Premier Inn expects to reopen the majority of its hotels this month after enforced closure due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Only 39 of the budget properties remained open for use by key workers during the height of the pandemic, with sales plummeting by 79% in the first quarter of the financial year.
But this allowed parent company Whitbread to “thoroughly test” new social distancing protocols and hygiene standards ahead of a wider opening.
“The enhanced hygiene and social distancing measures can be rigorously enforced through our unique ownership model, which alongside new more flexible booking conditions means customers can book in confidence,” the company said in a first quarter trading update.
More than 270 UK hotels and 24 restaurants have now reopened with the majority of the rest of the estate due to reopen throughout July.
All 19 hotels are also open in Germany, including 13 new properties refurbished and rebranded as Premier Inn during lockdown.
A total sales decline in the first quarter of the “reflects the fact that the vast majority of the UK and German estate were closed from the end of March”.
Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain said: “We are very pleased to have commenced the reopening of our hotel and restaurant estates, which are now able to welcome all business and leisure guests. In the UK we currently have over 270 hotels open and expect the majority of the remainder of the estate to be open by the end of July.
“It is still very early days and therefore too early to draw any conclusions from our booking trajectory, especially as there has been volatility in hotel performance in other countries that relaxed controls before the UK.
“However, in traditional regional tourist destinations, we are seeing good demand for the summer months, whilst the rest of the regions and metropolitan areas, including London, remain subdued.”
She added: “Throughout the crisis we operated 39 UK hotels to provide accommodation for NHS staff and other key workers.
“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 and this, together with more flexible booking options, our value pricing and our superior network will ensure that our leading customer proposition is maintained.”
Whitbread completed a £1 billion rights issue in June, and Brittain said: “Our strong balance sheet, alongside both our leading operating model and the power of our brands, means that we are in the best possible position to take advantage of enhanced structural opportunities that we expect to become available in both the UK and Germany.
“This will mean that we are in a position of strength to continue to invest, increase market share, and over time create significant value for shareholders.”
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