Drop in hotel guests fails to make a dent in Thistle's profits

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The Independent Online

Thistle Hotels will continue to target corporate guests as the autumn business travel season kicks off despite admitting it was cautious about the short-term outlook amid the economic slowdown.

The group, which is London's largest hotelier with 22 hotels, said it saw a drop in the number of visitors in the second quarter, resulting from the worldwide slowdown and the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Ian Burke, the chief executive, said the group would try to increase the number of business travellers that stayed at its hotels by persuading financial institutions and consultancies to use Thistle for meetings and group bookings.

In the first half of this year, corporate guests accounted for 58.5 per cent of room nights sold at Thistle Hotels, compared with 52.7 per cent a year earlier.

"Our challenge is to persuade more non-users to try the Thistle brand and get them to see it as value for money," Mr Burke said.

In the six months to 15 July, Thistle reported a 4 per cent increase in profit before taxation and asset disposals to £29.4m on turnover also up 4 per cent to £168.3m.

The group said sales in the second quarter were flat, after increasing 12 per cent in the first quarter, as visitors stayed away from the UK. It added that the second half-year had started slowly.

Mr Burke said the group had outperformed the UK hotel market in the first half in terms of revenue per available room (revpar), which is the industry's profitability yardstick.

Revpar in London and the regions rose 5 per cent to £52.73, reflecting the £170m of capital that Thistle has invested over the past three years to improve the quality of its portfolio. Thistle shares gained 5.5p to close at 116.5p.

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