When will hotels reopen?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today announce a roadmap out of lockdown that includes the reopening of schools and allowing two families to meet outdoors from 8 March.

The severe restrictions on travel and activities that have been in place since early January will continue beyond that date. While the four nations of the UK have slight differences in timing and rules, the basic principles are very similar.

If you are working or have caring duties, you may travel as far as you need to.  But for everyone else, travelling anywhere beyond your local area is only permitted for a few specific reasons, including shopping for essentials or seeking medical treatment.

But when will hotels open? These are the key questions and answers.

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Are hotels currently open?

Leisure travel in the UK is currently banned. While most hotels are closed, a few remain open for key workers and for those with no other alternative.

The government advice reads: “Guest accommodation providers such as hotels, B&Bs and caravan parks may remain open for the specific reasons set out in law, including where guests are unable to return to their main residence, use that guest accommodation as their main residence, need accommodation while moving house, are self-isolating as required by law, or would otherwise be made homeless as a result of the accommodation closing.”

When might hotels reopen?

Overnight stays for all but essential purposes are expected to be banned until the final stage of the UK government’s four-phase roadmap out of lockdown. This is likely to be no earlier than June, although no dates have been set yet.

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Non-essential day trips are expected to be allowed from 29 March, with outdoor hospitality settings able to reopen no earlier than April. It’s therefore possible that hotels with outdoor drinking and dining facilities might be able to open for non-resident guests at this stage.

Some hotels are more optimistic. Earlier in February, we reported that a boutique hotel on the Sussex coast is planning to reopen for leisure tourism on 8 March – the same day as it is hoped that schools in England will return.

Harry Cragoe, owner of The Gallivant, in Camber, East Sussex, predicts that lockdown will ease much more quickly, and is inviting bookings from early March.

When might self-catering accommodation open?

There are rumours that self-catering accommodation may be allowed to reopen sooner than hotels, possibly as early as April, given that the transmission risk is inherently lower.

Ministers are reportedly assessing whether self-catered breaks within the UK for members of one household might be possible as early as the Easter holidays, but this is speculation at the moment.

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, was more optimistic, telling BBC Today that he hoped self-contained holiday accommodation in Wales could open by Easter.

When might overseas travel be allowed?

There are no plans in place to relax restrictions on international travel. For the moment, international travel for all but the narrowest of essential reasons remains illegal.

Any travellers returning to the UK from overseas must present a negative test for coronavirus that has been taken within three days of departure (or longer if an en route stop is involved). Quarantine is currently mandatory for all overseas arrivals except for those from Ireland.

The government has now imposed mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from the countries on the government’s “red list” – currently numbering 33, including Portugal, South Africa and the UAE. The aim is to limit the spread of new variants of coronavirus.

The travel industry is lobbying the government for a faster lifting of travel restrictions.

In an open letter to Boris Johnson, Abta, the travel association, says: “The government should recognise that we cannot wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme before people start to travel again.

“What we need are some principles for restarting travel – recognising that the return to normal life will never be entirely risk-free.”

What is hotel quarantine?

The UK government has contracted 4,600 rooms in 16 hotels, with more available if necessary, for travellers from 33 “red list” countries.

Travellers self-identify in advance. Everyone from the red list countries must pre-book a room through a dedicated online portal, at a cost of £1,750. For a single traveller the price works out at £159 per night.

Heavy penalties apply to anyone who misrepresents where they have visited or who fails to go into hotel quarantine when they should.

The price includes transport from the airport to the “government-approved facility” (the hotel), three meals a day, security and testing. During the stay “quarantinees” will undergo two Covid tests: one on day two, the next on day eight. Those who test positive are likely to have their stay extended, unless hospital treatment is needed.

The cost for additional people in the same room is significantly less than the rate. A second adult pays £650, and £325 for a child aged 5-12. Over 12s are counted as adults, under fives are free.

Travellers are not free to choose either their hotel or their room.

In Scotland the system is different, with all international arrivals required to complete hotel quarantine.

What are hotels doing to limit the spread of Covid-19?

Hand sanitiser stations abound, while reception staff are kept safe behind plastic screens. In-room minibars have been removed and rooms are deep cleaned between guests, as well as being left fallow for up to 72 hours in some cases.

One-way systems have been introduced and doors modified to enable digital rather than physical keys. Staff are given regular health and temperature checks, with some employees put in “bubbles” that work the same shift patterns to limit any potential virus spread.

A number of properties have signed up to one of two schemes designed to outline best practice for hotels here in the UK. Both the AA’s Covid Confident programme and Visit Britain’s We’re Good To Go industry standard give accommodation providers a detailed guide on how to change the way they operate to protect both staff and guests.

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