London hotels bounce back on a budget

Removal of travel restrictions triggers rush of holiday bookings

A Travelodge hotel in the Covent Garden area of central London. Getty
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Many central London hotels are already more profitable than they were before the onset of Covid-19 as travellers return to the UK capital.

Higher prices are making up for more empty rooms, according to data compiled by hospitality analytics company STR.

The biggest recovery has been among budget chains such as Travelodge Hotels and Premier Inn. That sector’s revenue per available room (revpar), an industry metric of profitability, was 8.6 per cent higher in April 2022 compared with February 2020.

Some of that demand is the result of surging inflation in the UK and elsewhere. While households are eager to go on holiday after the pandemic lockdowns, the squeeze on incomes means there is more focus on costs.

Britain is “becoming a nation of budget travellers”, Travelodge chairman Martin Robinson said this month.

What it's like riding London's Elizabeth line on the first day

What it's like riding London's Elizabeth line on the first day
What it's like riding London's Elizabeth line on the first day

London’s hotel bounce-back has also been helped by the UK becoming the hottest destination among European travellers seeking a break as Covid-related restrictions are lifted.

Travelodge’s view is backed up by fellow economy hotel group EasyHotel Ltd, which says occupancy rates in central London are above pre-Covid levels.

The chain, which is the sister company to airline easyJet, says the cost-of-living crisis is playing a part in peoples’ accommodation choices.

“Budgets are under pressure due to the cost inflation the country is seeing,” chief executive Karim Malak told Bloomberg.

“Guests choose to stay at an EasyHotel to save money, which they prefer to spend at local restaurants, attractions and events.”

The so-called upper upscale class, which includes brands such as Hilton Worldwide Holdings, is also more profitable than it was before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the upscale class is about 6 per cent off February 2020 levels, STR data show. The luxury sector, which includes names such as the Ritz and the Dorchester, also isn’t seeing higher profitability, as occupancy has yet to fully recover.

Still, average room rates are 22 per cent above levels at the start of 2020.

One positive for the luxury sector is the influx of wealthy travellers from the Middle East and Africa, who are seeking a break from the summer heat in their home countries.

While that has not been enough to lift occupancy to pre-Covid levels, rising daily rates are helping to mitigate the dent to profitability.

“International arrivals are playing a large part in this growth story,” said Robert Stapleton, director of hotel capital markets at broker Savills. “Continued strong domestic tourism and increased corporate spend are also fuelling this growth.”

Updated: May 25, 2022, 9:02 AM

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