Stark divide as UK campsites flourish but city hotels stand empty

The British tourism industry is facing a town and country divide, with up to half of campsites already fully booked throughout August while city hotels stand three-quarters emptier than last year.

Thousands are thought to have cancelled foreign holidays this week after the government’s decision to advise against all but essential travel to Spain, the UK’s top tourist destination, and force people returning from the country to quarantine.

With temperatures set to hit 35C on Friday, holidaymakers are choosing instead to spend time in the great outdoors – at the seaside or in the countryside – while the tourism industry in UK cities remains in tatters.

Data for several thousand hotels, shared with the Guardian by industry analysts STR, suggests those that have reopened in London are 76% less occupied than this time last year, with that figure rising to 77% in Edinburgh and standing at 69% in Manchester. On average, open hotels in those cities were just under a quarter full (24%) between 1-18 July.

In comparison, Devon and Cornwall hotel occupancy was at 64% in that period, the data suggests; with that figure 63% in the Lake District and 56% in Bournemouth – where police are set to establish cordons to manage a possible surge of tourists this weekend.

“The UK is not alone in this pattern of stronger demand for regional destinations. We have seen this occur across the globe as countries begin to see demand slowly returning to the hospitality sector,” said the STR director Thomas Emanuel, adding that it would take “multiple years” for urban demand to return to 2019 levels.

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