The effects of the pandemic on Premier Inn owner Whitbread have become apparent in the group's 2021 financial year results with a statutory pre-tax loss of £1b.
Statutory revenue dropped 71.5% to £589.4m. However, Whitbread said it was "investing to win" for 2022 and expects to invest more than £350m, including opening an extra 2,000-3,000 rooms in the UK and its first major marketing campaign this month, which saw the return of Sir Lenny Henry to promote the brand.
The group said its balance sheet and liquidity position remained strong, enhanced by last year's £1b rights issue and the £550m green bond issue in February. At the end of the financial year, the business had access to £1.3b cash and an undrawn revolving credit facility of £950.0m.
Whitbread said it was well-placed to take advantage of the likely market structural changes, with supply contraction and constrained investment among independent and budget-branded operators in the UK and Germany. A three-year efficiency programme will target £100m of cost savings.
Chief executive Alison Brittain said: "The last financial year was one of the most challenging in our 279-year history, as we operated under significant Covid restrictions which had many implications for our businesses, our customers and our people. Our business model enabled us to respond rapidly to the changing restrictions and to quickly adapt our operations as required, prioritising the health and safety of our colleagues and our customers.
"This response was possible due to the efforts of our colleagues in our hotels, restaurants and support centre, who continue to work tirelessly to maintain our very high operating standards, customer service and health and safety. I am extremely proud of, and grateful for, their incredible hard work and commitment in this most difficult year."
Whitbread announced last week that it was targeting net zero carbon emissions by 2040.