19th February 2015
European and USA expansion being considered
First partnership with Marriott International announced
Several new properties in the pipeline for 2015
Strengthening global market and return to form for conferencing emerging
A leading hotel industry figure has predicted a positive 2015 for the sector, and revealed renewed expansion ambitions following a string of successes in 2014.
Stewart Campbell, Managing Director of RBH, the UK's leading independent hotel management company, explained how 2014 proved fruitful for the company and has set the scene for a buoyant 2015.
He said: "2014 was an extremely strong year for RBH - we smashed our targets in terms of contracts secured.
"The announcement of our partnership with LRG for 19 Holiday Inns and three Crowne Plazas is the largest ever hotel management only deal in Europe, and has significantly increased our portfolio. We rounded off the year with a successful festive period which saw a 20 per cent increase in revenue across the portfolio compared to the same period in 2013.
"Our strong position means our strategy for European expansion will step up a gear in 2015 and is likely to follow one of two routes - either following an owner with a portfolio of existing hotels in Europe, or buying a small hotel management company on the continent."
Campbell also revealed that the company's growth aspirations now have the potential to reach beyond Europe. He said: "In addition to our existing ambitions, and in light of our success in 2014, our long-term vision has adapted. We are now exploring the potential to expand into the USA.
"Six months ago, plotted against similar companies in the USA, RBH would have ranked around fortieth in terms of portfolio size - but with our recent expansion we have jumped to around tenth. This opens up massive possibilities and, while very much in its infancy, a move to the USA is being considered."
Commenting on the sector in general, Campbell said growth had far outstripped the company's predictions for 2014.
He said: "This time last year we forecast an eight per cent year on year increase in RevPAR (revenue per available room) in the UK, outside of London. In fact, we've seen a 16 per cent year on year increase in the regions - 20 per cent in Scotland.
"We're also seeing evidence that hotels are being built and developed once again, which is good news. From RBH' point of view, we had the launch of Aloft Liverpool in November 2014, our first partnership with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, and the first ever UK franchise agreement for any Starwood hotel.
"There was also the recent £4m development and rebrand of The Point Hotel in Edinburgh to DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre. We recently announced our first partnership with Accor, which will see the opening of Glasgow's first Ibis Styles hotel in August 2015, and we have just confirmed our first partnership with Marriott International, via the signing of a new 240-bedroom Courtyard by Marriott hotel which will open in Edinburgh during 2016."
This upward trend will continue in 2015, according to Campbell, who predicts RevPAR growth in the regions of around six per cent year on year, despite an expectation that London's growth may slow a little, to around three per cent.
Campbell also noted strong emerging trends in the sector that RBH will aim to capitalise on in 2015. He said: "A noticeable trend is the strengthening of the global travel market. In London and Edinburgh in particular, despite supply increasing with more properties being built and launched, demand has maintained. New hotels are not displacing existing ones; they are simply meeting the increasing global travel demand, which is encouraging.
"The conference market is also coming back stronger than expected. We would have estimated that it would take another two to three years for this area to pick up, but we are definitely seeing strong improvement now. Lead-in time is increasing to around nine to 12 months and bigger conferences are being secured."
The immediate outlook for RBH is also extremely positive. Having developed strategic relationships with a strong and diverse mix of brands - from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Accor International, to Best Western and private label hotels - Campbell says the pipeline is strong in terms of new owners and brands he expects to work with in 2015.
He continued: "We are in a position to offer phenomenal choice to owners - we can match brands to locations very specifically, either in a consortia model, under a big brand umbrella, or as 'unbranded' properties.
"2015 will see a host of new openings from RBH - including ibis Styles in Glasgow, a five star Hilton in Leeds and Holiday Inn Express hotels in Middlesbrough and St Albans. We look forward to welcoming these, and others, into the portfolio."