London expects a summer wave of US tourists but fears of cancellations rise amid craze for over-booking
London’s hospitality businesses are looking forward to a brisk summer season, with early bookings from US tourists up strongly into the second summer free of Covid restrictions.
But industry figures are warning that reservations made early are more likely to be cancelled , often at the last minute.
According to data from the hotel booking platform allora.ai, which uses artificial intelligence to drive bookings to hotels, average lead times for reservations are up 13%, to 67 days to 57 days.
The company’s chief commercial officer, Michael De Jongh, points out that “what on paper seems like a good thing, is actually a real problem for hoteliers,” adding:
“Early-bookers are far more likely to book rooms at multiple hotels, and then cancel all but one at the last minute. They’re also likely to be targeted by the online travel agents ... who might well persuade them to stay at another hotel.”
Allora.ai predicts that the longer lead-times will result in a 15% increase in last-minute cancellations - which can be as high as 40%.
If that is right, De Jong says it could be a “massive” problem.
“Hoteliers are completely justified in being fearful of a last-minute cancellation crisis. The reality is most of those rooms just won’t be filled and many millions in revenue will be lost,” De Jongh said.
He called for travellers to resist a “growing trend” to book “multiple rooms “and then cancelling all but one at the last minute,” adding: “This causes incredible problems for hotels, in precisely the same way as multiple restaurant bookings did during Eat Out To Help Out,” the government scheme to encourage people back into restaurants after the first Covid lockdown.
De Jong urged people to just book with one hotel and be considerate with cancellations.
“If someone has to cancel for any reason, I’d urge them to give the hotel as much notice as possible or, better still, move the booking to an alternative date. If they cancel just before they were supposed to check in, even if it’s within the incredibly flexible Covid-related terms, then it’s likely the hotel will lose that revenue altogether,” he said.
Allora.ai’s numbers also found that he UK domestic staycation market has plummeted 14% compared to 2022, and accounts for 66% of bookings, compared to 78% last year. US visitors now make up 12% of all bookings.