Tough times for region’s hotels

James Finnegan

2010 is shaping up to be a challenging year for the south west’s hotels, according to the latest findings from Bishop Fleming.

A survey conducted by the accountant’s tourism & leisure team, reveals that almost three quarters of south west hotels (73%) report that 2010 forward bookings are worse or no better than last year.

More than a third of south west hoteliers (34%) report a decline in bookings from overseas visitors, while even more (41%) say that forward bookings from British visitors are also down.

While only 16% of respondents reported better forward bookings for 2010, compared to 2009, almost a quarter (24%) said that forward bookings are down by more than a tenth.

Asked for the reasons for booking declines, almost a third (32%) identified the global recession for the downturn in overseas bookings, while almost half (43%) point to a “failure of the south west to change its traditional holiday product” as the main reason for declining British bookings.

Almost two thirds (61%) of the South West’s respondents said that the region’s tourism bodies are making no difference to the inflow of visitors.

James Finnegan, head of Bishop Fleming’s tourism & leisure team, said: “At a time when the Government has cut funding to the national tourism agencies, and the south west’s regional agencies have been undergoing change, these findings are disappointing.”

Hoteliers in the south west are almost equally split on the issue of whether cheap-flights from regional airports are good or bad for their business.

Almost a third (29%) believe that those cheap flights bring in large numbers of overseas tourists; almost a quarter (24%) believe that cheap flights from local airports make no difference to the region’s tourism economy; and the biggest number (31%) say that cheap flights from local airports are reducing the number of UK families booking holidays in the south west, while making very little difference to the number of overseas tourists coming to the region.

Finnegan added: “These findings underline the dilemma that the industry faces: it is very easy to believe the statistics provided by regional airports for the number of incoming visitors, but there is no doubt about the number of UK holiday-makers who use those cheap flights to grab some sun, instead of taking a British holiday.”