Premier Inn owner braces for UK vacation boom
Whitbread, owner of Premier Inn, said he expects strong demand for UK vacations throughout the summer as Covid restrictions ease further from mid-May.
The hotel and restaurant company forecasts “a significant rebound in demand for leisure activities in our tourist sites”.
At the same time, Whitbread has laid bare the impact of the pandemic on its business, with annual losses reaching £ 1 billion and sales falling by more than 70%.
The firm said last year was “the most difficult in our 279-year history.”
He revealed he received government support of £ 270million during the coronavirus, including the leave program.
Whitbread, which also owns the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurant chains, said almost all of its 800 hotels in the UK and Ireland, around 92%, were now open. This compares to just 39 that were opened in the first lockdown when they were used to house essential workers.
Recent lockdowns have seen its hotels represent just 23% of potential occupancy in January and 29% in February.
The company said: “Strong demand for ‘stays’ in UK tourist destinations is expected throughout the summer, with demand for business and event-related leisure starting to gradually pick up afterwards. “
He also plans to invest £ 350million this year, which will go partly towards renovations, but also a new commercial, which will again feature comedian and actor Sir Lenny Henry.
Despite this investment program, he still intends to cut costs by £ 100million.
Last year he warned he may have to lay off thousands of employees and contacted landlords for a temporary rent reduction. He also dropped his dividend payout to shareholders, while directors and senior management agreed to pay cuts.
It employs some 30,000 people, 27,000 of whom were on leave under the job maintenance program.
Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain said: “The UK vaccination schedule means we can look forward to the planned easing of government restrictions as we move into summer, with the first important step being the return of holidaymakers to our hotels, and the full reopening of restaurants from May 17th.
“We expect a significant rebound in leisure demand at our tourist sites over the summer, followed by a gradual recovery in demand for business and event-related leisure.”