Britain’s largest provider of student accommodation has warned that Covid’s international travel restrictions have affected demand from Chinese undergraduates.
Unite Students said even though its occupancy rates rebounded as academics flocked to college campuses, the numbers were still below its expectations for the current year and below pre-pandemic levels.
About 94% of its beds had been rented for the 2021/2022 academic year, up from 88% in the previous cycle, the company said on Friday.
Management had forecast an occupancy rate of 95 to 98% for the next academic year. The company expected the reduced occupancy rate to result in rental income that is £ 8-10million lower than previous expectations and to be on the lower end of management’s expectations.
“We have seen record demand for UK universities from UK school leavers and non-EU students, especially for the strongest universities we are strategically aligned with, although the best academic results and restrictions on international travel due to the pandemic have had an impact on the occupancy of a small number of cities, ”said Chief Executive Officer Richard Smith.
The company added that the travel restrictions “continue to have an effect on demand from China, where a record number of new undergraduates have yet to translate into bookings.”
Unite’s share price fell 3% when the markets opened on Friday.
The pandemic has affected many areas of the commercial real estate market, particularly retail and office space, although some vendors are currently experiencing a rebound.
Property manager Helical said on Friday it had collected just under 93% of all rents for the quarter through September, boosted by the return to work and the reopening of restaurants and hospitality.
The London-focused property manager said 93.5% of rents for the quarter through June have now been collected, and 92% for the quarter ending March.
The company, which specializes in the management and development of office space, was hit hard at the start of the pandemic, which quickly closed offices and entertainment venues. However, its stock price has rebounded, gaining 23% so far this year, as backdated rent payments have poured in.
“It’s encouraging to see people returning to central London for work and pleasure; this is reflected in the increased occupancy rate of our buildings, the success of new rentals and a high level of rent collection, ”General Manager Gerald Kaye said in a statement.
“The feeling has moved away from [work from home] because companies appreciate the importance of the office to motivate teams, as well as to work collaboratively and with greater efficiency.
The British Property Federation had estimated that rent arrears for commercial property investors would reach around £ 7 billion between March 2020 and June 2021. However, those pressures have eased as foreclosure restrictions have been lifted and the deployment of vaccination has allowed a cautious return to the workplace.