3rd February 2014

A leading hotel industry figure has predicted strong growth for the hospitality sector in 2014 as it emerges from the economic downturn.

Stewart Campbell, managing director of the UK's largest independent hotel management company, RBH, suggests early indications for the year show a return to form for the industry.

The figurehead of the firm - which oversees management of 56 hotels throughout the UK, Liberia and South Africa - outlined his predictions following a stream of sustained new business from international hotel developers looking to expand their portfolio in the UK.

Stewart Campbell said: "Looking at the outlook for the year ahead, 2014 certainly appears to have massive opportunity for the hospitality industry to get back on its feet after a tough few years.

"Within the hotel industry itself we've seen a sustained recovery throughout the last year, and in particular for Redefine|BDL it was a pivotal time for us. Merging Redefine Hotels and BDL Management strengthened our business and gave us the opportunity to restructure in preparation for large scale development in 2014.

"At a time of positive feeling about the wider economy and growing commercial markets, our projections indicate a strong year ahead."

The forecast from the business leader was echoed in a report by global investment specialists Ernst & Young this week which too forecasts a solid financial performance by hotels in 2014.

Significant developments on the horizon for Redefine|BDL include projects with some of the most prestigious international hotel brands in the world, including Hilton Worldwide and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The company's geographical reach will expand in 2014 with recent portfolio additions in London, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Shetland and Edinburgh.

Stewart added: "While for the last year or two consumer habits have slowly but surely crept in the right direction, 2014 will see things accelerate. Last year we welcomed a stark reduction on the discounted rates popular during the staycation trend of 2012 and coupled with increasing confidence in the corporate market, we're now seeing a noticeable shift away from travellers focusing purely on price.

"It's clear the tide is shifting and it looks like further growth is on the horizon. In London I expect to see RevPAR projections up 4 per cent year-on-year (YOY), while regionally RevPAR figures should hit growth of up to 8 per cent YOY, albeit from a lower base.

"Hotels on the whole will become more attractive to consumers for both leisure and business purposes. But with growth comes competition and hoteliers will rely more on reputation and less on price.

"At Redefine|BDL our growth strategy for the coming years will see a shift in paying more attention to inward foreign tourism - particularly with news that UK visa rules for Chinese visitors are to be simplified.

"From an investment perspective we plan to capitalise on the growing number of new build hotels, the project management of which our in-house team has huge experience.

"Plus, with the growing scale and resource, expanding into new markets including mainland Europe will be a key focus."

While revenues look set to increase with the return of customer spending, Stewart suggests one of the biggest challenges for hotel owners will be looking beyond 2014.

Stewart said: "For many years we've been so focused on working month-to-month given the economic uncertainty, however, for a sustainable business profit drives investment. One major issue hotel owners need to look at is deciding where investment is needed. Has the recession made us forget how to invest?

"In the long term the industry faces new challenges. Uncertainty around increasing energy costs will be a major talking point, while keeping one step ahead of consumer trends will be an ongoing challenge. It's safe to say 2014 will present many opportunities but it will be how we prepare and adapt for the challenges that will set our business apart."

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