Hoteliers and tourism bosses claim the growing resilience of travellers will see people continue to fly to the UK, despite the latest terrorism scare.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed on Thursday (10 August) when UK airports were put on “critical” alert after security forces foiled an alleged plot to blow up nine flights from the UK to the USA.
A spokesman for VisitBritain said it anticipated little loss in trade, despite daily performance figures showing that London hotels suffered a downturn in business.
“Our overseas offices are getting calls about the delays rather than cancellations,” said the spokesman, and the tourism body’s New York office said Americans were retaining a positive attitude towards Britain.
But hotel performance figures suggest that the leisure trade in London did take a hit. Daily figures from hotel benchmarking service The Bench show a sharp drop in the growth of average room rates following the alert, with less dramatic falls in occupancy growth.
“If we weren’t comparing this data with the fall-out from the bombings of last year, these figures would be negative,” said Bench managing director Jamie Chappell. “We are looking at drops of almost 20-30%, relatively speaking, across central London.”
Despite this, anecdotal evidence from hotel operators suggested business had held up well. InterContinental claimed its airport hotels had been busier than usual as guests whose flights were cancelled stayed an extra night, while Hilton reckoned that no-shows from stranded customers were balanced by those who extended their stays.
In the capital, Graham Copeman, hotel manager at the Goring, which gets half its August customers from the USA, said the hotel lost just one booking on Thursday and four across Friday and Saturday.
Stuart Proctor, general manager at the Stafford hotel, blamed the “hassle factor” of body searches and hand luggage restrictions rather than fear of flying for any cancellations. “We have lost nothing more than we would normally lose in a month, while September bookings have picked up,” he added.
By Angela Frewin