Covid: Rising prices and holiday 'gazumping' - the truth behind UK summer holidays in 2021

Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

A UK tourism official says holiday accommodation providers should be aware of prices that could leave people feeling they are being "taken advantage of".

The warning comes as new research shows a rise in costs for domestic getaways, amid continuing uncertainty about foreign travel.

Patricia Yates from the national tourism agency, VisitBritain, told ITV’s Tonight programme: “What you don’t want is people coming and holidaying at home and feeling they are being taken advantage of.”

The tourism executive says she is seeing realistic pricing “for the most part”, but that the industry is on its knees after months of closure.

VisitBritain's Patricia Yates urged holiday accommodation providers to be sensible with pricing:

With domestic holidays being snapped up so fast, the Tonight programme found evidence of some tourists resorting to desperate tactics.

Rowena Owen, who runs holiday letting firm Bloom Stays in Kent, says: “We’ve been approached by guests asking to pay double the value of the property to gazump the guests we’ve got - which I’ve never heard of in all my years in holiday letting.”

But for Rowena the answer to these requests is a simple one: "It's a no brainer. It's a no."

Her agency has created a waiting list that now extends to 200 people and she says she could rent her holiday accommodation three times over.

Despite the scale of the vaccine rollout, government has not yet confirmed May 17 as the start date for overseas leisure travel from England.

Seashore Holiday Park in Great Yarmouth

Even when foreign trips are allowed the price of the required Covid tests will add hundreds of pounds to the cost of a family trip. It means many people are opting to stay in the UK, leading to a booking bonanza.

New figures given to the Tonight programme show that compared with 2020, bookings are up by more than three quarters in July 2021. The data, from holiday pricing experts Guesty, shows reservations have doubled for August.

This year’s surge in summer demand has affected prices, with the average cost of UK holiday accommodation increasing 41% on last year and 23% more than pre-pandemic levels in 2019 according to Guesty. An average peak season reservation will now be £209 per night, compared with £170 before the virus hit.

Families at Seashore Holiday Park in Great Yarmouth told of their excitement at being able to go on holiday again, with a couple saying it is "freedom at last":

Self-contained holiday accommodation opened on March 27 in Wales, April 12 in England and Scotland is expecting to follow on April 26. That has dramatically increased demand for some travel sectors including camping, caravans and canal breaks.

Greg Munford, who runs Richardson’s Boating Holidays in Norfolk, says: “The level of bookings for this season coming will be unprecedented. We have put the prices up on some of our boats for the first time.”

He explains that, like many tourism businesses, his canal boat firm lost hundreds of thousands of pounds last year. He says: “We’ve had to take this opportunity to protect the team, to protect the business moving forward.”

Greg Munford, who runs boating holidays, told ITV Tonight he has had to put prices up after a difficult year:

The UK tourism sector sees 2021 as a shop window to impress the customers who don’t normally holiday in this country. Officials are urging those who have not booked yet not to panic.

Patricia Yates of VisitBritain says: “There are always places to find - it’s a question of looking at areas and perhaps compromising about not going to the honeypots.” The Tonight programme - Summer Holidays: What’s the Truth? - is shown on ITV at 7.30 on Thursday, April 15.

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