The owner of Heythrop Park Resort in Oxfordshire is in talks to open the UK's largest Crowne Plaza hotel.
Firoka Group chairman Firoz Kassam is in negotiations with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to convert his 405-bedroom Holiday Inn in London's Kings Cross to the business-traveller brand.
Kassam told Caterersearch that he hoped to start transformation of the property in the new year, subject to IHG approval.
The long-term IHG franchisee will also be on hand this Friday (8 October) for the soft opening of the new-build four-star Crowne Plaza Heythrop Park, which marks the culmination of £50m of investment at the 440-acre site.
The 197-bedroom hotel features extensive conferencing facilities as well as an 18-hole golf course, and officially opens to the public on 22 October.
Kassam plans to use the cashflow generated by the new property to upgrade the existing 153-room Heythrop Park hotel, which adjoins the listed 18-century main house, with the five-year project likely to see a reduction from 153 rooms to around 100 as the property is moved upmarket.
He said that there had been a definite improvement in the conference market, with £3m worth of bookings already secured for the Crowne Plaza Heythrop Park, but said rising costs such as VAT and labour, as well as planned restrictions on immigrant labour, would continue to challenge the industry.
"Interest rates are helpful at the moment but the banks need to start lending again. We didn't have to go to them for this project but there simply isn't any funding out there," Kassam said.
Firoka Group also has hotels at Studley Castle in Warwickshire, Beadlow Manor in Bedfordshire and a Holiday Inn Express in the City of London.
By Chris Druce
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