Hotels have reported buoyant bookings over Christmas and New Year and a year-on-year improvement in business during the first few months of 2010, despite a survey that suggests fewer UK consumers intend to take a break this winter.
According to a poll of more than 2,000 people carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, almost 20% more people (compared with winter 2008/2009) were forgoing their usual break of holidaying in the UK, flying off in search of the sun or hitting the ski slopes.
The chief spending priority of 27% of consumers is to repay debt on credit cards, loans and overdrafts, up from 20% in November 2008. The second spending priority for 2010 is an annual, main holiday, selected by 16% of respondents.
However, hotel companies contacted by Caterer report brisk business, with bookings this winter ahead of the same period last year.
Robert Cook, chief executive of the 12-strong Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, which has 15 properties, said leisure business had been good over the festive period and bookings for Hotel du Vin in January are slightly ahead of last year's figures.
"We did lose some bookings before Christmas as a result of the snow, but at the same time picked up bookings from people who were stranded," he said.
"The first indications for the New Year are good; our concern is what may happen as the result of any post-election change."
Von Essen reports an improvement on Christmas bookings for 2009, compared with the previous year.
"Each of our hotels had to do an awful lot of marketing, but as a result they have performed well year-on-year," said Greg Ward, executive director of sales and marketing for the 29-strong group of luxury hotels.
"The lead in time for bookings has radically changed, but we are expecting a positive first quarter for 2010 with the discerning traveller increasingly seeking out a hotel where they can be sure their expectations will be met and exceeded."
Hilton Worldwide reports that its UK and Ireland hotels are doing well this winter, with leisure bookings up year-on-year throughout the season.
"Customers are taking advantage of the great rates available at the moment," said a Hilton spokesman. "Our recently-launched January sale is already proving particularly popular as guests who book this month can save 50% off weekend getaways throughout the year at participating hotels in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific."
The budget sector of the market also contradicts the PricewaterhouseCooper research. "While the market is still challenging and the rate will take time to return, we sold more rooms in December 2009 than the previous year and we expect this trend to continue," said Greg Dawson, director of communications at Travelodge, which operates 385 hotels throughout the UK.
By Janet Harmer
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