Leading Bath hoteliers have signed a letter protesting a 206-bedroom hotel development, claiming the market is oversaturated.
Real estate investment, development and asset management company Dominvs Group acquired the Bath College Allen building (pictured) last year and has applied for planning permission to transform it into a hotel, restaurant, bar and café.
The development was said to count towards Bath and North East Somerset Council’s strategy to bring 500-700 new hotel bedrooms to the city by 2029.
However, local hoteliers including Andrew Brownsword, who owns the Bath Priory; Laurence Beere, managing director of the Queensberry hotel; Ian Taylor, who owns No 15 Great Pulteney; and Jonathan Stapleton, general manager of the Royal Crescent hotel, sent a letter on 9 January to the council claiming the target has been exceeded and the market is struggling to cope.
The group said the council has already approved more than 700 rooms in the last four years without considering the unregulated growth of Airbnb and the impact it has had on the market or the lack of growth in visitors staying in the city.
“We have as a sector seen a marked decline in occupancy and consequently in room rate, and overall decline in revenue per available room (revpar) because of the excess supply, and that is before an additional 310 bedrooms open later this year,” said Beere.
In the most recent AlixPartners Hotel Bulletin, Bath was the worst performing of 12 cities studied, showing a 4% decline in revpar during Q4 of 2017.
Beere continued: “There was a long-held misunderstanding that Bath was undersupplied, that there was a significant shortage of accommodation. That isn’t the case and hasn’t been for several years. The city is struggling to fill up its bed spaces. We’re not anti-development, in five to seven years’ time perhaps there will be capacity for more hospitality accommodation, but at the moment and certainly in the medium term there really isn’t.
“This is a platform to raise awareness of the real challenges that exist within Bath – lack of transport infrastructure, lack of parking, and we are chronically short of labour in the city.”
“Enough is enough,” added Stapleton. “Already we are at complete oversupply, there’s no way those rooms are needed in the city. The city has done nothing to increase the number of stayers coming into the city, but they’ve increased the number of hotel rooms.
“Bath had 1,007 rooms in the city in the three-to-five-star category in 2014. Now the council is approving another 206 rooms, which means that within a five-year period 909 new hotel rooms will have opened in Bath, that’s [nearly] double the capacity there was available in 2014. This complete oversupply of hotel rooms is going to have a major impact on all the existing hotels and the new hotels.”
Ken Arkley, commercial director at Hand Picked Hotels’ Bailbrook House, and Peter Rollins, director of marketing and communications at the Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel, have also signed the document.
Beere said the group is hoping the planning application will get referred to the development management committee so they can address these issues at a planning hearing, and they are in continued discussions with the local authorities.
A spokesperson for Bath and North East Somerset Council said: “Representations made in relation to the application will be considered as part of the planning process, however the council cannot make comments on live planning applications prior to a determination being made.”
Dominvs Group has been contacted for comment.
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