South West Hotel Bookings Hit By Credit Crunch

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Soaring energy costs and reduced bookings are hitting employment plans but hoteliers are backing local food and eco-tourism

More than a third of South West hotels (40%) have seen a reduction in forward bookings, including a 32% reduction in overseas bookings.

The “credit crunch” and fears about employment are seen as the biggest reason for decline in overseas booking by almost half (42%) of South West hotels.

More than a fifth (22%), though, have seen an increase in forward bookings from UK guests.

These are among the top-line findings of the latest survey of South West hotels, conducted by the Hotels & Tourism specialists at Bishop Fleming, the accountancy firm with the widest spread of offices throughout the region.

More than a third of South West hotels (42%) cite the “credit crunch” as the biggest factor affecting overseas bookings, with more than 54% saying that the credit crunch is also the biggest influence for UK bookings.

Just over a quarter of the respondents said that the lack of effective promotion abroad of the South West is the major reason for a decline in overseas tourists to the region.

According to Will Hanbury, head of Bishop Fleming’s Hotel & Tourism group: “Despite the impact of cheap flights, boosting the choice of holidays and short-breaks overseas, the ‘credit crunch’ and a recent rise in the euro-value have encouraged more people to decide on a UK holiday location”.

Nonetheless, reduced bookings are prompting almost a third of South West hotels (32%) to cut their staff numbers. The great majority (80%), meanwhile, continue their reliance on non-British workers.

Meanwhile, soaring energy costs are having a big impact on the region’s hotels and tourism businesses.

More than two thirds (68%) confirm that rising energy costs are having a major effect on their margins, at a time when they cannot increase their charges.

“This is a crucial issue for the hotels and tourism sector, just as it is for every business”, said Bishop Fleming’s Will Hanbury.

“It was very surprising, therefore, to discover that only 7% of the region’s hotels and tourism businesses are exploiting the 100% tax-allowance on energy-saving equipment investment”, he added.

But South West hotels are actively embracing the move to promote locally-sourced food and eco-tourism.

Almost half (48%) confirm that they now have a strict policy of sourcing local produce, while more than four fifths (87%) say that they now promote their eco-advantages.

“Promoting the region’s superb local food credentials, and offering a choice of low-carbon holidays in the South West, combined with its natural beauty, must surely be important components for the region’s future tourism strategy”, said Bishop Fleming’s Will Hanbury.

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