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First lockdown anniversary will underline the resilience of the UK hotels sector


The anniversary of the first national lockdown will be a poignant time for UK hotels but will also underline the resilience of the sector, according to a leading agency specialist.

Julian Troup, head of the UK Hotels Agency team at Colliers, said that while the past year had understandably been challenging for hotels as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic it had also shown that the sector is ‘robust and resilient’.

“The anniversary of the first national lockdown on 23 March 2020 will be a poignant time for everyone connected to the hotels sector, as we reflect upon the absolute uncertainty suffered by owners and operators and their staff,” he said.

“However, as we move on from the unprecedented difficulties of the pandemic there are pluses to be drawn from the proactive way in which the sector has responded to the challenges of the past year.

“In particular, it has become apparent that the UK hotels sector is a robust and resilient business, and as we look ahead to the next twelve months and beyond it is clear that the outlook is positive particularly for leisure and destination hotels, and certainly far better than many of us would have dared to predict this time last year.”

Julian Troup said that judging by the experience of the Colliers UK Hotels Agency team, which is the largest provincial hotels agency team in the country, guests were set to return in force to hotels and transactional activity would increase correspondingly.

“It is not a case of if but rather when we will return towards pre-COVID levels, both in terms of guest occupancy and hotel sales,” he said.

“Hoteliers should brace themselves for a staycation surge, not only for this summer but for the year ahead and beyond. There is a huge opportunity for UK hoteliers to attract people who would previously have chosen to travel abroad for holidays and weekend breaks, but are now looking closer to home because of the restrictions, complications and expense involved in foreign travel.

“We will be seeing the rise of the UK mini-break during the second half of this year and the first half of next year, as people who have been cooped up in home offices decide to have a change of scene by taking occasional two to three night breaks, subject to any government restrictions.

“However, while coast and country staycation hotels will be moving on quickly from the challenges of last year, it is likely to be a longer path back to normality for those hotels in towns and cities, or mainly serving airport travellers, conferences and events.”

Hotel sales would also inevitably accelerate as the sector returned to greater normality and confidence improved, added Julian Troup.

“Transactional activity is definitely building, and we have already seen a substantial uplift in enquiries and viewings this year, the volume of formal viewings is up 44% for the first two weeks of March, compared with the same period of the previous month” he said.

“During 2020 many vendors sat on their hands believing they wouldn’t get their required price which resulted in a lack of quality stock coming to the market, and meanwhile many buyers were also sitting waiting for the storm clouds to arrive.

“Now things are starting to shift. Although in high value staycation areas there are still some sellers holding out for a higher price, we have been seeing more sellers being realistic and being prepared to consider offers. For some this is because of dwindling cash reserves, while others are motivated by personal circumstances.

“At Colliers we have had an increasing flow of opportunistic buyers contacting us, many from overseas, with strongest interest being expressed in hotels in staycation locations. It is very clear that there are still numerous well-heeled cash buyers out there, as well as prospective purchasers with support from their banks.

“In addition to those seeking to buy hotels to run them for that purpose, we have observed an increase in alternative use enquiries for lower profit hotels that could receive planning consent for change of use. Our experience of alternative use sales at Colliers during 2020 included residential, educational, self-catering, nursing and care homes, retirement development, and rehabilitation.

“Hotels have proven themselves as being robust and resilient, and able to quickly return to trading normality. We have seen in the past the likes of SARS, terrorist attacks and foot and mouth disease impacting on hotel trade, however once levels of uncertainty have subsided trade soon returned. We are social animals and people will return to hotels.

“In an attempt to remove that uncertainty, hoteliers have also adapted to COVID secure protocols and many have implemented new business plans to put themselves in the best position of optimising trade post the current lockdown.”

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Julian Troup

Head of UK Hotels - Agency

Hotels Agency

London - West End

I originally trained with a long established firm of Chartered Surveyors based in Manchester and have been working in the licensed, leisure and hotel property market since 1987. I joined Colliers in 2007 to head up our UK Corporate hotel operation. I was appointed Head of UK Hotel Agency during 2011.  Since the beginning of 2003 I have sold or acquired over 100 provincial hotels on behalf of clients of asking prices ranging from £1.2m to in excess of £20m.  In addition to the managerial responsibilities, I remain focused on handling larger private and corporate hotel transactions throughout the UK.

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