UK hotel bookings returning after Covid-19 slump, says Premier Inn owner

Hotel bookings for traditional regional tourist destinations in the UK are returning, as Britons plan summer trips to the seaside and the countryside, according to Whitbread, the owner of the Premier Inn hotel chain.

Whitbread has reopened more than 270 of its 821 UK hotels, and plans for the majority of the remainder to be operating by the end of July.

However, the Whitbread chief executive, Alison Brittain, said demand for hotels in regions and metropolitan areas, including London, remains subdued.

Brittain said: “It is still very early days and therefore too early to draw any conclusions from our booking trajectory”, adding that there has been “volatility” in the performance of its hotels in countries where accommodation was allowed to reopen earlier than in the UK.

Whitbread kept 39 of its UK hotels open during the shutdown to provide accommodation for NHS staff and other key workers, which the company said had helped it as its reopens the rest of its chain.

“This experience of successfully and safely operating hotels in a socially distanced environment provided key learnings and will enable us to deliver the highest standards to our customers as we reopen the rest of the estate. Enhanced social distancing and hygiene standards can be delivered consistently across our entire estate,” Brittain said.

In May, the budget hotel operator began to reopen its hotels in Germany, where it is has been expanding. It now operates 19 hotels in the country, including 13 properties which it refurbished and rebranded as Premier Inn during the lockdown period.

Whitbread has also reopened 24 of its 450 restaurants, including the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains, which are usually located next to its hotels.

Whitbread’s revenue fell by 80% in the first quarter of the year compared with a year earlier, as a result of the closure of the vast majority of its hotels and all of its restaurants during lockdown between late March and the start of July.

The company raised £1bn from its shareholders in May to shore up its finances, after it said it was burning through £80m of cash a month as almost all of its income dried up during the coronavirus crisis.

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