Premier Inn owner anticipates UK holiday boom

Premier Inn owner Whitbread plc has reported a £1bn annual loss but said it expects strong demand for holidays in the UK this summer.

In its financial results for the year to 25 February 2021, Whitbread reported a 71% drop in revenues compared with the prior year, reflecting the impact of Covid-19 restrictions. Lockdown rules designed to help stop the spread of coronavirus forced the company’s hotels and restaurants to close for substantial periods of the year.

Chief executive Alison Brittain said that last year was “one of the most challenging in our 279 year history”.

Whitbread – which also owns the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurant chains – benefited from around £270m worth of government support during the year, including the furlough scheme and business rates relief.

This year the company plans to invest over £350m, which will go toward room refurbishments as well as new advertising featuring comedian and actor Sir Lenny Henry.

However, it also intends to cut an additional £100m in costs.

Under plans to further ease the pandemic restrictions in England, hotels are due to reopen for leisure stays from 17 May, alongside the full reopening of restaurants.

“The vaccination programme in the UK means we can look forward to the planned relaxation of government restrictions as we move into summer, with the first major milestone being the return of leisure guests to our hotels and the full reopening of restaurants from 17 May,” Brittain said.

“We expect a significant bounce in leisure demand in our tourist locations during the summer, followed by a gradual recovery in business and event-driven leisure demand.”