Boris Johnson News – The great Scottish summer vacation rip-off: ‘Pandemic profiteering’ warning as prices soar
SCOTS are being warned of a staycation rip off – with concerns about holiday prices doubling in some cases as the UK eases restrictions on travel in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.
Holidaymakers have revealed the “nightmare” of seeing prices soar from the day Boris Johnson announced on February 23 of an easing on coronavirus restrictions in England with domestic overnight stays and self-contained accommodation allowed no earlier than April 12.
Those who wanted to holiday abroad would have to wait until May 17. People booking holidays with the popular family holiday firms Haven and Hoseasons which has parks across Scotland have bombarded them with complaints about huge price hikes within 24 hours of his announcement.
Even those who wanted to move their holiday dates to comply with the new rules have told how they were forced to pay extra – even on the same week and with fewer days.
READ MORE: What you need to know about travel and holidays as lockdown restrictions are eased
Nicola Sturgeon was more cautious than Mr Johnson saying travel restrictions in Scotland will remain for “some time yet”. A 94-page lockdown exit plan indicates potentially allowing wider domestic travel at first.
Nevertheless, this has not stopped people who have faced a year of restrictions since the pandemic hit, seeking out staycation deals to get away from it all with some being hit by what they see as a Covid-19 staycation premium.
Tourism contributes significantly to the Scottish economy and is vital to the economic performance and employment of towns, cities, regions and rural communities across the length and breadth of Scotland.
An estimated 15.5 million visitors are attracted to Scotland, with three and a half million people coming from overseas.
Tourists spend around £5 billion a year in Scotland and the value of the sector to the wider economy is estimated to be £10.5 billion.
It employs 218,000 people, which accounts for more than 8% of Scottish employment across a range of occupations and skills.
But there is growing concern that ‘rip off’ prices will force more holidaymakers to choose to go abroad once restrictions over Covid-19 are lifted.
The consumer organisation Which found that holidaymakers face paying more for a UK seaside break this summer as a snapshot investigation suggests some accommodation prices have risen by an average of 35 per cent compared with last summer.
With demand for UK holidays expected to soar this summer the consumer organisation tracked the prices of 15 holiday lets in the top 10 most visited UK seaside destinations, and found that in every case, prices have increased from last summer.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “As Scottish holidaymakers wait for a confirmation on a date for domestic holidays restarting, many will want to know they’ll still be able to secure a good deal as people rush to book a stay at one of Scotland’s many popular destinations. But if people feel prices are too steep, they will look to book elsewhere or with other providers.
“An increase in demand will likely mean an increase in prices, and many of those rebooking holidays from last year have already seen prices shoot up. For those prepared to pay more, it’s vital they know their money will be returned to them without hassle if they cannot travel as planned. Our advice is to book with providers that offer fair and flexible terms and conditions, to avoid having to chase a refund if something goes wrong.”
READ MORE: Scots holiday providers slam ‘wrecking ball’ Covid rules that cost them £265m in three months
Scots have told of their own bad experiences with price gouging in booking.
Father-of-two Stuart McLean, a 34-year-old painter and decorator from Midlothian was after a family holiday at Haven’s Berwick-upon-Tweed resort.
Stuart McLean: Source: Twitter
The morning after Mr Johnson’s announcement, he hit the Haven website and selected a seven day break in October for £293. He says as he was preparing to seal the family’s break, he got “kicked off” the website crashed and hew as logged out. When he returned, the price has risen by over £100 to £397.
“Supply and demand is one thing, booting customers off when they’re about to pay and raising the prices while they’re trying to get back on the site is totally different,” he said.
“We issued a complaint that was met with a predictable reply.”
The ended up booking a holiday in Yorkshire.
Similar tales were told by other would-be customers in complaints to the company.
One condemned “profiteering” after the site crashed a holiday in April in Blackpool had risen from £373 to £529 and suggested people lodge complaints with coronavirus-business-complaint.service.gov.uk.
Michelle Mewton told of her “absolute disgust” over her plans for a Haven holiday in Scotland – having already booked a break for herself and her disabled son for April which was booked and paid for months ago.
She needed to move it because of restrictions but was eventually “unbelievably” offered the first week in April “when it is against the law to travel within my own area never mind from England to Scotland”.
Eventually she was offered a summer date, but was told she had to fork out an extra £230.
“I literally have no words, I have booked with Haven for 26 years, spent thousands, never ever again,” she said.
Another traveller complained that he had tried to change dates for a Hoseasons holiday to the same time next year and it had doubled in price. He requested a refund.
Terri Dilks and David Weston (below) planned to get married and paid £2,500 for three nights with two Hoseasons lodges as wedding accommodation.
But because of Covid-19 restrictions they had to shift the wedding date – but shifting the dates of the accommodation cost them an extra £2000 – bringing their bill to £4,500.
“If it wasn’t for my wedding, I’d cancel altogether, ” said Ms Wilks.
Mr Weston, who said he had a two-and-a-half hour phone queue wait over the issue lodged their concerns with Hoseasons saying: “Please please please help. Our wedding day and the memories for the rest of our lives are all hanging on this.”
Hoseasons told them: “Hi, I’m sorry to hear that you feel this way. Our prices are subject to change throughout the year. If there is anything you would like to discuss regarding your booking, you can send us a private message and we can investigate this for you. Take care.”
It comes as a new survey found that demand for domestic UK holidays this summer are expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels..
The poll of 2,000 consumers by market research agency Mintel indicated that a total of £7.1 billion will be spent on so-called staycations between July and September. This is up from £5.8 billion in 2019.
Although the value of the domestic holiday market across 2021 as a whole is expected to be 11% short of 2019 levels, Mintel expects it to fully recover next year.
Mintel associate director Marloes De Vries said demand for domestic breaks could reach a 10-year high this summer due to huge pent-up demand after many 2020 trips could not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Joanne Dooey president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), the professional body for travel agents and the travel sector in Scotland, admitted that in comparison with overseas holiday prices, domestic holiday prices “can appear high” and that the could see supply and demand playing an “even bigger role” in UK pricing this year.
“At a recent virtual networking event for our members, there was discussion around the increases in costs for accommodation some of the most popular coastal resorts, particularly those in the south west of England, and to a degree in some rural Scottish destinations,” she said.
“One member was quoted up to £3k for accommodation for a three-night break in five star hotel on the coast in Cornwall.
“People are desperate to get away on holiday and there is huge pent up demand. We’re still unable to holiday abroad and it may be some time before confidence returns for some travellers even when we are permitted.
“Many people have their ‘holiday pot’ from last year and seem happy to spend more this year than they would have previously considered, so people seem willing to pay these inflated prices which shows just how much value people place on having a holiday.
“It’s inevitable that many of the 2021 staycationing public will opt to go overseas on holidays when they can in the future, as the influencing factors of cost and guaranteed good weather remain.
“At the SPAA we have been calling on both the UK and the Scottish governments to outline a clear road map for foreign travel which includes testing and vaccinations so that the overseas travel market can reopen safely to meet this demand.”
Kelly McAlpine, managing director of the five-star Dalriada Luxury Lodges – eight self catering lodges on the coast at Stonehaven said the would be holding prices at their usual rates because “we understand the value of long term relationships with our guests”.
“It’s unfortunate that some operators seem to be taking advantage of the pent up desire to travel and the lack of confidence in overseas trips, to inflate their usual rates,” she said.
“Without these guests we couldn’t have established as successfully as we have, and we’ll undoubtedly need these loyal customers to help us on what will be a long road to recovery from the events of last year.”
A spokesman for Haven said: “As a result of the lifting of lockdown restrictions we have been experiencing an unprecedented demand in holidays. This has seen a huge interest in certain weeks of the year and, as always, we move our prices in line with demand.
“Suggestions that these have been extensively increased are exaggerated and would encourage that comparisons are made like for like in terms of dates of stay and duration of holiday.
“We do have some great deals available with value offers for breaks in April and May across a range of parks allowing people to get away with their family once current travel restrictions are lifted.”
A Hoseasons spokesman said: “We have been working hard since the autumn to make our customers aware that we expected to see an increase in demand for bookings and searches in 2021 – especially in popular UK holiday hotspots.
“As a business we don’t set all the holiday prices, but work to help customers ensure they can find the staycation they want and have encouraged early booking to take advantage of our low deposit offers.
“Increased demand means some prices will rise, but that’s not the case everywhere and we still have thousands of properties available with discounts from April 26 onwards.
“Customers who travel with us also have the added reassurance of our ‘money back guarantee’, so in the event we have to cancel their holiday they will get a full refund.
“We still believe a UK break represents excellent value for money, with prices for a week in Scotland in August starting from £499 for a family of four.
“We apologise for any challenges in getting in contact with us, and for any customers with specific issues relating to moving or price matching a pre-existing Covid affected break we encourage them to get in touch so we can try and resolve any issues.”
In June, last year, Hoseasons and its sister firm Cottages.com changed their coronavirus cancellation policy and given the competition watchdog a formal commitment that they will offer refunds, after a huge backlash from customers some who had been told been told to rebook or accept a voucher rather than being offered a full cash refund.
The CMA said complaints about Vacation Rentals, the firm that operates Hoseasons and Cottages.com, made up a “significant proportion” of the 4,500 reports about holiday rental companies received by its Covid-19 taskforce.
Vacation Rentals voluntarily changed its policy and given a formal commitment to the CMA that it would offer customers the option of a full refund if bookings are cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions.
The CMA launched an investigation into complaints that some firms were failing to refund customers for coronavirus-related cancellations last April – with holiday accommodation providers highlighted as an area of particular concern.
Vacation Rentals runs 22 brands offering holiday lets in the UK, as well as Italy, France and Ireland. Its other sites include Blue Chip Holidays and Welcome Cottages.
Boris Johnson News – The great Scottish summer vacation rip-off: ‘Pandemic profiteering’ warning as prices soar
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