Kristy Dorsey: Happy Easter for hospitality

Retailers are not fairing as well as the hospitality sector over the Easter period. Picture: TSPL
Retailers are not fairing as well as the hospitality sector over the Easter period. Picture: TSPL
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IT may be a Happy Easter for hospitality but retailers still waiting for a miracle says Kristy Dorsey

RETAILERS will be looking for a rebirth this Easter weekend, but hospitality businesses are set for a happy Bank Holiday as millions opt for a domestic vacation during the festive break.

As many as 1.6 million Britons are thought to have gone abroad this weekend, including some 100,000 flying out of Scottish airports. But more than double that number – some 3.4 million people – will be staying at least one night in a UK hotel, generating a multi-million pound boost for the tourist industry.

Not surprisingly, Edinburgh will be one of the biggest beneficiaries.

A survey by Travelodge ranks the capital ninth in a list of the top 20 domestic destinations this Easter weekend. That amounts to a decent slice of a pie that the budget hotel chain estimates to be worth £2 billion across the whole of the UK economy. Edinburgh also features among the favoured Easter holiday destinations at comparison website Trivago, where 13 of the top 25 most popular searches are for cities within the UK.

Edinburgh ranked fourth behind London, Amsterdam and Paris. Glasgow also makes the Trivago list, coming in at number 13.

If reality lives up to expectations, this weekend will further underpin what is shaping into a potentially record year for Scottish tourism. Occupancy and revenue levels across the country’s hotels are already running ahead of the UK average, even though the bounce from the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup is still months away.

It’s a welcome return to fairer times for hoteliers and the wider hospitality sector. Shopkeepers, on the other hand, continue to struggle on an uphill slog.

Shop prices have been falling as retailers compete for share in a market where consumers remain reluctant to part with their cash. Latest figures for March revealed the sharpest drop in a year, with UK like-for-like sales down 1.7 per cent.

Those figures were distorted by the timing of Easter, which fell much earlier last year. Hopes remain that a more positive underlying picture emerges with the publication of data for the current month, augmented by sales of chocolate eggs, bunny paraphernalia and the makings of the Sunday roast.

Those hopes have been fanned by a rebound in retail footfall during March, with traffic 1.8 per cent higher than in the same period last year. Springboard, which produces those figures for the British Retail Consortium, is additionally predicting a big jump in footfall this weekend.

How that might play out in Scotland – where footfall is lagging the UK average – remains to be seen. The number of shoppers north of the Border actually fell in March, though at a slower pace than in previous months.

Figures on Scottish like-for-like sales in March are due on Wednesday, but like their UK equivalent, they will be distorted by the timing of the holiday. Any evidence of a retail reincarnation this Easter shall have to wait until next month. «