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Viewpoint: Hotels are a business you can count on

19 August 2016
Viewpoint: Hotels are a business you can count on

We may not know how many hotels we have in the UK, but what we do know is that there are countless guests demanding interesting places to stay, says Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels

When people hear that Pride of Britain limits itself to a maximum of 50 member hotels, they tend to express surprise until the reasons are explained.

In fact, it often prompts the question of how many hotels there are in the UK, and, perhaps like you, I'm still in the dark on that one. Various reports ascribe wildly different numbers to the total because there is no single register of all places to stay. The scope of some will include B&Bs and pubs with rooms, for example, while others may not. More than 25,000 is about all we can say with certainty.

My personal interest is of course in the number of independently owned and operated hotels that can be described as ‘luxury' or ‘boutique', and for that I'll have to wait for Melvin Gold's definitive report to be revealed at the Independent Hotel Show.

One thing we do know is that one-off properties comprise a huge chunk of the total and numerous sub-brands of larger companies seek to emulate the appeal of their smaller cousins by looking more quirky and distinctive than one expects from a chain. We should be flattered by this because it's an acknowledgement that a lot of customers actually prefer to stay in places that are under the personal direction of the people who own them. Just look at the number of privately owned gems that made it into The Caterer's top 100 Hoteliers' Hotels if you need convincing.

A curious feature of the hotel sector is that it always grows, no matter what the economic climate. As hotels fail they are usually sold to another operator, while new hotels continue to be built so the number of rooms keeps rising, thus supply outstrips demand in the bad times.

And there's another peculiarity: the bad times always seem to occur for different reasons. Even in my short life (no sniggering please) we've attributed periods of difficulty to a three-day week, the coal miners' strike, interest rates above 15%, war, recession, foot and mouth disease, terrorism, freak weather, mad cow disease and countless other nuisances. Through it all, hotels were bought and sold and the sector got bigger.

For this reason, I believe British hotels have everything to play for. One day we may even find out how many we've got.

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