Monday, 22 May 2017

UNITED KINGDOM: Inbound Tourism Rises As New Projects Rise

A 43% increase in North American visitors drove an overall rise of inbound UK tourism in the month of March.

According to the British Hospitality Association’s (BHA) Travel Monitor, the number of visitors to the UK in March was up 23% year-on-year. Visitors from Europe saw an uptick of 4%.

The number of business visitors fell, with a drop of 6% when compared to the same period last year.

Spending by tourists to the UK increased by 14% year-on-year.

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: “Trading in March has been very encouraging and the low rate of sterling presents a great opportunity for our industry to welcome an increasing number of foreign visitors.

“With political and economic uncertainty increasing, it is more important than ever to ensure that UK tourism can compete. The UK continues to have a 20% VAT rate on tourism which is twice the average rate across Europe.

“Alongside businesses investing in the apprenticeship levy, rising business rates and the threat of online platforms such as Airbnb, this signals concern for businesses in the industry, four out of five of which are SMEs.”

Trade association UKinbound has released its manifesto for the future of Britain’s tourism ahead of the general election.

The manifesto is advisory to the new government, suggesting it builds new trade relationships across the world to create a “global Britain”.

In its proposal, UKinbound suggests that the new government increases funding for the GREAT campaign which aims to promote the UK internationally. It also asked for an increase in language teaching and the building of a world-class transport infrastructure.

UKinbound went on to suggest a reformation of the visa system to attract EU visitors, as well as asking for long-term funding for national tourist boards.

Deirdre Wells OBE, UKinbound’s chief executive officer, said: “I’m pleased to announce UKinbound’s tourism manifesto, which if implemented would enhance the success and competitiveness of the industry in the long term, leading the way to a new global Britain.

“The UK’s tourism industry is already our fifth biggest export earner and with the right support we have the capability to attract even more business from across the globe to the four corners of the UK.”

JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group have advised on the sale of Best Western Plus Reading Moat House for an undisclosed sum to Nine Group of Hotels.

The hotel is believed to be sold for a guide price of £12.5m, making it the 16th hotel in the group’s portfolio.

The Grade II listed hotel has 129 rooms and is situated near Reading’s city centre.

Vivek Chadha, director of Nine Group, said: “The Reading Moat House is a very strategic and long term purchase for our group. We plan to spend millions on the refurbishing and development on this hotel to make it a one stop leisure and business destination.”

Gavin Wright, director of JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to secure a hotel which presents a variety of opportunities for an incoming investor due to its superb location and surrounding market.

“Given the strong corporate occupier base, the property has scope to be efficiently repositioned with or without a brand in order to further grow RevPAR.”

Safestay has expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of three U Hostels-branded properties.

The group took on the European brand for a cash consideration of €3m (£2.6m).

This includes two Madrid properties; a 15-year lease with a 226-bed luxury hostel, and an apartment block with one and two-bedroom apartments which will open in 2018.

Its third property is a 2,300sqm building which will be converted into a 260-bed hostel which is due to open in 2019.

The contract will bring Safestay’s portfolio up to seven, including its properties in London, York and Edinburgh.

Larry Lipman, chairman of Safestay, said: “The U Hostels concept of what makes a modern luxury hostel is similar to ours, in terms of providing guests with the opportunity to stay in unique, stylish buildings, located centrally in gateway European cities.

The U Hostels portfolio is therefore an excellent fit with us.

“This transaction also represents our first step in establishing a pan-European network of Safestay hostels.

“Going forward, we will be able to offer guests the ability to transfer seamlessly between Edinburgh, York, London, Paris and Madrid.

All great cities and we expect this network to be expanded as we have further transactions under advanced negotiation and the capital in place to complete them.”

Amaris Hospitality, which owns Jurys Inn hotel group, has released a hospitality report for the consideration of the new government.

The findings of the report, ‘Driving UK Tourism: Sustaining growth in 2017 & beyond’, led to a discussion where Amaris called on the next government to improve the UK’s competitive edge with a pro-tourism and hospitality strategy.

Amaris hopes the plan will offer relief from the “spectre” of Brexit and inspire the next generation of hospitality leaders.

According to the report, 50% of industry experts felt the hospitality sector was unappreciated and needed more support. 45% of respondents felt visa and travel tax reforms were essential to ensuring the industry remained competitive post-Brexit.

Over half of those asked believed that the perception of hospitality careers in the UK was “outdated” as 40% suggested that the reliance on EU workforce was the number-one threat to the industry.

The report claimed that restricted access to UK talent was already putting pressure on the sector’s ability to recruit.

Further suggestions were made to reconsider tourism VAT and support regional and hub airports to incentivise inbound travel.

John Brennan, CEO of Amaris Hospitality, said: “Tourism is a crucial driver of the UK economy and the lifeblood of the hospitality industry.

“It’s evident from our research that we are at a crossroads; do we invest for the future and put in place a clear pro-tourism and hospitality strategy that will accelerate the growth of both UK tourism and hospitality, creating new opportunities for hospitality companies to pursue; or will we continue to leave ourselves exposed to consequences of Brexit that threaten to derail the industry.

“That is why we are calling on the next Government to sharpen the industry’s competitive edge so that we can play our part in making a success of Brexit.”

A new Holiday Inn Express Manchester opened in Trafford City this week claiming to be the first ‘modular hotel’ to open in the north west.

The hotel, which is made entirely from steel shipping containers, has 220 rooms and is the official partner of nearby exhibition centre, Eventcity.

The property was built to cater to the increased demand for hotel beds in Trafford City and is already fully booked on its first weekend.

The shipping containers were fully fitted with necessary interiors before being delivered to the site of the hotel.

Peter de la Perrelle, managing director of Tower Hotel Management, operators of the new hotel, said: “This has been a fantastic project for Tower Hotel Management to see through from its conception to launch, and, as the official partner hotel for EventCity, and being next door to Intu Trafford Centre, there’s already a strong demand for beds.

“EventCity has some huge shows coming up this year and we’ve been taking bookings well ahead of opening, with a full house for our first weekend.”