Whitbread has declared itself back open and ready for business after the most turbulent quarter in its history.
The Premier Inn owner said that 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.
First quarter sales plummeted 80% year-on-year during Q1, which largely reflected the fact that the vast majority of Whitbread’s UK and German estate were closed from the end of March.
Only 39 hotels remained opened, providing accommodation for key workers throughout the crisis.
Alison Brittain, chief executive of Whitbread, 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.”
One benefit of keeping 39 hotels open for NHS staff is that it provided the company with an opportunity to test new social distancing protocols and hygiene standards ahead of the wider opening of the estate.
“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,” said Ms Brittain.
In June, Whitbread completed a £1 billion rights issue, giving it additional financial flexibility and securing the business so it can withstand a long period of low revenues.
“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,” insisted Ms Brittain.
“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.”