Summer holiday breaks are seeing a surge in prices as Britain emerges from lockdown, with some trips to the seaside double the cost this year.
Euphoria around the rollout of vaccinations has triggered a staycation rush, which means letting websites and property owners are cashing in.
Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he is more optimistic than ever for a ‘great British summer’.
On a visit to a laboratory in Glasgow, Mr Hancock said: ‘I very much hope that as we are able to lift restrictions, then we are all able to travel across the UK.
‘I’m confident, because of the vaccine, we will be able to make that progress and then be able to, all of us, to travel freely wherever we are within these islands.
‘I’ve said before that I’m optimistic for a great British summer and I’m now more optimistic about having a great British summer than I have been at any time, thanks to the speed and the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.
‘By great British summer, I absolutely mean people being able to enjoy travel across the whole of the UK.’
It also found a 70 per cent increase in price for a one-bedroom property in the centre of Eastbourne (stock image) on Airbnb
Mr Hancock has already booked a summer holiday in Cornwall.
Research by Which? looking at popular destinations, from St Ives to Whitby, Llandudno and Brighton, found prices in the summer are an average 35 per cent higher.
Based on prices listed with the letting sites Airbnb and Vrbo, it found one example that was 70 per cent more expensive and another was some 140per cent higher this year.
The Which? research echoes evidence of price rises of 25 to 100per cent being imposed by specialist holiday cottage websites published by the Daily Mail last week.
A Which? snapshot investigation compared summer prices for 15 properties listed between Airbnb and Vrbo in St Ives, Whitby, Llandudno, Brighton, Weymouth, Swanage, Scarborough, Southwold, Eastbourne, Bournemouth.
The largest mark-up was for a one-bedroom maisonette in Brighton on Airbnb, which has gone up from £53 a night to £127 – a rise of 140 per cent.
The largest mark-up was for a one-bedroom maisonette in Brighton (stock image) on Airbnb, which has gone up from £53 a night to £127 – a rise of 140per cent
On Vrbo, a one-bedroom property in Bournemouth (stock image) rose from £722 for the first week of August last year to £958 this year – an increase of 33 per cent
It also found a 70 per cent increase in price for a one-bedroom property in the centre of Eastbourne on Airbnb. Last year, a one-week holiday in the first week of August would have cost £409, but this year the same week is £696.
On Vrbo, a one-bedroom property in Bournemouth rose from £722 for the first week of August last year to £958 this year – an increase of 33 per cent.
Other price rises were more modest, for example, a one-bedroom cottage on Airbnb in Scarborough increased by seven per cent for similar August dates this year.
The phased end to lockdown means a household will be able to book a self-catering staycation from April 12. However, no booking that involves more than one household, for example a family plus grandparents, will be allowed until May 17.
The editor of Which? Travel, Rory Boland, said: ‘Many holidaymakers are looking forward to finally going to the seaside this summer, so it’s perhaps not a surprise that high demand has seen prices for some destinations shoot up too.
Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured), on a visit to a laboratory in Glasgow, said he is more optimistic than ever for a ‘great British summer’
‘If people are prepared to pay more for their summer holidays this year, it’s essential that they know their money will be protected or returned to them without hassle in the event they cannot travel.’
Both Airbnb and Vrbo said property owners or their agents set prices. Airbnb said the Which? research was ‘misleading’ and was ‘not representative’ of prices.
It added: ‘More than half of UK guests choose Airbnb because it is more affordable than a hotel or other options. With the Great British staycation back on the horizon, hosts are ready to provide clean and private accommodation to help families and loved ones safely reconnect, and around half say they rely on the additional income from hosting.’
Vrbo said: ‘We are operating as a two-sided marketplace, connecting holidaymakers and holiday-home hosts, without being part of any contractual agreements between those parties at any time.
‘Vrbo does not set, change or influence the property prices a host chooses.’
Sykes Cottages, which is one of the biggest accommodation providers with over 15,000 properties, has been accused of imposing punishing increases in prices this year.
Criticism came from the chairman of the South West Tourism Alliance, Alistair Handyside, who said the firm appears to be trying to make ‘a quick buck’.
One woman based in mid Wales, who has rented her property to holidaymakers through Sykes and is in the process of leaving, insisted she has no control over the prices.
She wrote on Facebook: ‘I’m an owner – have just checked my prices and they’ve gone from £459 to £1,145 !! I’ve questioned this and they have said it’s due to demand. Quite frankly I’m embarrassed.’
Sykes denied any wrongdoing, adding: ‘Our holiday prices are and will always be competitive. Like lots of other businesses throughout the travel industry, we operate a pricing system that automatically sets prices based on availability and demand.’