The entrepreneur behind buy-to-let hotel scheme GuestInvest has brushed off talk of doom and gloom in the hospitality industry, insisting that there is an "insatiable demand" for hotel rooms in London.
In an exclusive interview with Caterer, Johnny Sandelson, chief executive of GuestInvest, revealed that the group planned to build 400-500 rooms each year in the capital for the "foreseeable future" as there is "insatiable demand for quality hotel rooms in London".
GuestInvest, which launched in 2004, currently runs two hotels, Guesthouse West in Notting Hill and Blakes in South Kensington. A further two, Nest and the Jones, both in Bayswater, are to open later this year, with the Chiswell Street hotel in the City opening in 2009.
Under the buy-to-let scheme, investors buy a room on a 999-year lease and can stay in it free for 52 nights a year. The investor earns 50% of the room's income and gets a guaranteed first-year return of 6%, plus any capital appreciation when it is sold on.
A number of non-London operators have jumped on the buy-to-let bandwagon this year, including Owner Hotels in Hull and York, the Skelwith Group at Flaxby Country Club near Harrogate, and the Four Pillars at Cotswold Water Park.
But Sandelson said that GuestInvest had no plans to move outside of the capital. "If you take London out of the UK's economy, it's one of the richest ‘countries' in the world," he said.
He added: "We'll look at other international cities in the future but we're grounded here for this year. I'd love to be in Manhattan, Shanghai and Mumbai."
Speculation is mounting over the group's plans to launch a hotel in London's Somerset House, after the name "GuestInvest [Somerset House] Limited" was registered at Companies House, but Sandelson refused to comment.
By Gemma Sharkey
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