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Volcanic ash cloud sparks hotel bookings frenzy

16 April 2010 by

Hotels across the country were forced to tear up the reservations book after a volcanic ash cloud caused flights throughout the UK to be cancelled yesterday.

The volcanic eruption in Iceland meant that some hoteliers saw mass cancellations from some customers, but also extra bookings from stranded travellers.

Vincent Madden, general manager at the Sofitel at London Heathrow's Terminal 5, said his hotel had seen a cancellation for a group of 650 people due to stay for three days.

"It was a weekend convention coming for a brand launch for a company with employees travelling from 52 different countries. They're clients of ours and what we've done is to give them new dates and move the meeting to the next weekend we have available for that kind of volume, which will either be in May or August. The airlines are going to move the tickets without charge so hopefully we should be able to hold the event later in the year."

But despite the cancellation the hotel was full on Thursday evening thanks to cancellations being re-sold.

"In terms of tomorrow and the weekend we obviously have huge availability now. Although there will probably be disruption from the airlines and we'll probably pick up some custom, there's no way will pick up the 1500 rooms we've lost over the weekend. It is a blow but it isn't all doom and gloom. The revenue will be there, just not this weekend," Madden added.

Meanwhile the SAS Radisson at Manchester Airport was completely full. Paul Rider duty manager at the hotel said: "We are fully booked, and everywhere else is fully booked. Looking at the flight screens it's all red and everything is cancelled, so it's very busy."

And even hotels further away from the airports were feeling the effects. Caroline Gregory, managing partner of the Lovat, Loch Ness, in Scotland said that her hotel had seen a dip in customers willing to pay a reduced rate in advance for their rooms because they were unsure whether they would be able to reach the hotel.

But she added: "We have a group of corporate customers and have been affected in a positive way because they can't get away, so they are staying here for longer and doing more work. So we've had both negatives and positives in what's happened so it has kind of balanced itself out."

Carrie Wicks, operations director for Firmdale Hotels, which owns London hotels the Haymarket, the Soho, the Covent Garden, the Number Sixteen and the Knightsbridge said: "It's early days but occupancy is fluctuating continuously. As many people that don't arrive are then staying on with us so it it evens out fairly well. All the hotels were full last night and we are accommodating who we can."

And Mark Davies, general manager of the Hotel Du Vin in Birmingham said: "It is a bit different for us. I think the we lost minimal rooms yesterday but also gained a few. hat is fairly normal for us. But if this carries on and goes into next week then we will definitely see something happening that will damage the hotel industry in general."

A Hilton Worldwide spokesperson said: "We have seen an increase in last-minute requests yesterday and today and we are accommodating disrupted passengers at our airport and city hotels across the UK. We are assisting guests and stranded passengers in every way we can and we are being flexible with advance purchase bookings that were due to arrive yesterday or today and offering the possibility to re-book or ask for a refund."

Is the volcanic ash in our skies affecting your business? Join the discussion on Table Talk.

Hoteliers provide welcome refuge for stranded motorists >>

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London hotels taking different route to recovery than provinces >>

By Neil Gerrard

E-mail your comments to Neil Gerrard here.

If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk

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