“Rule of six” to impact on UK holiday home industry

UK: Industry professionals worry that the recently announced “rule of six” could majorly damage the UK holiday home industry.

The restrictions, which come into effect on Monday [14 September], will limit the number of people who can holiday together in one holiday rental property.

Industry professionals worry that the new rules may leave larger properties completely empty. While families can still holiday together, only six people from separate quarantine bubbles can come together, eliminating extended family and large-scale friendship gatherings.

Chair of the Professional Association of Self Caterers [PASC], Alastair Handyside, described the situation as “carnage”. He noted that a quarter of self-catering properties in England serve more than six people and that these operators would face renewed difficulty doing business.

He told The Guardian: “We have worked really hard to make sure we offer a safe environment [for guests] and we’re mystified as to why the new law comes down so heavily on a sector where you can control your environment. So we’re hacked off.”

The announcement may have also hurt the sector’s consumer confidence, which had rebuilt over the summer due to rising staycations. Matt Fox, the owner of Big-Cottages.com, recorded a significant drop off in website traffic after the announcement.

Tim Ripman, owner of Best of Suffolk Rentals, told the BBC: “It’s going to financially impact us. Our largest properties generate the largest income for us. Hopefully, there are ways to still offer them a holiday at the destination they’ve chosen, maybe down the line.”

Out of the 410 properties that Best of Suffolk advertises, 118 accommodate seven guests or more. The team had previously advertised them for multi-family and extended family getaways.

New complications over consumer refunds, which led to controversy earlier this year, have arisen due to the rules as well. Guidelines from the Competition and Markets Authority [CMA] said that lockdown related expenses should lead to refunds, implying that large accommodations and birthdays are covered, but that disputed cases may go to courts.

The “rule of six” on social gatherings indoors and outdoors is to be applicable in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland. However, while in Wales and Scotland under-11s and under-12s will not be included in the rules, in England, Chancellor Michael Gove has said the restrictions will not be changed to exempt children under the age of 12.

It came as one scientist, Professor Sir Mark Walport, told the BBC that the UK was “on the edge of losing control” of the virus.