Review of the Year 2010: Hotels

The Savoy finally opened in October after a three-year refurbishment

As 2010 draws to a close, we take a look back at how the hotel sector has evolved in the past 12 months.

January snow

The hotel industry kicked the year off on a low, as freezing temperatures brought the UK to a halt. The January snowfall was said to have caused havoc to hotels across the country. Those in the regions, where the snow fell heaviest, saw occupancy levels rise by 1.4 per cent on 2009, as a result of stranded guests being forced to bed down for the night. Hotels in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Manchester all saw occupancy levels increase too, although Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham saw a decline in occupancy for the month.

That ash cloud

The ash cloud spewed from a volcano underneath Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull glacier in April halted all flights in and out of the UK for weeks. Stranded passengers fought over each other to get a hotel room for the night, forcing occupancy up at airport hotels but driving it down at those in rural locations and central London. However, despite early fears, the disruption failed to affect the long-term trend of revPAR growth across the country. The majority of hoteliers also resisted the temptation to take advantage of the situation and raise room rates.

Travelodge’s budget bid for 2012

Following its £100m joint property fund with Twenty 10 to grow its stable to 1,000 hotels by 2020, budget chain Travelodge announced it was to open 26 hotels this year. By June the group had quit the British Hospitality Association, claiming it could represent its interests well enough on its own, and celebrated the opening of its 400th hotel. Guy Parsons succeeded Grant Hearn as chief executive, and by July Travelodge had acquired 52 hotels from Mitchells & Butlers (see Review of the Year 2010: Pubs) with aims to relaunch all properties under the Travelodge brand by November. With so many openings in 2010, the group is on track to become the largest budget hotel operator in London by the 2012 Olympic Games, with an “unassailable” 1000-room lead on competing brands.

David Cameron gets behind tourism

To the relief of all coalition Government doubters, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to “stand behind every effort” to boost British tourism, in August. He urged Britain to be proud of its potential to attract overseas visitors but advised the tourism industry to step up its competitiveness. He claimed the industry could potentially spearhead the country’s economic recovery, as one of the “best and fastest ways of generating the jobs we need so badly in this country”. The future looked optimistic with the backing of the Government, but unfortunately just two months later he cut the budget of tourism agencies VisitBritain and VisitLondon.

Hotel growth gathers pace

Once Britain had shaken off the January snow, the hotel industry began to kick into full swing. The UK’s weak pound and glorious summer sunshine helped encourage overseas tourism and boost the domestic staycation, while returning corporate confidence helped lift business trips and conferences. London hoteliers even witnessed a massive 18.9 per cent rise in Gross Operating Profit per Available Room (GOPPAR) in September – the highest in Europe.

Von Essen launches two hotels

It’s also been a busy year for luxury hotel group Von Essen, who acquired their 31st property Llangoed Hall in Wales in November from Legacy Hotels & Resorts. The group launched its first London site Hotel Verta in Battersea in September – the first integrated hotel heliport in Europe. The World Travel Awards also in November this year saw Von Essen win the Leading Boutique Hotel Group Award. The group has also continued with its plan to launch five new spas at its properties.

The Savoy finally reopens

After almost three years The Savoy hotel reopened its doors on 10 October 2010 following a mammoth £220m refurbishment. The famed hotel now features 268 bedrooms decorated in Edwardian and Art Deco designs by Pierre Yves Rochon, plus a glass-enclosed fitness suite and rooftop swimming pool. The opening had London foodies excited, with the lunch and dinner opening of the River Restaurant, previously only open for breakfast and Sunday lunch, the Beaufort Bar and the Gordon Ramsay Holdings-operated Savoy Grill, which launched a few weeks late.

Ryanair-style Tune Hotels launch in UK

A new player in the budget hotel scene arrived in London in August, promising to bring an additional 14 sites to the City by 2017. Tune hotels, a Malaysia-based operation styled on Ryanair’s no-frills budget offer, opened at South Bank as the group’s 10th worldwide property, offering a pay-as-you-use structure for services such as hairdryers, tea and coffee facilities, TV and WIFI. News of its second site acquisition came in December, with Broadgate named as the location, as the group confirmed it had secured funding for the development of its 15 London sites.

St. John restaurant to launch hotel

St. John operators Trevor Gulliver and Fergus Henderson announced they would be foraying into the hotel market this year, with the launch of a site on Manzi’s fish restaurant and hotel in Leicester Street. Opening late January next year, the 15-room boutique hotel will deliver modern, comfortable simplicity with a downstairs 60-cover restaurant, headed by chef Tom Harris. The decision to open St. John hotel was born from spying a gap in the market for a late-night restaurant with rooms. In a break from tradition, last food orders will be 2am, with the hotel built around the restaurant as a focal point.

Coworth Park boosts Dorchester Collection

The Dorchester Collection is another luxury hotel group busy at work this year. In September it launched Surrey countryside retreat Coworth Park (incidentally the set for Cheryl Cole’s Boot Camp episode during this year’s X Factor), with acclaimed chef John Campbell, formerly of The Vineyard at Stockcross, at the helm. The 70-bedroom hotel is surrounded by 240 acres of parkland complete with two polo fields, an equestrian centre, eco-luxury spa, indoor swimming pool and an impressive three restaurants. The group also announced this year that US chef Wolfgang Puck would be joining its new London opening 45 Park Lane, with his CUT high-end steak restaurant concept. Both are expected to launch in spring next year.

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