Whitbread sales halve as pandemic hits travel demand

Whitbread, the owner of Premier Inn hotels, said the coronavirus pandemic had caused its sales to more than halve as changing government restrictions and lockdowns knocked demand for travel.

Overall accommodation sales dropped 55 per cent below last year’s levels in the three months to November 26, which included strict government restrictions and a lockdown in England from November 5, the group said on Thursday.

Despite the limitations on travel, Premier Inn kept the “vast majority” of its hotels open during the period, it said, adding that it had managed to increase its UK market share marginally.

Occupancy levels reached a peak of 58 per cent for the quarter during September before tiered restrictions were introduced in England as well as a lockdown in Wales. During the English lockdown, occupancy fell to 35 per cent.

Whitbread added that under the current lockdown two-thirds of its hotels were open but that trading “remains challenging”. It also said that it would increase its losses in Germany, where it has been investing in new hotels.

Whitbread had net cash of £40m at the end of December, compared with £196.4m at the end of August.

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