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How safe is my UK holiday?

Which? Travel looks at the steps holiday cottages, hotels, campsites, beaches and visitor attractions are taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus

How safe is my UK holiday?

UK holidays are back on from this weekend, but recent scenes of over-crowded beaches in Bournemouth have raised concerns as to how safe it will be to holiday in the UK while coronavirus is still a threat.

Most overnight accommodation and some visitor attractions will be allowed to reopen in England and Northern Ireland by 4 July.

In Scotland, you can stay in self-catering accommodation from 3 July and hotels from 15 July. And Wales will decide on 9 July when to allow travel again, which is likely to be from 13 July.

We asked self-catering accommodation, hotels, holiday parks, campsites, visitor attractions and theme parks what steps they’re taking to prevent the virus spreading and keep their guests safe.


Find more unbiased advice on travel and coronavirus, award-winning investigations and legal advice on holiday refunds and cancelled flights with Which? Travel


Holiday cottages and self-catering accommodation

Industry bodies have joined forces to establish new cleaning protocols for self-catering properties based on guidance from organisations such as the World Health Organisation and Public Health England.

These include requiring cleaners, wearing protective clothing, to use disposable wipes instead of microfiber cloths, and products that both sanitise and disinfect.

Using these protocols should ‘provide consumers with the confidence to travel safely to any property’ said Merilee Karr of the Short Term Accommodation Association.

Airbnb has published a comprehensive set of cleaning guidelines for its hosts. This includes disinfecting surfaces prior to guests’ arrival and providing cleaning products for them to use themselves.

But self-catering property owners aren’t obliged to follow the new guidance.  When searching for accommodation on Airbnb, look for those listings that state the host has committed to its more rigorous cleaning protocols.

Hoseasons and Cottages.com say that properties that have adopted the companies’ new recommended procedures – including sanitising surfaces and hot tubs with an anti-viral solution – are highlighted with a ‘Safer Stays’ logo.

These self-catering properties might also look a little more sparse than usual as the guidance also recommends removing all hard-to-clean non-essential items such as coffee-makers, scatter cushions and throws.

They might also have hand sanitisers, distance markers on the floor in communal areas, and key safes or the option of socially distanced check-in.

UK campsites safe

Holiday parks and campsites

While holiday parks and campsites are also allowed to reopen from 4 July, some are limiting capacity to maintain social distancing, and you might not find all the facilities you were expecting.

Pools, water parks and spas will be off limits until the government publishes new guidance on when and how they can safely reopen.

Center Parcs is reopening its five UK ‘villages’ on 13 July but its subtropical water parks, spa and some other facilities will remain closed at least until 27 July.

‘We plan to review government guidelines on a regular basis and open additional facilities as and when we know we are ready’ said a Center Parcs spokesperson.

Center Parcs will admit fewer guests initially to maintain social distancing. And additional cleaning means that check-in has been pushed back to 2pm, while check-out has been brought forward to 9am.

All payments are contactless, restaurants will seat fewer guests as tables are more spaced out, and activities will take place with smaller groups.

Haven will reopen its holiday parks in England on 6 July, in Wales on 13 July and in Scotland on 17 July with a number of new procedures in place.

Guests will be given pre-allocated arrival times to avoid queues, they’ll be greeted by staff wearing masks, and they’ll have to follow new one-way systems.

Cleaners have been allocated 20% more time to clean caravans, using anti-viral disinfectant, and hand sanitisers have been placed throughout the parks.

Bridge Leisure Holiday Parks will open its nine parks from 10 July, but only for vehicles with their own washing facilities, for now.

Campsites will be allowed to open from Saturday, but any shared facilities must be kept clean.

Many campsites have implemented new cleaning regimes, as well as queueing systems for health and safety measures.

Hotels

Hotels will start to reopen from 4 July but their pools and spas will remain closed.

You’re likely to see distance markers on the floor in larger UK hotels, hand sanitisers in all public areas – including outside bars and restaurants – and staff wearing masks and gloves.

Some hotels are offering contactless check-in and check-out, most are only accepting card or contactless payments, and many will have hygiene screens between staff and guests

Restaurants will restrict the number of diners (new rules state that tables must be at least one metre apart), and many hotels will replace self-service dining with either serviced buffets or, as in the case at Warner Leisure hotels, table service.

All the hotel chains contacted by Which? Travel say they will have more regular cleaning in public spaces – especially to high-touch areas like lift buttons and door handles – and in guest rooms. As a result, you might find your check-in is later than expected and you’ll have to check out earlier.

Travelodge, which has kept 51 hotels open for support workers throughout the pandemic and is reopening a further 11 this week, says its rooms are cleaned with anti-viral solution and linen is thermally disinfected. Housekeeping staff don’t enter rooms during a guest’s stay.

Hotel du Vin and Malmaison say pillows, duvets, mattresses, cushions, curtains and rugs will be sanitised with a chemical-free aqueous ozone system, which claims to kill 99.9% of viruses. Mini-bars will be emptied and any menus or magazines will be removed.

Hilton says it has worked on new cleaning and disinfecting processes in collaboration with Lysol and Dettol-manufacturer RB and Mayo Clinic. It is also offering keyless room access via an app.

Marriott said that where its hotels continue to offer buffets, they will clean and sanitise utensils every 30 minutes, there will be an ‘ongoing’ disinfecting of buffet areas and equipment, and food handlers will have to undergo a health assessment. Hand sanitisers will be placed near the buffet area too.

Warner Leisure hotels will reopen on 27 July. It says you’ll have to pre-book breakfast and dinner times, or you’ll be allocated specific slots on arrival.

To allow enough space between tables, it will no longer have a dance floor in restaurants. Performances will still go ahead, but there will be matinées as well to spread out the attendance.

Bed and Breakfast

B&B owners must carry out a risk-assessment to make sure they’re doing all they can to keep guests safe.

Recommended government-approved guidelines issued by the trade association UK Hospitality include disinfecting high-touch areas such as door handles, switches, taps and kettles before guests arrive.

They have also been advised to leave meals outside bedroom doors and maintain social distancing where possible.

Some might choose not to help guests carry their luggage and you might be asked to make all payments – including tips – by card.

Are visitor attractions safe?

Visitor attractions

Many visitor attractions will be severely limiting visitor numbers to maintain social distancing when they reopen from 4 July. They will also have new one-way systems, and staff will wear PPE.

You’ll need to pre-book tickets, even if you’re a season ticket holder, and you’re likely to be given a time slot. There will also be reduced capacity at on-site restaurants – so you’ll have to book ahead for lunch and evening meals too.

Tickets for National Trust’s parks and gardens in England and Wales are being released every Friday. Members will have to pre-book too.

Bear in mind that you might not be able to find any WC facilities when you’re out and about, as many attractions aren’t reopening toilets for health and safety reasons.

Cornwall’s Eden Project, which will reopen its Rainforest and Biomes on 4 July, says those toilets that open will limit access to one family group at a time.

At London Zoo and Whipsnade, only outdoor food outlets are open, payment is all cashless, children’s play areas are closed and there will be no talks or demonstrations to avoid large gatherings.

Beaches

There’s no restriction on beach access, but the government has warned that it will order the closure of beaches if there’s a repeat of the over-crowding seen in Bournemouth recently.

National Trust is reopening more than 200 beach and countryside car parks in England and Northern Ireland, but it warns that toilets, children’s play areas, cafés, and other food outlets might not be open.

Theme parks

Most theme parks will reopen on 4 July, but only to very limited numbers.  Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Legoland say they will be operating at around a third of their usual capacity. Even season ticket holders will need to book tickets.

All major theme parks contacted by Which? say they will check guests’ temperatures on arrival and might refuse access to those with a higher-than-normal reading.

Guests aged six and over will have to wear a face mask on some rides, including rollercoasters and family rides where staff need to come close to guests to check harnesses. Alton Towers and Blackpool Pleasure Beach recommend you take at least two masks with you.

Hand sanitisers are being installed throughout all parks, but additional cleaning of the rides varies: Chessington says its rides will be cleaned every 30 minutes but at Blackpool Pleasure Beach cleaning will take place only every hour.

Only takeaway restaurants and those with outdoor seating are likely to be open; indoor and interactive areas might be closed, and there will be no photo opportunities with characters.

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