The Handbook
The Handbook

Reviewing hotels is quite literally a part of my job description. So I’m daydreaming about the day that hotels reopen their doors to the public, when I can spend a night sunken into the mattress of a five star establishment, full after a spectacular tasting menu. Maybe it’ll be somewhere grand like The Newt or Coworth Park, perhaps some place closer to home. Either way, I’m telling you now it won’t be one of the quarantine hotels the government is set to announce.

Visitors to the UK are about to be forced into government sanctioned ‘hotels’ where they’ll be required to shell out £1,500 for ten nights as they quarantine. Travellers will be required to remain in their rooms, with meals delivered to the doors cell-block style. Probably not exactly the hotel experience you were hoping for when you booked your trip to the UK. A bit less Buckingham Palace and a bit more ‘At Her Majesty’s Pleasure’…

Ministers met yesterday to finalise their plans which the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, will announce today in Parliament...

Is this definitely happening?

It’s not been formally adopted as policy, but given there’s been rumblings out of Whitehall for a week now, it seems likely the government is very serious about implementing this plan.

Apparently ministers met yesterday to finalise their plans which the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, will announce today in Parliament.

We’ve had a year of Covid, why now?

The government has taken criticism for not closing the borders for over a year, but with vaccinations in full swing the last thing they want is a new strain entering the country and messing things up.

The variant discovered before Christmas, which is now doing the rounds, is around 70% more transmissible than Covid 1.0 and so there is a lot more pressure to ensure that more new variants don’t arrive just as we’re starting to try and open things up again.

And why not quarantine at home?

Simply because people don’t. They go to the shops, bump into friends,  walk the dog, normal home stuff and they pass on the virus. It’s hard enough trying to get people suffering from Covid to stay indoors, let alone people who think they’re totally well.

Does this exist elsewhere?

Yes, it’s tried-and-tested in Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand and other places that are generally considered to be on top of the virus.

The British system is expected to be based closely on the Australian one.

Are we talking Claridge’s or Travel Lodge?

If you’re smart with your hotel bookings then £150 a night can normally get you some pretty sweet deals. Not necessarily 5 star luxury, but y’know, very passable. But most hotel deals don’t include three meals a day or 24 hour security.

Hotels will need to be self contained and close to the airports. Which means that we’re likely talking about large chain hotels. In Singapore the Conrad Centennial Singapore. which is a Hilton, is used, in Auckland it’s the Marriot owned Four Points by Sheraton and in Australia Hyatt hotels have been put to work as quarantine hotels.

What if I skip the hotel?

There was recently a scandal when Switzerland declared that all recently arrivals from the UK had to quarantine in their hotels as Europe panicked about the British variant of Covid. Within a couple days nearly every one of them had skipped the country!

Expect a robust approach to enforcement

Expect a robust approach to enforcement as we implement this. With hefty fines for anyone caught escaping and deportation for foreigners.

Will this cover ALL arrivals to the UK?

At the moment the plan is apparently only covering arrivals from 30 countries where more dangerous variants are known to be in widespread circulation.

This covers South Africa and much of Latin America. However, the government will be free to add and take away destinations as it pleases. Presumably as we understand more about these variants we will be able to adjust our policy accordingly.

And as a world centre for genomic sequencing (we do 47% of the world’s sequencing) we should know before most where has what variants.

How has the travel industry reacted?

A good rule of thumb throughout the last year is to take whatever the airlines are lobbing for and do the opposite. And predictably BA, Virgin and co are all desperately trying to stop the government implementing this.

But the effect on the wider sector can only be negative, as it will deter vital tourism as soon as we are in a position to open up once again. The only hope is that it will also limit the number of domestic travellers from venturing further afield and instead they’ll opt to stay in hotels and destinations in the UK.


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