With international travel restrictions still making holidays abroad tricky to arrange, opting for a domestic break may seem like the better option.
But are overnight stays allowed, and will hotels be reopening? Here’s everything you need to know.
Are hotels allowed to reopen?
It depends on which tier they’re in. From 2 December, England is reverting back to a three-tier system, with regions allocated a risk level (tier 1,2 or 3) and accompanying rules based on factors such as the local prevalence of coronavirus.
Tier 1 is the most low-risk category with the loosest restrictions, while tier 3 is deemed to carry the highest risk level and therefore the strictest rules. Only three areas are currently in tier 1: Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly. The majority of the country is in tier 2.
In tiers 1 and 2, hotels are permitted to reopen along with other hospitality businesses, as long as they are operating in a “Covid secure” manner.
However, hotels and other accommodation in tier 3 should largely remain closed. The government guidance says: “Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses must close. There are several exemptions, such as for those who use these venues as their main residence, and those requiring the venues where it is reasonably necessary for work or education and training”.
Am I allowed to stay overnight within my tier?
If you live in tiers 1 and 2, yes. You may stay overnight at a hotel or other accommodation within your tier. However, bear in mind that if you’re in tier 2 “you should only do this with people in your household or support bubble” (those who live in tier 1 can meet others indoors as long as it’s in groups no larger than six).
In tier 3, considering you’re not allowed to meet people outside your household or support bubble indoors and accommodation providers are only allowed to open for essential reasons, staying overnight is essentially off limits to most.
However, these restrictions on accommodation do not apply between 22-28 December 2020. This means that accommodation may open during this period for people to stay at in order to be located near their Christmas bubbles.
Am I allowed to stay overnight outside my tier?
It depends. Those living in tiers 1 and 2 may stay overnight in accommodation outside their area, provided the region they’re going to is in tier 1 or 2. Those from tier 1 should follow tier 2 rules when in a tier 2 area, while those from tier 2 should continue to follow tier 2 rules even if they’ve travelled to a tier 1 region.
All travel into tier 3 areas should be avoided unless it’s for an “essential” reason, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, because of caring responsibilities, or if you’re travelling through as part of a longer journey.
“If you live elsewhere, you should avoid staying overnight in a tier 3 area other than for this type of reason,” say the guidelines.
On the flipside, those living in tier 3 are advised against all non-essential travel outside of their area, including overnight stays elsewhere. This also means they should not leave a tier 3 area to stay in a second home.
“Avoid travelling outside your area, including for overnight stays, other than where necessary,” state the rules. “If you live in a tier 3 area, you must continue to follow tier 3 rules when you travel to a tier 1 or tier 2 area. You must not stay with anyone you do not live with elsewhere in the UK or visit their home (unless you share a support bubble).”
These travel rules will change over the Christmas period (22-28 December).
Can I go on holiday with friends?
If the idea is that you’re all staying together, for example in a self-catering holiday cottage, only those in tier 1 would be allowed to do this under current rules, unless the friends in question are part of the same household or support bubble.
Those in tier 2 could potentially go on holiday to the same hotel as their friends, provided they had separate rooms and did not socialise indoors together.
Those in tier 3 are advised against all travel outside their tier for non-essential reasons, including holidays.
What rules do hotels have to follow?
In tiers 1 and 2, accommodation, such as hotels, holiday lets and guesthouses, may open “but businesses must take reasonable steps to ensure that social contact rules are followed within their venues”. This is likely to include measures such as socially distanced tables in the hotel restaurant, rules about not using the lift with people from outside your household, and one-way queuing systems, among others.
Will hotel spas be open?
Across all three tiers, spas, which are classed as “personal care and close contact services”, are permitted to remain open, provided they follow Covid-secure guidelines and staff wear masks.
This is even true for hotel spas within tier 3. The advice states: “Businesses that remain open in law, but are located within accommodation, such as a spa within a hotel, can remain open.”