Britons are scrambling for staycation spots with campsites, B&Bs and holiday cottages booking up fast as tens of thousands of foreign stays were put on hold amid fears over a second wave of coronavirus.
Not a single pitch, campervan space or lodge at any of the top 20 campsites in Cornwall or top 15 in Dorset are available for a week’s stay for two adults from tomorrow, as lockdown-weary holidaymakers flock to the areas to enjoy a summer break.
Parks and campsites across Britain have seen a boom in bookings recently, with Haven, Butlin’s, Center Parcs and Hoseasons being inundated – and cottage bookings swept up.
Those looking for sun-soaked day trips have started taking advantage of the country’s beauty spots already, with huge crowds flocking to seaside spots in Cornwall and Devon on Thursday – leaving car parks jam-packed.
Some opted for a day out at Westgate Gardens in Canterbury while others enjoyed a trip to the seaside in Brighton.
MailOnline surveyed the 20 best campsites in Cornwall according to campsites.co.uk and found the likes of Little Trevothan Camping & Caravan Park in Helston and Polruan Holidays in Fowey are full until the end of August.
Others such as Trethem Mill Touring Park in Truro are fully booked until the end of September – but are having to run at reduced capacity of about 50 per cent to ensure they follow social distancing requirements.
Further sites in the likes of Newquay, St Austell, Par, Looe, St Columb Major, Padstow, Whitecross, Mevagissey, Redruth, Bude, Perranporth, Camelford, Marazion and Bude are also fully booked for at least the next week.
In Dorset, there was limited availability for next week at two of the 15 sites, in Owermoigne and Wareham. But the rest are booked up until at least August 16, with three in the county not taking bookings until September.
Those hoping for a last-minute stay in a holiday hotspot this weekend will find campsites for £150 a night or £200 a night for three-star hotels as demand soars.
One four-star hotel on the beach in Newquay, Cornwall, comes in at nearly £350 a night, while a one-bedroom cottage in the Cotswolds will set you back £280 a night.
Demand will also be boosted by rising temperatures, with Friday expected to be the hottest day of the year so far with 91F (33C) highs.
With Britain already basking in 84F (29C) today, sunseekers descended on coastal resorts such as Lyme Regis in Dorset and Camber in East Sussex to soak up the rays – mirroring pictures seen in May and early June before the rain swept in.
The mercury will soar for two days – with temperatures higher than Spain – before more showers come in as we move into August.
Foreign summer holidays are now looking increasingly risky after the Government’s last-minute announcement on Sunday that those travelling from Spain now need to self-isolate for 14 days following a spike in cases.
And sunseekers are set to make the most of the warm temperatures in the UK, with Britain set to bask in a mini-heatwave amid 84F (29C) highs today before a 95F (35C) scorcher tomorrow on the hottest day of the year so far.
Meanwhile an exclusive poll for MailOnline revealed today that a quarter of Britons are planning to alter their holiday plans in the wake of the decision to re-impose quarantine restrictions on Spain.
Some 25 per cent said they were considering changes and more than a third said they were now less likely to book a foreign holiday at all amid fears that other popular destinations could follow in having restrictions put in place.
But the poll, conducted by Redfield and Wilton Strategies, also found more than two in five people backed how the Government handled last Saturday’s announcement which came with just five hours’ notice.
Meanwhile officials in St Ives, famed for its narrow streets, have introduced a ‘keep to the left’ policy in an attempt to ensure everyone can keep to the one-metre plus distance currently advised amid soaring visitor numbers.
Car parks in the area are reaching capacity, and people are packing on to the town’s popular beach and into cafes surrounding it. Guests have been advised to wear a facemask and to avoid cramming into smaller shops.
Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, admitted earlier this week that some locals were still ‘nervous’ about the sudden rush of tourists, but said on the whole ‘everyone is sticking to social distancing rules’.
He told the Daily Mail: ‘Generally everybody is quite happy. For local people it obviously feels a lot busier but by and large everyone is sticking to the distancing rules.
‘Some of the historic towns like St Ives and Padstow have been close to capacity with people walking the streets. So again we’re reminding people to consider going to other places and to be mindful that they do get busy.
‘We have put into place a one way system and it’s sort of adhered to but I’m afraid people can be a bit forgetful on holiday. I think for some of the locals even two metres, it’s only six foot, so even if you’re compliant with that distancing it can feel quite busy.
‘So what we would say to people of a more nervous disposition is think about that and be prepared to go somewhere a little bit quieter – there will be times when it does feel a little busy.
‘There is still nervousness from locals. There’s still that shock. Places like St Ives in the winter they’re a ghost town. I think by and large locals do feel that people are doing their best to stick by the rules and they know that we need it for the thousands of jobs.
‘So for the vast majority it’s probably best summed up that we need the tourism so we’re going to have to accept it. In an ideal world they would prefer to have Cornwall to themselves. There are still some who are very nervous.’
The collapse in foreign holidays has presented an massive opportunity for UK tourism by boosting the demand for staycations, after hotels, campsites and restaurants were allowed to reopen from lockdown on July 4.
Business is now booming, and the Government’s announcement on Sunday that those travelling from Spain now need to self-isolate for 14 days following a spike in cases has further boosted prospects.
With the threat of other countries joining the list as cases rise across Europe, many are considering staycations in Britain rather than risk having to self-isolate for two weeks, particularly those who cannot work from home.
Jane Pendlebury, executive director of hotel industry association the Hospitality Professionals Association, told AFP: ‘A UK staycation…carries much less disruptive risk,’
‘Of course, the threat of regional outbreaks is real, but the restrictions imposed won’t be as impactful – with returning home from within the UK far easier than doing so from abroad.
‘Whilst we can’t necessarily offer the same weather as the Balearics or the Canaries, what we can do is offer exceptional hospitality – albeit with necessary precautions in place,’ she added.
Tour operator TUI has taken the blanket decision to cancel all its planned holidays to mainland Spain until August 9. Meanwhile, British campsites and holiday home operators have enjoyed a surge in bookings.
Graham Donoghue, chief executive of Sykes Cottages, told the BBC: ‘News of Spain’s travel restrictions at the weekend resulted in a 53 percent year-on-year rise in bookings. We’re also seeing a steady stream of bookings for holidays in 2021 too.’
The Whitbread group, which owns the Premier Inn hotel chain, said it had seen strong demand in summer bookings for hotel rooms in tourist hotspots since the beginning of July.
The exclusive department store Fortnum and Mason is even offering a dedicated ‘perfect staycation’ package – including a picnic basket, champagne and tea, of course.
But even if more Britons decide to stay put this year, it is unlikely to make up the shortfall for the tourism sector, which is pleading with the government for help to weather the crisis.
VisitBritain, British tourism’s lobbying body, estimates that the number of foreign tourists could fall by as much as 60 per cent this year due to the pandemic.
Labour has already warned of an unemployment crisis, with rates rising faster than the national average in the English regions most dependent on tourism such as Cornwall, Yorkshire and the Lake District.
Destinations popular with foreign tourists, such as Bath, are also struggling to draw in the crowds.
The sight of a few tourists milling around the city’s famous Roman Baths is in stark contrast to the usual throng that packs out the city, which normally welcomes around six million visitors a year.
‘It’s not even a quarter of the business that we usually get. I’d say it’s like 2 to 3 per cent,’ Marcus Barnes told AFP as he cleaned the front of his souvenir shop.
The local authorities have introduced new measures, such as limiting the size of groups visiting the city, in an attempt to woo potential holidaymakers.
‘We think that if we can…have fewer people coming but staying longer, putting more into the local economy, actually getting more out of their visit, then that will be a more sustainable model for the future,’ said Stephen Bird from the city council.
The few intrepid tourists spotted on the streets seemed reassured. ‘You’re starting to see the sanitisation at hotels, the social distancing, so all in all I feel comfortable,’ said Cieran Fowley, who lives in London.
The website Pitchup.com, which sends 800,000 people a year to 2,000 UK campsites, says bookings are double last year’s level.
Some sites and parks are already taking strong bookings up to summer next year, throwing a lifeline to the industry.
However, certain businesses are hiking prices by as much as 50 per cent for 2021 to try to make up for the money lost during the lockdown.
The appeal of a British holiday has been boosted by a Government decision to slash VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent for the hospitality industry.
As a result, Haven, Butlin’s and Center Parcs have cut prices on new bookings by more than 10 per cent for the summer.
The rush has put a huge strain on holiday companies. There is evidence of double bookings, resulting in trips being cancelled at the last minute.
Haven said bookings at its 36 parks had soared by 96 per cent year-on-year. Its sister brand Butlin’s also claims to be doing a roaring trade.
Hoseasons has had to recruit extra phone staff to cope with the huge demand.
Pitchup.com took its highest ever bookings on a single day on Sunday – 6,100, representing around 18,000 people. It was double the number for any single day last year.
Founder of the booking platform Dan Yates said there had been a clear switch to staycations.
He said the new controls on travel to Spain, which include quarantine on return, were probably the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for foreign holidays.
He added: ‘British holidaymakers are unlikely to take the risk of not being able to work when they return which has likely been the catalyst for the surge in UK bookings.’