Edinburgh Airport’s new Holiday Inn Express opens for bookings

The new Holiday Inn Express under development at Edinburgh Airport has started taking bookings from guests and travellers looking to explore Scotland.

The development of the 100-bedroom Holiday Inn Express at Edinburgh Airport is progressing and it will commence service in January 2014. UK-based hotel management company, Chardon Management, operates the hotel.

Chardon Management director, Nicola Taylor, said: ‘Catering for both the business and leisure markets, the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport, is the perfect base for exploring Scotland’s capital city.

‘The smart choice for travellers who need a simple, engaging hotel to rest, recharge and get a little work done – whether you’re on the way to somewhere or with us for a week – Holiday Inn Express hotels provide just the things that you need most and nothing more.’

The new Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport offers on-site parking for long and short stay guests. It also has free Wi-Fi Internet access throughout. Located near the airport terminal building, the hotel is only 5 minutes from the commercial district of The Gyle and Edinburgh Park, and 20 minutes from Edinburgh city centre.

The Holiday Inn Express brand is a mid-priced hotel chain within the IHG group. The brand’s hotels are intended to offer fewer amenities but at a reasonable price and are aimed at the business traveller and short-stays. There are approximately 2,200 properties under the Express brand, all of which have been developed following the brands inception in the USA in 1991.

Along with IHG’s other brands, Holiday Inn Express will be offering free wi-fi Internet connectivity at all of its properties from 2014.

Beaumont Hotel, Mayfair holds topping out ceremony

The Beaumont Hotel at Balderton Street in London’s Mayfair has held a topping out ceremony.

The Beaumont’s topping out comes after the recent completion of public works on North Audley Street, Duke Street and the opening of the redeveloped Brown Hart Gardens, which the hotel overlooks. The construction of the Hotel was started in 2011 and completion is scheduled for summer 2014.

Conceptualised as a joint venture between hotel developer, Grosvenor, and operator, Corbin & King Hotels, the hotel is designed to offer first class services in North Mayfair, a central area of London. It comprises 73 bedrooms and suites as well as public areas, including a restaurant and lobby bar, residents’ lounge, meeting room and spa.

Ian Morrison, development director for Grosvenor’s London estate said: ‘The topping out of the Beaumont Hotel is an important milestone for us and illustrates Grosvenor’s ability to deliver exceptional schemes that reflect the history of the area and are architecturally interesting.

‘The Beaumont is a key part of the place making strategy for North Mayfair and I am delighted to be marking this key milestone today and look forward to the hotel opening next year.’

The Beaumont is the first five-star hotel to open on Grosvenor’s Mayfair estate in the last decade, and the first time that restaurateurs, Corbin & King, have entered the luxury hotel market. Grosvenor’s on-going investment in North Mayfair reflects the wider vision for the area, to create an exciting destination for people to live in, work in and visit.

The North Mayfair hotel has been designed by Reardon Smith Architects, whose previous work includes the Four Seasons on Park Lane, The Savoy and Claridge’s. Grosvenor and Corbin & King have been working with contractor, Chorus, on the redevelopment of the landmark 1920’s neo classical, grade II listed building.

The hotel will feature the first inhabitable work of art by leading British artist, Antony Gormley, a sculpture that doubles as a unique guestroom for the hotel, and which will be unveiled in early 2014.

UK’s IHG to open 15 Holiday Inn Express Hotels in Australia

UK’s InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has said that international investment company, Pro Invest Group, has established a $150 million fund to develop a portfolio of 15 Holiday Inn Express hotels across Australia.

Pro Invest will set up a hotel operating company to initially build and operate 15 Holiday Inn Express hotels. The hotel chain will have a total of nearly 2,150 rooms, spread across Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. IHG will enter into franchise agreements for each of the hotels, and the first hotel will open at Macquarie Park in North Ryde, Sydney in the autumn of 2014.

The company claims that the hotels will be clean and simple, and provide a clear choice for business and leisure travellers that require a high quality hotel with free breakfast and free Wi-Fi. Holiday Inn Express North Ryde will have 190 rooms to meet the growing demand from the local business community for quality accommodation at a competitive price.

Ronald Barrott, principal of Pro Invest said, ‘This fund is comprised of a group of offshore investors, all who see the potential of investing in both the Holiday Inn Express brand, and Australia. We believe now is the time to grow this brand in the market and travellers will certainly benefit from having one of the world’s biggest hotel brands to choose from.

‘My previous experience in the UK tells me this partnership with IHG will be a long and successful one, and that there is plenty of opportunity to grow this initial portfolio of 15 Holiday Inn Express hotels to become many more in the years to come.’

Barrott had previously led Stannifer Hotels to become one of the UK’s largest and most successful select service hotel groups.

IHG Asia, Middle East and Africa CEO, Jan Smits commented, ‘The announcement of this investment fund comes at a great time for IHG in Australia. Our current hotel brands here, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, are already well known and regarded by our hotel owners, and Holiday Inn Express is a welcome addition. We announced our first signing under this brand earlier this year and that hotel will open in Perth, Western Australia in 2015. Pro Invest’s portfolio will launch with the opening of Holiday Inn Express North Ryde in autumn 2014.

‘We have established a strong hotel franchising model to provide owners and investors in Australia, such as Pro Invest, with a reliable and profitable alternative to our equally-successful management model. This is an exciting example of the growth and development of IHG in this market, and a strong sign of confidence in IHG’s offering,’ he added.

There are currently 30 hotels open and operating under IHG’s InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn brands in Australia. Launched in 1991, the Holiday Inn Express brand has now grown to over 2,200 hotels worldwide, the biggest brand within the IHG portfolio. A further 450 hotels are due to open in the next three to five years.

Ibis launches fixed rate summer offer for key European destinations

Ibis, a worldwide economy hotel brand and member of the Accor Group, has launched a fixed rate summer offer for the three key European travel destinations of Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Regardless of the format used to book accommodation at any Ibis hotel in any of the three participating countries, the price will be fixed at €45 (£38). The promotion, believed to be the first of its kind for any hotel group, is available to book immediately and will run until May 31. It allows for bookings of one or two people between the offer dates of June 1 and August 31 this year.

The offer is for all 74 Ibis branded properties across the three countries and includes those in the major cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, Milan and Rome.

Ibis claims to offer competitively priced, well-equipped rooms, welcoming staff that are available 24 hours a day, an uninterrupted bar and snack service daily, breakfast from 4 o’clock in the morning until noon, and free Wifi. The company is also offering its new bedding concept, Sweet Bed by Ibis, which it says has involved a thorough analysis of beds and bedding to arrive at a sleep comfort package to suit the whole family.

The terms of the fixed price offer state that it is subject to availability, that bookings are not cancellable and that it must be prepaid. A list of full conditions for the offer can be found at www.ibishotels.com and at www.accorhotels.com.

Established in 1974, Ibis now has more than 107,000 rooms and 900 hotels in 48 countries around the world.

Northern Ireland prison to become hotel

Armagh Gaol, an operational prison in Northern Ireland until 1986, is set to become a hotel and spa.

The listed building, which is an historic landmark dating from 1780, will be subject to a £23 million redevelopment that will turn it into a hotel with apartments. Viewers of the BBC’s Restoration programme, which was on air a few years ago and which involved a number of historic buildings competing for redevelopment funds, will recognise the former prison as one of the competing structures.

Seven shops are included in the design plans, in addition to 32 apartments, the hotel and spa and a heritage centre. The BBC has reported that the hotel’s en suite rooms will each comprise three of the former cells, and some original features of the prison will be preserved for inclusion in the new design.

Alex Attwood, the environment minister at Stormont, said: ‘This is a huge redevelopment scheme which will benefit all of Armagh and the surrounding areas for many years. It will contribute to the tourism potential of the Armagh area, providing much needed tourism accommodation within the city.’

As befits such an historic building, it has an intriguing past, having been the site of several hangings as well as featuring prominently in the sectarian conflicts of the 1970’s and 80’s. During that period the prison was used to detain female Republican prisoners, including those convicted of the London car bombings. Three of the women prisoners were involved in hunger strikes in 1980, as part of their demands for Republican prisoners to be given political status.

TripAdvisor launches format to boost business reviews

TripAdvisor, a travel information website featuring customer reviews and opinions, has launched a new review collection service to assist tourism-related businesses in obtaining reviews.

Review Express is a free facility that enables businesses to send a customised e-mail simultaneously to a large number of their recent customers, requesting them to post a review of their visit. TripAdvisor claims that the importance of reviews to businesses cannot be underestimated, as figures compiled by its own statistical format, TripBarometer, show that 87 percent of travellers worldwide said that they use review sites when planning a trip, and 95 percent say that they are influenced in their decision-making by the reviews of others.

The new format is intended as a tool for restaurants, hotels, guesthouses, attractions and all other travel businesses that welcome guests directly to help build their reputation on TripAdvisor by quickly gaining reviews. It also provides the consumer with easy access to the review process, as the e-mail that they receive from the business in question has a ‘Write a Review’ link direct to the TrpAdvisor website.

Severine Philardeau, vice president of global partnerships for TripAdvisor, was quoted by Breaking Travel News, saying, ‘This is a time-saver for owners, providing them with a powerful system to manage multiple emails and requests at no cost to the business. Review Express has been developed and enhanced based on extensive user testing and is an invaluable service for hospitality business owners looking to build their online reputation. When used in conjunction with our free display offerings for owners, Review Express provides a great online marketing package for small and independent hospitality business owners to capture the value of user reviews for their property.’

Adagio brand makes UK debut in Liverpool

Adagio Aparthotels, a brand of France-based hotel group, Accor, has just opened its first UK property in the city of Liverpool.

Designed as a long stay hotel, the Liverpool Adagio has 126 self-contained apartments with their own fully equipped kitchens, but guests will also have the benefit of hotel services, including a fitness room, a laundry and two meeting rooms.

The new hotel, which is located near to the city’s Albert Dock, brings the company’s aparthotel ethos to the UK, adding to its 90 existing properties in European cities including Berlin, Brussels, Munich, Paris, Rome and Vienna. Another 60 aparthotels are scheduled to open around the world by 2016.

The managing director of Accor UK & Ireland, Thomas Dubaere, said, ‘The launch of Adagio is another significant step for Accor as we continue to grow our network and strengthen our brand portfolio in the UK. Accor invests in key strategically located cities. Liverpool is a fantastic city with lots on offer for business and leisure guests and the opening of this aparthotel is proof of Accor’s expansion across the UK and not just in the Capital.’

Rooms at the Adagio Liverpool are priced from £65 per night.

Accor Hotels has its headquarters in Paris, France, from where it operates and franchises over 3,500 hotels that are based on five continents. The group’s budget brands include hotelF1, ibis and ibis styles. Its midscale brands include Grand Mercure (including Grand Mercure Appartments), Mei Jue, a Chinese adaptation of the Grand Mercure brand, Pullman and Mgallery. Sofitel is the group’s luxury brand and includes Sofitel So and Sofitel Legends.

Latest Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com

Hotels.com has launched its biannual Hotel Price Index (HPI), which compares hotel room prices paid in 2012 with those paid in 2011.

The latest report shows that prices went up in the period for UK travellers overall, despite 47 of the 115 countries covered by the report showing a price decrease, and prices remaining unchanged in six others. So, 63 countries registered price increases, and prices are likely to rise still further in 2013 as a range of negative economic conditions, recently compounded by the UK’s credit rating being downgraded, impact to weaken the pound.

A number of European cities saw the biggest price reductions in 2012, especially in those countries most affected by the poor economic situation. Prices in Athens fell by 10 percent to an average of £72 per night. For similar reasons, the prices in Rome fell by 9 percent to £106 per night, and those in Madrid fell by 8 percent to an average room per night price of £82. Less obviously affected by a weak economy, but still showing a price reduction of 8 percent, the average room price in Amsterdam fell to £106.

London’s expected bumper year never quite materialised, with the average room price in the UK’s capital hovering around the £110 mark, a reduction of 7 percent on the previous year.

While the biggest price increase for a single destination went to Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, which registered a 34 percent hike to £92, it was the USA that registered healthy price increases across all of its 15 destinations considered for the report. San Francisco grew by 20 percent to register an average of £136, while Orlando saw an increase of 18 percent to £73.

Other big winners included Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, with an average price increase of 13 percent to £177 per night, and Japan, where Kyoto saw a 16 percent rise to £105 per night.

Bad weather impacts UK hotels’ January results

The bad weather that affected large areas of the UK in January is thought to have had a major influence on hotel results for the month.

Hotel room occupancy saw a predictable fall as snowy conditions impacted on travel, although room rates across the UK saw an increase, according to PKF Hotel Consultancy Services, a division of PKF, a global network of accountancy firms.

London hotel room rates rose by 0.2 percent to average £112.49 during January, while occupancy in the capital saw a decline of 4.2 percent to 67.8 percent, compared to 72 percent for the same month a year ago. Revpar fell by 5.6 percent to £76.31.

Across the rest of the country, hotel rates rose by 1.7 percent from a year ago, to an average of £53.33 for the month, while occupancy fell by 0.9 percent to 56.2 percent. For the UK’s regional hotels, Revpar remained stable at £29.96 when compared to the same month last year.

PKF’s partner for hotel consultancy services, Robert Barnard, commented, ‘The poor weather that much of the country experienced in January appears to have hit occupancy, and there’s very little that operators can do in the circumstances. The timing of the New Year bank holiday didn’t help either, and effectively meant that the corporate market didn’t restart until the second week of January. January is traditionally a quiet month so these results are unlikely to be make or break for hoteliers. However, with the economy likely to remain fragile for the foreseeable future, the industry needs all the help it can get at the moment.’

A History of Hotels in London

Whether it’s a weekend shopping trip to Belgravia, or a quick afternoon tea at the Ritz, hotels in London are steeped in history and tradition, and, despite the city’s reputation for high prices, there’s something available for every budget.

Even the grandest Georgian townhouse could be the most modest hostel inside, and the plain, even demure buildings of the past century might house the costliest exercise in five-stare hoteliery.

The hotel as we know it is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Prior to the 19th Century, ‘lodging houses’  or ‘coaching inns’ were the norm, and served the needs of a limited tourist market perfectly well. Coaching Inns provided facilities for horses and carriages, and even offered wealthy passers-through the chance to switch their tired team of nags with a fresh set.

These inns served the needs of the wealthy until the age of mass tourism dawned with the advent of the locomotive. Just as the rail network was gathering steam, Penny Magazine published what is now an interesting insight into the number of hotels in London in 1837.

As of April that year, there were just 396 inns, hotels and taverns. Of these, 34 were private guest houses, and ‘Palace Inns’ – that’s ‘a fancy hotel’ to you and me – numbered around 30. Nearly all were located in the modern-day West End. Compare that with the 1300-odd B&Bs and hotels in London today, and you can see that the last century and a half has been boom-time for the industry.

Much of that boom didn’t occur until the inter-war period, although the growing railway network had been laying the foundations for a massive expansion in tourism since the mid-eighteenth century. After World War II, hotels in London became increasingly popular as the city grew more expensive to live in. Between 1970 and 1985, the number of visitors to the capital increased by 50%.

During the 80s and 90s, luxury chain hotels sprang up in disused office blocks. Simultaneously, the budget hotel market was meeting a growing demand for travelers from all over the world who had taken advantage of budget airlines to satisfy their curiosity about one of the most famous cities on earth. Major international events like the Olympics have only served to fuel the market for hotels in London to suit all budgets.

The last player to enter was the internet, which made a final-act ditch to revolutionize the way we book hotels. Prior to sites like LondonTown.com popping up, the best you could do by way of research was ringing round a handful of places, clutching only a pen, pad and a yellow pages to reassure yourself you were being thorough.

Now, with an abundance of photos, user ratings and reviews at your disposal, comparing hotels in London is easy. It has made the industry more competitive, with a number of sites (including the aforementioned LondonTown.com) offering significant discounts on hotels, both plush and plain.