99% of Hotels Open for Business, but Occupancy Rates Still Flagging

UK hotel occupancy rates decreased in October 2021 in line with pre-pandemic seasonal trends, but remain lower than in 2019.

While the majority of UK hotels are now open for business, occupancy rates have dropped slightly from 72 per cent in September to 71 per cent in October, according to data compiled and produced by STR and analysed by RSM. Several challenges including sharply increasing energy costs, staff shortages and supply chain issues mean some hotels are unable to run at full occupancy.

Despite an overall increase since the start of the year, UK occupancy levels are still 13 per cent behind pre-pandemic levels. London saw a slight rise in occupancy rates, increasing to 65 per cent in October from 62 per cent in September, but the Capital remains 26 percent behind pre-pandemic levels. Following a bumper summer period, Wales occupancy rates also fell from 79 per cent in September to 74 per cent in October.

UK average room rates have reduced slightly in October, down to £98 from £100 in September, but remaining ahead of the October 2019 pre-pandemic rate of £96. However, Scotland saw its average daily room rate increase to £98, £22 above October 2019, suggesting an increase in demand has driven prices higher in the lead up to COP 26, with further significant increases expected in November.

Revenue per available room across the UK was down to £69 in October 2021, significantly up from £27 in 2020, but still well behind pre-pandemic levels of £78.

Chris Tate, head of hotels and accommodation at RSM, said: ‘While it’s positive that 99 per cent of UK hotels are now open for business, several factors are hindering the sector’s recovery post-lockdown. A shortage of staff and difficulties with supply chains continue to impact on service and many operators have been forced to turn away custom. These challenges, together with energy price increases, are eroding the bottom line at a time when operators are desperate to rebuild their balance sheets. Despite these challenges, forward bookings data for London in December is strong, suggesting that this Christmas could be a cracker, providing hoteliers can maintain adequate staffing to take advantage of demand.

As an industry, we need to focus on presenting hospitality as a viable career path to attract the best talent and address staff shortages.’