The UK is to implement a similar system to that in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, requiring hotel quarantine for arrivals from 22 ‘red list’ countries, including those from South America, Southern Africa and popular UK destination Portugal. Some hotels will stand to benefit from this change through experiencing increased occupancy levels. However, these gains may be short lived in an ever-changing travel environment.
Hotels in areas near large international airports will benefit
After months of low occupancy levels and limited income due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, hotels will profit from this new government-induced rule. Ten days in a hotel quarantine facility, escorted to by the British police, can cost the traveller up to £1,700 (around $2,300), with no government support available for this cost. It is unclear in these early stages whether travellers can decide which hotel or provider to stay with for this ten-day period, and the location of the accommodation. It is expected that the majority of these costs will go straight to the hotel provider, creating a much-needed source of income.
London Heathrow Airport will be focused upon, where most of the flights from the ‘red list’ countries will be arriving. London Heathrow is already well supplied with thousands of hotel rooms either connected to the airport or in the surrounding areas, some of which have remained open during the pandemic for business arrivals and other essential travelers.
Many of the hotels in and around major airports such as Gatwick and Heathrow are part of large, international chains. This means that UK-based, independent hotels may not benefit from these new plans. This could raise concerns around fairness, where only multi-national hotels in close proximity to large airports will have custom and smaller hotels that have much less cash in reserve are left out.
The new benefit has its limits
Hotels that are accommodating arrivals must have all Covid-19 measures in place before being able to accept guests. These measures, which mostly include making stays ‘highly contactless’, will require high levels of investment. Measures such as recruiting additional staff that are comfortable with the nature of work, implementing industry-standard cleaning procedures and providing efficient meal service will all come at a cost.
Some hotels in hotspot areas already have these measures in place, as they have acted as temporary placements for Covid-19 patients in the ‘step-down’ from this deadly virus, in order to free up hospital beds for those in need.
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Any advantage gained from this additional income will be short-lived. Travel to the UK, unless for essential purposes, is not allowed, and a high cost for the hotel quarantine on top of increasing infection rates will create a less than convincing case for travelers to enter the UK. Additionally, a large proportion of the countries listed where this rule applies to are low income and developing nations, meaning the high cost to now travel to the UK will be unaffordable for the average traveler.
The measures are put in place by the UK Government in order to reduce passenger flows into the country, which it will do. Investment in Covid-19 measures could be worthless and return on investment may be minimal due to the ever-changing travel environment in the UK. In a few months, restrictions could be lifted and passengers will be freely able to enter the UK again, meaning that hotels that heavily invested in becoming Covid-safe could lose out.