleted staff numbers to critical levels.

“We are already in the fall-back position. If anyone else goes off work sick, then we will have to bring in clerical staff to help out,” he said last week.

But the weather has cheered hoteliers in Scotland’s ski resorts, where they have had some of the best snowfalls for years. “We are knee-deep in people and snow. It’s a great start to the year,” said general manager of the 102-bedroom Aviemore Highlands Hotel, Dennis Gardener.

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