Friday 7 May 2021 8:39 am

Holiday Inn owner IHG sees signs of recovery following pickup in demand

Holiday Inn owner Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) said it has seen a “notable” pickup in demand in the first quarter led by a flurry of bookings in America and China.

IHG, whose brands also include the Crowne Plaza, Regent and Hualuxe hotel chains said it outperformed the wider hotel industry in key markets following a rebound in demand in March and into April.

The FTSE 100 group added that while the outlook remains volatile, there is “clear evidence” from forward bookings data of wider pickup on the horizon.

IHG said this morning that occupancy in the three months to the end of March had averaged 40 per cent across its hotels, but had increased towards the end of the quarter.

Revenue per available room was down 53 per cent in January compared to 2019, but improved to 47 per cent below 2019 levels in March.

Shares fell 0.4 per cent to 5,026p at market open.

The trading update marks a major recovery for the firm, which reported an annual group operating loss of $153m less than three months ago.

IHG declared 2020 the most challenging year in its history after tumbling from a profit of $630m the previous year.

The hotel giant said holidays over the spring break season in America helped boost its first quarter balance sheet, suggesting a strong summer season to come as global lockdown restrictions continue to lift.

The bulk of the firm’s estate has now reopened following almost a year of on and off closures during the pandemic. Just four per cent of the IHG’s total estate — around 223 hotels — remained closed as of 31 March.

The group opened a further 56 hotels during the latest quarter, which broadly offset hotels removed as part of a streamlining of IHG’s estate.

It also repaid a Covid loan of £600m to the British government, ending the period with a cash position of $2.1bn.

Keith Barr, chief executive of IHG, said: “Coupled with our resilience as a business and the important work we’re doing to support our owners, develop our brands and expand our pipeline, we’re confident that IHG is well positioned for sustained growth.

“As the rollout of vaccines becomes more established, travel restrictions lift, and economic activity rebuilds, traveller demand will continue to grow and generate further momentum in an industry recovery over the course of the year.”