Whitbread bookings surge amid staycation boom

Whitbread has welcomed an uplift in bookings and trading since 17 May, when hospitality further reopened, as high levels of demand in tourist locations returned to the market.

According to the group, this was largely driven by the anticipated bounce in leisure demand, as well as the May half-term holidays.

Whitbread also welcomed “very strong” forward booking trends in tourist locations throughout the summer, and improved forward bookings across the majority of the rest of the estate, where demand has improved “markedly”. It noted an exception across central London and airport locations, however.

Total UK accommodation sales in Q1 FY22 were still 60.9% behind Q1 FY20, amid ongoing restrictions that remained in place throughout the quarter.

In its latest financial results, the group made comparisons on a two-year basis, comparing the current year performance to the quarter ended 30 May 2019, before the pandemic struck.

Despite lower sales over the period, the group said it traded “significantly” ahead of the market, while occupancy levels grew steadily from 35% at the start of the quarter to around 50% in the first two weeks of May, driven by “resilient” demand from business trades customers.

It comes as the majority of its hotel estate remained open during the quarter, with some hotels only requiring low levels of occupancy to contribute to fixed costs. By 17 May, when overnight leisure stays were permitted, 98% of the hotel estate was open. 

Overall, total UK accommodation sales improved to a decline of 27.3% in the 30 day period from 17 May to 14 June 2021 versus the same period in FY20, with occupancy levels at 74.2%.

Alison Brittain, CEO, said: “The group traded significantly ahead of the market during the quarter, despite the impact of the UK Government restrictions that were in place for the  majority of the first quarter.

“Trading in the UK since May 17, when overnight leisure stays were permitted, and when our restaurants fully reopened for indoor service, has been encouraging. Additionally, our forward bookings continue to improve, benefiting from the anticipated post-lockdown bounce in leisure demand, and a continued gradual improvement in business bookings.”

She added: “We hold a uniquely advantaged position in the UK, built on our scale, market-leading direct distribution, and strength of the Premier Inn brand. Our position as the market leader in the fast-recovering budget sector is combined with a broad, domestic focussed customer mix.

“This, alongside our financial flexibility and ability to invest in our customer proposition when others are constrained, means we are well-positioned to continue our strong performance.”

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