Businesses who have invested in Britain’s £12billion Christmas economy are being hit by waves of cancellations as fears continue to grow over the potentially dominant Omicron strain.

The sector of hospitality has been battered by restrictions over the past 18 month. But they now face new frustrations as punters keep cancelling pre-planned events for Christmas.

Figures from trade body UKHospitality revealed bookings were down almost a third (30 per cent) in recent weeks as pubs, bars, restaurants and nightclubs prepare for a slump in Christmas jamborees fuelled by Omicron fears. 

Aviva, NatWest and BBC are just a few of the major companies that have postponed or cancelled their Christmas parties for employees this year. Staff from NHS providers were also advised to avoid large gatherings.

Brasserie Blanc chief Mark Derry has warned about the impact of cancelled bookings on restaurants in recent weeks. 

Insiders in the industry As it was revealed, cancellations were largely due to confusion in the government’s messaging Boris Johnson’s decision to keep the economy open despite concerns over Omicron could be worth £1.1billion to the Christmas markets and winter wonderland industry and more than £10billion to hospitality.

Thousands of Christmas parties up and down the UK are being cancelled amid conflicting advice from ministers over the new variant – a sector of the economy which is thought to be worth around £1billion. 

The Prime Minister has been urged by MPs as well as business leaders to get on top of matters. They warned that the mixed messages regarding whether festive plans should be continued have caused public trust to drop. 

The city that generates the most revenue from the festive markets is Manchester at £306million across six city centre squares, followed by Birmingham where the Frankfurt Christmas Market brings in £187million.

London’s Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is estimated to be worth £119million, followed by Nottingham’s Winter Wonderland at £99million and the markets in Newcastle at £92million and Edinburgh at £88million.

Other major UK markets include Sheffield at £47million, Belfast at £44million, Glasgow and Bournemouth both at £34million, Exeter at £20million, Bath at £14million, and York and Winchester both at £12million.

The decision to keep the economy open could be worth £1.1billion to the Christmas markets and winter wonderland industry

The decision to keep the economy open could be worth £1.1billion to the Christmas markets and winter wonderland industry

Newcastle's Christmas Market is bustling with people today as the festive season gets underway in the city centre

As the holiday season begins in Newcastle, the Christmas Market of Newcastle is bustling today.

Customers sample the food and specialist produce available from the Christmas market stalls in Newcastle today

Today’s Christmas Market stalls offer food samples and specialty produce for customers.

Hat seller Lewis Gait at his festival stall at Newcastle's Christmas market today, three weeks before the big day

Today, Lewis Gait is a hat seller at Newcastle’s Christmas Market. This was three weeks ahead of the big day.

Visitors to Newcastle's Christmas market enjoy a bite to eat as thousands of people mill around in the city centre today

Newcastle’s Christmas Market visitors enjoy an opportunity to grab a bite while thousands of others mill about in the centre of Newcastle today

People queue up for some festive fayre at the Christmas market in Manchester today, three weeks before Christmas Day

Three weeks ahead of Christmas Day, people line up at Manchester’s Christmas Market to get festive food 

People grab a bite to eat at Manchester's Christmas market today as shoppers are out in force buying presents

Manchester’s Christmas Market is alive with shoppers today, so people eat out at the market.

A man pays for a hot dog at a stall at Manchester's Christmas market today as other shoppers buy gifts for the big day

As other Christmas shoppers purchase gifts, a Manchester man purchases a hot dog from a stand at Manchester’s Christmas marketplace today.

Where the Trade Buyers, a small business printing firm that supplies markets to small businesses, collected the data previously in order to study the effects of cancellations due to the second national lockdown.

The research was based on visitor numbers multiplied by £34 per head – which included one sweet snack such as waffles at £5, one savoury snack such as a burger at £7, two alcoholic drinks at £10 and ice skating for £12.

The top 15 Christmas markets in Britain by value 

  1. Manchester £306,000,000
  2. Birmingham £187,000,000
  3. London Winter Wonderland £119,000,000
  4. Nottingham £98,600,000
  5. Newcastle £91,800,000
  6. Edinburgh £88,400,000
  7. Sheffield £47,260,000
  8. Belfast £44,200,000
  9. Glasgow £34,000,000
  10. Bournemouth £34,000,000
  11. Exeter £20,400,000
  12. Bath £13,600,000
  13. Winchester £11,900,000
  14. York £11,900,000
  15. Lincoln £8,500,000

The totals were compiled by Where is the Trade Buys 

Meanwhile the value of the UK hospitality industry at Christmas is thought to be more than £10billion, including £5.1billion on food and another £5.1billion on drinks, according to a prior survey conducted at a similar time last year by jobs site

And the most recent estimate on Christmas parties from Eventbrite found in a 2015 survey of 500 business decision makers in the UK that organisations were set to spend £955million on entertaining staff.

MailOnline was told by Danny Roberts (partner at DFA Law Northampton) that it is unlikely that any hospitality companies could make a claim on insurance for cancellations due to coronavirus rules.

He stated that disruptions due to the Omicron variant could be very damaging for hospitality workers, but it’s unlikely they will seek recourse against their insurances.

“The concern expressed by customers and businesses could lead to many cancellations of large events and bookings, and affected venues, restaurants, bars and hotels will have to refer to their terms and conditions to determine what they can recover from the customer.

He stated that Christmas markets would be similar to hospitality business in the same circumstances.

Today, Oliver Dowden, Tory Party Chairman, said that people need to ‘keep calm’ and continue with Christmas parties and plans despite Omicron.

Dowden said that the government had followed its instructions despite contradictory advice from a number of ministers and stated: “There is still a Conservative Party Christmas party planned.” 

Ministers and Boris Johnson's top scientists have all given different advice this week about whether to hold a Christmas party

Boris Johnson’s scientists and ministers have given differing advice to each other this week regarding whether or not to host a Christmas party.


He stated that if Britons adhere to the rules of masking in shops and on public transport, then they are free to kiss any person they wish under the mistletoe.

All across the country, festive joy is in full swing

Employers are losing confidence amid conflicting advice and this has led to a surge in cancellations of Christmas parties.


University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust  All staff parties were postponed for next year.

Newham Clinical Commissioning Group A number of general practitioners have canceled their festivities.

Guy’s and Saint Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust Parties for small departments are possible, but many, including those for paediatrics can be cancelled.

Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust There is no trust-wide guidance, but there are some providers that report on cancelled parties.

Hampshire GP practices  There is no Trust Guidance, but certain surgeries can be cancelled.

Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust York and Scarborough Reduced. No large parties – but individual teams can decide whether to go ahead.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust  No change. Parties continue to be treated as usual on a departmental basis.

The public sector

BBC  Many departments, including news, have cancelled office parties, claim staff.

All departments of Government  Scaled back. No departmental parties will take place. It is up to the individual teams to choose how they celebrate.

Metropolitan Police  Scaled back. This year, there are not plans to host an office Christmas party. Each department will decide.

National Highways  Scaled back. Although no party was scheduled, smaller gatherings can be expected with the encouragement of lateral flow testing.

Tech sector

Google  Cancelled. The gatherings were moved to the next year, and are now limited to just 15 participants.

Microsoft  Cancelled. Replaced with a “virtual party”

Universities and charities

University College London All parties were cancelled or postponed.

Age UK  Face-to-face Christmas parties have been called off.


Lloyds  Individual teams are organizing Christmas parties.

HSBC  Reductions made. The staff were not asked to cancel Christmas parties for their teams, but many have chosen virtual events.

NatWest  Further measures. Parties can be organized by individuals in teams as normal, with the exception of lateral flow testing.

Insurance and finance

Deloitte  You can scale back. Parties can be held by smaller teams.

EY  Reduced in size You must wear face covers and smaller group celebrations.

PwC  Reduction in scale All plans for parties smaller than 10 persons are subject to the approval of department heads.

KPMG  Reduced. Parties will be arranged group-by-group.

Firms of lawyers

May and Slaughter  Scaled back. Only smaller parties were allowed, as this was done before Omicron.

Ashurst  Rescaled. Before smaller teams-based parties, lateral flow tests are performed. 

Sky News’ Mr Dowden said that he believed the message was simple: Keep calm and continue with your Christmas plans. While we have put in place the restrictions, please keep your cool and go on.

“I know that some people are concerned about this new variant. The Government has therefore taken the type of steps that we’ve already discussed… we believe these are sufficient at the stage. We think people should carry out their plans as planned.

Last night, Sajid Javid waded into the controversy on Christmas parties for the second time in as many days – but rather than clarifying the matter, he muddied the waters further.

Contrary to earlier advice by Therese Cffey (Work and Pensions Secretary), who warned against’snogging under the mistletoe,” the Health Secretary has contradicted that of the latter. 

Javid explained that people can snog wherever they like. Under the mistletoe, I will certainly kiss my wife. It is Javid family tradition.

He made these comments after George Freeman (science minister) suggested that businesses planning events to accommodate more than four or five people may want extra security.

He said that the Business Department where he worked had cancelled the party, just days after Prime Minister asked organisations to continue with their plans.

Dr Jenny Harries from the UK Health Security Agency suggested that people cut down on socializing during the holidays.

The beleaguered hospitality sector is angered by the divergent advice.

UK Hospitality reported that over a third of all Christmas party cancellations have been made by UK-based trade bodies.

The Government yesterday recorded an additional 53,945 cases and reported 141 deaths.

The Daily Mail conducted a survey yesterday and found that many major companies have either cancelled or changed to virtual Christmas events. An example of those who have cancelled festive parties are Google, Lloyds Bank, and the NHS.

Johnson tried to ease the crisis by issuing another appeal for people not to cancel Christmas celebrations last night.

However, industry leaders warned of the dangers.

Patrick Dardis is the chief executive officer of Young’s pub group, which has more than 270 locations. Dardis stated that “the messaging was terribly confusing” and it had been inconsistent.

“We have seen cancellations from Friday. “We hope this calms down, and that the government gets the message out that you can safely go out to celebrate.

Best Western CEO Tim Rumney claimed that Omicron was like the ghost of Christmas past, and criticised ministers for differing opinions. According to Rumney, BBC Radio 4’s World at One reported that three-quarters (75%) of his members had experienced cancellations due to festive bookings.

‘The concern we have about the mixed message from both government and scientists is that they have sent us mixed messages.  

“The longer we wait for uncertainty to end, the more cancellations and more severe the problem will be.”

Sacha Lord is the Greater Manchester night-time economist and said, “In the last 48 hour it’s been disastrous for the industry. There has been an enormous domino effect. This isn’t just restaurants, this is the whole ecology around it – it’s the supply chain, it’s the taxis, it’s hotel rooms, it’s everything that goes with it.

‘December is a time when people can have a good time – they can take up to 25 per cent of their annual turnover in December. It was taken away at the very last moment.

Former minister Steve Baker was also the deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group, Tory MPs. He said last night that the opposite advice had already caused damage.

He explained that businesses, families and individuals cannot plan for so much uncertainty.

“Government must get in touch with its core values and set clear goals for the future. There are far too many government employees who want to cancel everything.

Yesterday night the Prime Minister attempted to put order in place by stating that everyone should just ‘keep doing what they do’.

After receiving his booster shot, he said to reporters that he wanted to reiterate the guidance and was keen for people’s understanding. People shouldn’t feel like they have to cancel things.

The PM also urged schools to not cancel nativity plays or other Christmas events.

Yesterday No. 10 stated that it doesn’t want Christmas parties cancelled, despite the fact that some Government departments have made this a preference. The official spokesperson for the PM said that when asked by reporters why certain departments did this, the Prime Minister was very clear.

We don’t encourage people to cancel Christmas parties. This is not a Government directive.