Hotels braced for new year blues

THE WINDFALL that Britain's hoteliers were expecting from the millennium is looking increasingly like fool's gold.

A survey has shown that only 60 per cent of hotel rooms have been booked for the year-end celebrations. This represents a huge anti-climax for the many hotels that jacked up their prices in the expectation of a flood of reservations. Restaurateurs are faring little better.

Industry experts believe that this millennium aversion has arisen in part from the perception that hoteliers are profiteering. Fraser Ramzan, leisure analyst at Lehman Brothers, said: "Those hotels which have increased charges are only about half or quarter full. In fact, many will be closed."

The Martlet Inn in Langford Budville, Somerset, is among those venues likely to be seeing in the new millennium quietly.

"We put the posters up at the beginning of November and there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest," a spokesman said. "People have been a bit flat about what they are doing. But we are selling more now."

Meanwhile, Scott's, a restaurant in London's Mayfair, has yet to decide whether to open after managing to sell only three tables for its pounds 250, three-course millennium supper. Many of the Whitbread-owned Marriott hotels will be closed, and Bass will be keeping the shutters down at most of its restaurants.

Bernard Lambert, managing director of Meridian Hotels and Restaurants, a subsidiary of Granada, believes the key to success has been to resist the temptation to inflate prices. "We had a policy of not putting up rates to levels with no justification. In London, we have only raised prices according to de-mand. Doubling or even trebling prices has scared people off."

Even so, Meridian's hotels were only about 70 per cent booked around the turn of the year, although he expected the vacant rooms to fill up in the next three weeks.

The survey, by Caterer magazine, also blames babysitting costs for the national apathy. Transport is also a concern. The centre of London, for example, will be closed to traffic.

A disappointing New Year's Eve will come as another blow to the quoted hotel companies, whose shares have fallen dramatically this year. Investors have been turned off the sector by the impact of sterling's strength on tourism and fears of over-supply, prompted by a surge in new hotel openings.

This malaise has spread to travel agents, who have found that the anticipated rush for millennial breaks has failed to get off the ground. Only 10 days ago, Thomson Travel blamed its third recent profits warning on the lack of year-end bookings, a problem also encountered by its main rival Airtours.

Of course, there are destinations that have been able to sit back for years and wait for the guests to come flooding in. The five-night package offered by the 221-room Crieff Hydro in Perthshire, for instance, has been sold out since 1995.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Masterchef cooks Tony Rodd (left), Emma Spitzer (second left) and
Simon Wood (right) posing with judges Gregg Wallace (centre) and John Torode (second right), as the three will be seen cooking their hearts out in the hopes of winning the show.
TVReview: Tired Geography teacher John Torode and shaved Scotch egg Gregg Wallace crown the champion
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week
Life and Style
The Grand Palais in Paris will be transformed into a 4,000-seat cinema, with 44 double beds at the front
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IFA Based

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road