Hotel demand helps Whitbread sleep easy

Kasmira Jefford
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WHITBREAD said yesterday that sales sprinted ahead in the second quarter of the year as major sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games helped to boost trade at Premier Inn.

The FTSE 100 leisure conglomerate, which also owns Costa Coffee, posted a 12.8 per cent rise in sales in the 11 weeks to 14 August, while like-for-like sales grew by 6.8 per cent.

Underlying sales at Premier Inn were up by 9.2 per cent, with group revenue per available room (RevPAR), a key industry measure, up 8.6 per cent.

“We are benefitting from a buoyant hotel market, especially in the regions. This has helped us deliver an all time high in total occupancy of 83.6 per cent,” said chief executive Andy Harrison.

Whitbread said it was on track to open 4,500 new UK rooms this year, with 758 opened so far this year. The group has a five-year plan to open 75,000 rooms by 2018.

It is also charging ahead with the expansion of the Costa coffee chain at home and abroad, with 300 net new stores expected to open by the end of the year.

Total sales at Costa’s 1,650 stores rose by 17.8 per cent in the quarter and by 7.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis, after last year’s weak performance when the hot summer deterred consumers from buying hot drinks.

Meanwhile, its restaurant division, which includes the Brewers Fayre and Beefeater brands, outperformed the wider market with sales growth of 1.7 per cent.

Whitbread has grown rapidly in recent years due to demand from cost-conscious customers for affordable hotels and an increasing trend for takeaway coffee, which has driven growth at Costa.

Commenting on the Scottish referendum, Andy Harrison said its 65 hotels and 100 Costa chains were unlikely to be affected: “I cannot see any impact on Whitbread which ever way Scotland votes.”

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