UK rural cottages close to 100%, but London deserted
UK rural cottages close to 100%, but London deserted
03 AUGUST 2020 7:43 AM

The U.K. hotel scene has turned utterly on its head, with London suffering the most.

The clever, or desperate, among Brits were in constant hover-mode over their computer screens in late June and early July when the United Kingdom government finally permitted hotels and other accommodations options to reopen.

Maybe some had already booked hotels in hopes their dates would be the right side of the divide.

I was not one of those people, and now as I think about going away somewhere for a while—why not spend some of that time on vacation, and some time working remotely?—everything is gone.

Commitments such as four-night-minimum stays seem not to bother anyone.

This is great news for that sector. Some vacationers have complained of high prices, but that is against a backdrop of owners having no income for almost five months, and the equation is purely demand (higher) and supply (perhaps a little less).

I wrote in 2016 that staycations in the U.K. were on the rise, also adjudged from my experience trying to do the simple outdoor experience of pitching a tent for a couple of days, which at least in England and Wales is not permitted other than at designated sites.

The U.K.’s tortuous path to Brexit, and the pound sterling’s rollercoaster travels during that process, inevitably saw British holidaymakers looking internally, and COVID-19 has accentuated its collective stare even more sharply.

Many places are sold out.

Then look at the U.K.’s brightest tourism star, London, parts of which are, it has to be said, deader than a doornail.

Here, we have seen footage on TV of an almost deserted London, which is dependent on worker bees five days a week sitting at desks and spending money on lunch and after-work drinks.

Companies increasingly are stating that their employees are likely to be working at home for months to come, even to next summer as in the case of Google.

We’re seeing tourism and business travel turned on its head or expunged in much of the latter’s case.

The worry for parts of London is that by the time business and travel there come back, much of what was there for them last time around might have gone—that little restaurant, coffee bar, florist, shirt maker, etc., all gone.

Not everyone can work from home, of course. A lot of the jobs that have made London one of the key financial centers of the world could be.

Things are changing to the character of the city, it seems. City Hall and national government are looking at the crisis as a way of pushing toward meeting carbon-dioxide, pollution and global-warming numbers and making the city more liveable. The city’s congestion fee has been increased and extended to cover all seven days, not just five of them.

Everything potentially changes with a vaccine, but how much will not be able to change awaits to be seen.

Meanwhile, I continue searching for a place to stay—made harder by having three cats that we could put in a cattery but do not want to.

As I have learned in the 18 months we’ve had them, “pet-friendly hotels” means “well-behaved dogs allowed,” as though it can always be assured Fido will not have a COVID-19 lockdown breakdown as soon as he checks in.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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