Newsletter, June 2020
Once again we bring you an email dominated by Coronavirus. It's sad, it's annoying, but it just can't be avoided. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, so let's try to move forward positively.
The Present Situation
Most of the countries where we have Little Hotels are now easing their lockdown restrictions. In England, hotels are making plans to re-open from 4 July. In Ireland they will open from 20 July. Scotland falls between the two on 15 July while Wales will almost certainly be somewhat later. In Spain, it looks like there will be a staggered opening between late June and the end of July.
Meanwhile, international tourist travel is currently severely restricted, to the extent that it is virtually impractical. At this moment the UK is enforcing a 14 day quarantine period on people arriving here (visitors and residents alike) and other countries including Spain are reciprocating. However "air bridges" are coming and that could open up travel to and from Spain, France and Italy perhaps even as soon as 4 July. The silver lining in all this cloudiness is that any reduction in people's long-distance travel plans makes it more feasible to enjoy a number of short breaks in different places at home, and the money saved on flights or ferries can go into extra nights away.
One final caveat to all of the above is that it could change at any time. Fortunately most hotels have introduced much more flexibility in their cancellation terms so plans can be changed at the last minute if necessary without penalty. We do advise you to check cancellation policies when you book.
Since writing the above, the Spanish government has announced that visitors from most countries (including the UK) will not have to self-isolate when they arrive. There is also good progress on "air bridges", which are now being referred to as "travel corridors". The UK government is expecting to remove the 14 day quarantine for visitors and returning holidaymakers arriving from Spain, France and Italy, along with a number of other countries mostly in western Europe. This will probably come into force on 4 July when the 2m social distancing rule will change to 1m+.
With three-quarters of Little Hotels users based in the UK, we have been concentrating on finding new hotels in England and Scotland.
One stretch of water that you can still cross without restriction is the Solent, so we have added some hotels on the Isle of Wight. Haven Hall is a luxury hotel set right beside the sea. The 2 acres of private gardens have won many awards, and they include a swimming pool, tennis court, Victorian-style gazebo and a magnificent replica of the Lutyens Steps at Great Dixter House. The facilities inside and out are so comprehensive that it is easier to just say that Haven Hall has "everything"; even a helipad.
Several of our newer Scottish hotels feature very special gardens, so it's hard to know which one to mention here. We'll go for Cringletie House Hotel, a mini-Balmoral in immaculate grounds just outside Peebles. It's the very essence of a Scottish country house hotel, settled at the centre of a 28 acre estate with panoramic views of the surrounding country. Cringletie is also notably wheelchair-friendly and the accessibility is quite exceptional for a historic building.
The Burgoyne Hotel stands majestically on Reeth’s idyllic village green, with exceptional views across the moors of Swaledale and Fremington Edge - some of the most breathtaking of the Yorkshire Dales. The elegant interiors have a special period charm typical of a Georgian country house and the 1783 Bar and Restaurant delivers high-quality cuisine in an elegant dining room that looks out onto the green and the moors beyond.
Results of Our Covid-19 Survey
Last month we carried out a survey to find out what would be important to you when the lockdown is lifted. A massive 731 people took the trouble to respond, so thank you all. 77% of answers came from respondents in the UK and Ireland, and a further 6% from Spain.
We started by asking about people's attitudes to holidaying in 2020 once the restrictions are lifted. At that time quite a lot of people said they would continue to be cautious, but that was about six weeks ago. The bank holiday crowds of a couple of weeks ago and the rate of bookings that are now appearing would suggest that people are becoming more relaxed, and are now much more eager to get away. We also found that people would be wary of flying in 2020, although a sizeable minority (9%) intended to make extra trips abroad to make up for what they missed early in the year.
When we moved on to 2021 those feelings back in early May showed that people would be keen to go on holiday as normal, or even make up for lost time with some extra holidays, and nearly all of them would be comfortable about going abroad.
Our last question was about the precautions that hospitality and travel companies should be taking post-lockdown. You were pretty unequivocal on this one. 72% of you thought that airports and airlines should be taking special precautions, 63% thought pubs and restaurants should do so, and the figure was 54% for hotels. Just 20% (still a sizeable group) thought that no extra precautions would be necessary.
How Hotels Will Keep You Safe
We gave the results of our Covid-19 survey to our partner hotels straight away, and since then we've spoken to many of them to find out what their plans are. Without exception, they are being scrupulous in applying every precaution they sensibly can to keep their guests and staff safe, and to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus.
These are just some of the measures that have been mentioned:
- Leaving rooms empty for at least 24 hours between guests.
- Extra thorough deep-cleaning of rooms between guests.
- Sanitising of light switches, door handles, window handles, air conditioning controls, phones, clocks, TV remotes, safes, fridges, coffee machines and curtain pulls, etc.
- Availability of hand sanitiser in guest bedrooms and public rooms, and frequent use of hand sanitiser by staff.
- Maintaining social distancing during check-in/check-out.
- Extensive cleaning of shared surfaces at frequent intervals during the day.
- Spacing out of tables and chairs in lounges, bars and outside to maintain social distancing.
At first sight, Ferndale Luxury B&B is just like a hundred other bed and breakfasts on the west coast of Ireland: warm, spacious and with a view that would stretch all the way to America if it could. It was when we peeped inside that we discovered something more.
Each of the six guest rooms and suites is carefully and comprehensively themed. Our favourite is the Venetian room (Laguna Veneta) where it seems that not one square inch has been left undecorated. While you have to feel a little sorry for the person who does the dusting, you have to acknowledge that it is perfectly done.Other themes include Ancient Rome, Ancient China (another one that is very special), Medieval Gothic, Mayan and Arabian.
Achill Island lies on the very edge of Europe, linked to the rest of Ireland by the bridge over Achill Sound, so for the moment Ferndale remains a pleasure exclusively for our Irish subscribers. As soon as you can get there, we would recommend it to anyone.
And finally.... Never forget that you are totally unique, just like everyone else.
22 Jun 2020, 13:38