Deck the halls, put on the Christmas tunes and crack open the bubbly. The UK hospitality industry had high hopes that the first festive season without Covid restrictions for three years would spell a boom in trade.

The nation’s pubs, restaurants and hotels were looking forward to a bumper December and seeing their venues host Christmas parties and family gatherings once again.

However, a combination of train strikes, snow and frosty conditions have triggered a nightmare before Christmas for the industry and strings of cancellations.

Hospitality venues believe about a third of reservations will be cancelled during the peak Christmas-party period because of the continuing strikes by railway workers, which have also emptied out high streets and office buildings as shoppers and commuters opt to stay at home.

The spate of cancellations comes at the worst possible time: hospitality businesses usually expect to make a third of their annual sales in December. And they are struggling with soaring costs of food and drink, staffing and energy, all at time when consumers are tightening their belts.