This morning on Twitter I found myself involved in more than one conversation about the impact of spread-booking on the hospitality industry. This was all thanks to an article written by Chris Leadbeater and published by Telegraph Travel over the weekend.
Spread-booking, what is it ?
For those not familiar with the term, spread-booking is the act of booking multiple hotels or B & Bs, restaurants or pubs, holiday cottages or campsites for the same time period then deciding at the last minute which one to go to and cancelling the rest. It became popular in food hospitality after the UK’s first Lockdown. Those desperate to eat at their favourite places made more than one booking for the same date and time and cancelled the reservations they did not fancy at the last minute. The risk of not getting an evening out at a favourite restaurant should a Covid-19 outbreak force a within-the-hour closure was more than some people could take. Months of most of us being cooped up cooking our own meals saw spread-booking became a popular pastime. I get the need for someone else to cook for you or the fact you want the aisle you walk down to have plane seats and not tinned products down either side but spread-booking is a terrible trend and should be stopped.
Encourage ethical booking methods
Claire Irvin, Head of Travel at The Telegraph, tweeted later that the article was an on-trend piece and now Chris Leadbeater states it was satire. Frustrations felt by some of the smallest accommodation provides were real however and the sentiment of the article was not perceived by them in the way Claire and Chris now want it to look. Fiona Gardham, owner of The House at Hawes confirmed just that when I spoke to her.
‘I am so saddened to see the trend in spread-booking. It has a potentially devasting impact on our already battered industry,’ Fiona said. ‘OTAs and the travel press have to stop encouraging such practices but instead support our recovery by promoting ethical booking methods’.
Furthermore, Fiona believes that if guests and clients understood the impact of spread-booking on micro and small businesses they would think twice before going ahead with it.
Imagine you are a hairdresser or a beauty therapist with a diary full of bookings or a tradesman with a full schedule of repair work. The week ahead is looking good and cashflow is at last starting to go in the right direction. 24 hours before your diary commitments WhatsApp notifications start pinging on your phone and much of your week’s work is cancelled. No clients, no money and only a small chance of getting back what you have lost. Turns out the clients had booked multiple blow dries, boiler services and brow laminations deciding at the last minute which supplier they fancied sticking with and letting the others down. Spread-booking could become a trend in many sectors and see the decline of micro and small independent businesses if it is not stopped.
Hospitality has been hard enough
As The B & B Keeper and ‘Agony Aunt’ for the Luxury BnB Magazine, I am only too aware how hard business has been for the B & B, Guest House, Holiday Home and Campsite owners of not only the United Kingdom but other parts of Europe and the world as well. My daily work focuses around ensuring the wellbeing of a micro business and its owner is as good as it can be – spread-booking impacts both. If expected business is not forthcoming because of last minute cancellations there is less money coming into the business. Lack of income is one of the biggest stress factors a micro business owner faces. Very often the business is also the home of the short-term accommodation provider. Negative trends impact livelihoods and lives, that is a fact!
‘Tourism accommodation owners saw their sales slump by 73.3% in 2020 according to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS)’ David Weston, Chairman of the Bed and Breakfast Association in the United Kingdom, told me. ‘Many are offering flexible terms in good faith due to the Covid-19 Crisis’ he added. ‘To encourage consumers to exploit this by making multiple so-called ‘spread-bookings’ is immoral and unacceptable. It is kicking micro businesses in the teeth when they are down’.
Pick and stick
If this week as the sun shines it brings dreams of Summer holidays and BBQs in beer gardens, I encourage you to pick one place you want to stay or eat and stick with it. Spread-booking must be stopped and I ask that you help make that happen. While you are at it, if you could #bookdirect with your favourite hospitality venue that would be good as well. It will save them paying extortionate commission to online travel agents and table booking services. And that is another article for another day.