Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Grant Hearn, Travelodge

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Grant Hearn, Travelodge

Overall ranking: 2 (ranked 4 in 2010)

Hotel ranking: 1 (ranked 2 in 2010)

Grant Hearn - Snapshot

Grant Hearn has been with Travelodge since he joined as chief executive in March 2003. He became executive chairman in July 2010 but remains actively involved, with his main focus now being to double the portfolio by 2020 via growth ventures. Travelodge, which is owned by private equity firm Dubai International Capital, was the first budget hotel brand to launch in the UK in 1985 and currently operates 475 hotels with over 33,000 rooms across the UK, Ireland (11) and Spain (3).

Grant Hearn - Career guide

Grant Hearn has hospitality in his blood. Born in 1958, he spent more than a decade with Trusthouse Forte, where his father Dennis was deputy chief executive in the early 1990s. In March 1995, he left to become operations director for Whitbread's Country Club Hotel Group, later renamed the Whitbread Hotel Company.

By the end of the year, he was promoted to chief operating officer after Whitbread bought Scotts Hotels and the Marriott franchise for the UK. In December 1996, he became the first managing director of Whitbread's rapidly growing budget hotel brand, Travel Inn (now Premier Inn).

In April 2000, Grant Hearn left to become managing director for the UK and Ireland at Hilton International. Three years later he returned to the budget hotel sector when he became chief executive of Travelodge. In July 2010, he moved into the role of executive chairman, concentrating on growth opportunities, with Guy Parsons stepping up as chief executive.

The same month, the group took on 52 hotels as part of a deal with real estate manager Prupim. The company had bought the "lodge" business from Mitchells & Butlers' and, with 2,000 rooms, represent a significant step towards Hearn's goal of doubling the group by 2020.

At the time, Hearn said: "This innovative deal represents the whole of last year's growth in one move and highlights Travelodge's excellent position coming out of the recession. We have an aggressive growth plan in place and with this acquisition we are on track to more than double the size of Travelodge hotels over the next ten years. We hope to explore further opportunities like this deal with other similar businesses."

achieve by the Olympics in 2012.

The group has also targeted the pub market with a £100m, 36 site expansion programme in partnership with the UK's resurgent pub companies by 2015.

Grant Hearn - What we think

As chief executive of Travelodge, Hearn shook up the UK's budget hotel industry with a gloves-off approach to expansion and rates, resulting in an impressive portfolio and an ability to thrive in recessions. The fact that rival Premier Inn has also benefited from his expertise (in the 1990s) has no doubt also been partially responsible for this group's continuing success whatever the economic turbulence.

Hearn, who won the Outstanding Contribution award at the inaugural Hotel Cateys in 2007, has never been afraid to do things differently. Similar to Sir Richard Branson, but with Travelodge as the ego taking centre stage, Hearn has overseen innovative approaches to hoteliership which have included joining forces with a supermarket to develop a new hotel, offering a bounty to the public for suitable sites and even adopting speed dating techniques to interview candidates.

He's not frightened to speak out either and has tirelessly fought the hospitality corner in the political and educational arena. He's presented to the Government on tourism issues many times and in 2006, he joined forces with Caterer to successfully prevent the implementation of a "bed tax" for hotels and was a vocal critic of Labour's lacklustre approach to tourism promotion.

He oversaw Travelodge becoming one of the first employers to sign up to the previous government's Local Employment Partnership in a bid to recruit the long term unemployed and 2009 launched the UK's first Foundation Degree in Hospitality, Budget Hotel and Retail Management in partnership with Westminster Kingsway College. The degree teaches new industry entrants the modern approach to operate a hotel in line with a retail business model - similar to how Travelodge operates.

In April 2011, Travelodge launched the UK's first Junior Management Apprenticeship programme targeting school leavers and offering an alternative to university. During the two year programme apprentices learn skills to operate a hotel, can work in a management position and earn up to £30,000.

Having moved to the more strategic role of chairman last year, April 2011 saw Hearn add a new role to his personal portfolio, becoming a non-executive director for London & Partners, the agency responsible for the promotion of London.

Some chairmen have a hands-off role, but as expected Hearn has ensured that true to form, his remains a more gloves-off role. His ambitious plans for expansion have already seen him achieve his goal of Travelodge becoming the biggest hotel operator in London by 2012 a good year before target. There'll be few who'll bet against him achieving the current goal of doubling the group by 2020 to 1,000 hotels and 70,000 bedrooms.

Grant Hearn - Further information

Grant Hearn's ranking in the 2010 100 >>

Travelodge appoints Gerald Lawless as new non-executive director >>

Travelodge celebrates 25th anniversary of ‘first' budget hotel >>

Travelodge takes on 52 hotels in £91m M&B deal >>

Travelodge set for £100m 36-site expansion programme >>Travelodge boss wins Outstanding Contribution award at Hotel Cateys >>

Travelodge boss urges Government to tackle decline in tourism growth >>" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Travelodge website >>

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