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Staycation car hire meltdown: Holidaying Britons in frantic scramble to secure a vehicle

Britons have faced a frantic scramble to hire a car for their staycation – with Europcar customers reporting two-hour queues at branches and no answer from the firm’s phone help lines. 

Nearly 20 million Britons are expected to holiday in the UK this year with campsites, B&Bs and holiday cottages booking up fast after tens of thousands of foreign trips were put on hold due to the fallout of the government’s sudden withdrawal of the Spanish air bridge. 

Europcar, a French firm that operates in 140 countries worldwide, has been swamped with angry customers on their telephone lines and over social media with complaints of clueless staff and lengthy queues at offices in Kennington, Lewisham and Croydon in London, and also Edinburgh.

The company is currently running reduced hours at some offices or keeping them closed due to the pandemic, leaving customers non-plussed about the lack of communication. 

Andrea Tolley on Twitter said: ‘Appalling service, two hour wait at Kennington office on Friday – car we booked not available, I got a refund today for the upgrade diff, no communication and not a refund, your charged me for the privilege. Cust service sounded offended I questioned this. NEVER AGAIN.’

And Marcus Chaloner said: ‘At your branch in Kennington after being told yesterday at 4pm that I couldn’t pick up my car at Lewisham – after having to travel an hour to get here, it’s absolute chaos here – your own employees don’t know what’s going on. People have places to be, flights to catch.

Meanwhile a user called Miles said: ‘no vehicle this morning, no solution but booked in Jan, family sobbing over missed holiday, no one at europar responsible but told 15 confirmed booking for 5 cars. Feels like profiteering now lockdown easing.’

Other customers said they had been left ‘seething’ by the lack of response from the company.

A spokesman for the company said: ‘Europcar is obviously disappointed to see that some customers do not feel they are receiving our usual high standard of service. 

‘The company is endeavouring to respond to recent surges in demand as efficiently as possible and hopes that any customers experiencing delays will understand that we are doing our best in challenging conditions.’

Nearly 20million Britons plan to go on a staycation holiday in the UK this year, a poll found yesterday amid fears over a fresh stampede of revellers to beauty spots as the country is set to be roasted by a ten-day heatwave.

Tourists are expected to flock back to beaches across the country as temperatures up to 99F (37C) sweep in from central Europe by the end of the week amid a level two heat warning – following 71F (22C) highs today.

A YouGov poll found 28 per cent of Britons plan to take a holiday in the UK this year – the equivalent of about 19million people – while only 9 per cent will go abroad and a further 49 per cent do not intend on holidaying. 

And the warm weather will concern local authorities in areas such as Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Sussex which can expect another huge influx of holidaymakers as people in the UK shun foreign trips to go on staycations.

Beleaguered Cornish residents reported over the weekend how the popular county had turned into ‘Benidorm on steroids’ as floods of visitors left them too scared to leave their homes.

Meanwhile Thanet District Council in Kent begged people to avoid four of the area’s beaches – including the popular Margate’s Main Sands – due to the number of visitors.

Over the weekend, street marshals were deployed in Cornwall as tourists poured down narrow streets and flouted social-distancing rules – despite clear warning signs in place. 

Cornwall Council slammed the ‘ignorant’ visitors who descended on beauty spots without their face masks, as Britons elsewhere appeared to ignore social distancing rules while gathering at bars.

Deputy leader Adam Paynter yesterday admitted there is fear in the coastal county for a rise in coronavirus cases as people travel to the region for their holidays.

Speaking out about holidaymakers flocking to the country, where yesterday a man in his 40s died after being pulled from the sea, he told LBC: ‘It is feeling quite busy, it’s difficult to know exactly where it is numbers-wise.

‘Many hotels and certainly bed-and-breakfasts either haven’t opened or are seeing less visitors but then our campsites and caravans are seeing a lot more people using those sites so it is feeling busy when you’re out in some of our towns.’

Councillor Paynter also criticised ‘ignorant’ tourists who refuse to wear face masks during their visit to the south-west.

He said: ‘Clearly we’ve still got a very low number of cases of coronavirus but obviously residents want to keep it that way.

‘I’ve heard two different incidents where people have been overheard saying: ‘Well, I’m not going to wear a mask. I came down here to get away from all of that.

‘I think that’s pretty ignorant thinking that coronavirus doesn’t exist down here. We did have 20 positive cases this week which was up 14 from the previous week.’

He added: ‘So it’s something that local residents are concerned about because they’ve been sensible, they’ve behaved.’

But locals in the county are among those preparing for another weekend of misery as the mercury looks set to rocket back up to at least 91F (33C).

The Met Office told of an ‘African heat flare’ coming in from Thursday until mid-August, bringing ‘drier, brighter and very warm’ weather towards the end of the week and ‘very hot conditions’ in the South East.

 Thanet District Council in Kent begged people to avoid four of the area’s beaches, including Margate’s Main Sands, due to the number of visitors.

Leader of the council Rick Everitt said: ‘Early on, it became clear that they were going to reach levels of which we were concerned about.’

Authorities are worried about keeping tourists safe in the water, as well as the potential spread of Covid-19 and maintaining social distancing. Mr Everitt said: ‘The RNLI only have a certain capacity.

‘They’re on seven Thanet beaches this summer, which is slightly fewer than usual, and they’re doing a great job where they are but they don’t have unlimited resources to deal with people in the water.’

The councillor added: ‘If you have too many people on the beach, it just becomes unmanageable from that point of view.’

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, 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 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.

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