In his roadmap out of lockdown, Boris Johnson said that overnight stays in self-contained accommodation would be allowed from the weekend after Easter at the earliest.
The rules apply only to individuals or a single household.
The date provides some clarity for English hospitality providers. Previous estimates for the reopening of self-catering accommodation had ranged from the Easter holiday weekend (2-5 April) to June.
While the dates for opening up English – and international – tourism are not as far away as some pre-announcement leaks had suggested, there will be dismay in the travel industry that the lucrative Easter holidays will be lost for a second year.
The reopening of self-contained accommodation coincides uncannily with a return to school for many children in England.
Self-contained accommodation includes second homes, self-catering cottages and caravans.
Hoteliers and organisations such as Butlins and Center Parcs – which would struggle to be described as self-contained accommodation – will be appalled to see that their reopening have been pushed so far back. Until the prime minister’s announcement, they had been selling holidays to begin as soon as 8 March.
Earlier this month, we reported that a boutique hotel on the Sussex coast was planning to reopen for leisure tourism on 8 March – the same day that schools in England will return. Harry Cragoe, owner of The Gallivant, in Camber, East Sussex, predicted that lockdown will ease much more quickly, and was inviting bookings from early March.
Merilee Karr, chair of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA) and CEO of UnderTheDoormat, said: “The prime minister’s roadmap is a very welcome sign that good progress has been made in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and for society to start planning a return to a more ‘normal life’.
“Whilst we appreciate the need to be careful about when and how the hospitality industry, and specifically the accommodation sector, reopens, we also need to make sure that no business is disadvantaged in the meantime and that we work together to make 2021 a year to make up as much of the lost ground caused by the pandemic as we can.”
In addition to self-contained accommodation, outdoor hospitality such as theme parks and zoos can also open from 12 April.
The prime minister said that international travel would restart on 17 May at the earliest, alongside the opening of hotels and B&Bs in England.
The relaxing of travel restrictions depends on four tests: that the vaccination rollout continues at pace; evidence showing that vaccines are effective; that infection rates do not cause increased hospitalisations; and that the assessment of the risks is not changed by new variants.