Whitbread, owner of Premier Inn, has reported that the hotel brand's UK accommodation sales were "significantly" ahead of both last year and pre-pandemic in a trading update for the third quarter of the year.
During the period, total UK accommodation sales were 24% ahead of last year's third quarter and 37% ahead of the same period in the 2020 financial year, driven by increased occupancy, higher average room rate and estate growth, with a strong performance across both London and the regions. Food and beverage sales, meanwhile, were 8% ahead of last year, although 4% behind 2020.
For the five weeks to 5 January 2023, the group saw continued strong trading with total UK accommodation sales up 25% versus 2022 and 36% versus 2020. Whitbread said that, considering the decline in market supply, pricing was expected to remain strong, forward bookings were "encouraging" and directors remained confident in the outlook for the 2024 financial year.
During the five weeks, UK food and beverage sales were 13% ahead of last year and 6% behind 2020, and while the business issued no change to cost guidance, it said net cost inflation was expected to be between 7%-8% in the 2024 financial year.
Whitbread added that its operating cashflow continued to fund investment in both the UK and Germany, with net cash at 1 December 2022 of £284m.
Chief executive Alison Brittain, who is soon to step down and be replaced by Dominic Paul, said: "Despite a more challenging period for the UK economy, our winning business model continues to deliver outstanding value and quality for our guests. The strength of our forward booked position, robust pricing, estate growth and efficiency programme all underpin our confidence in the outlook for FY24…
"It has been an enormous privilege to lead Whitbread over the last seven years and I am pleased to be handing over to incoming chief executive Dominic Paul at a time when the business is performing well and when prospects for the future look bright. We have a strong balance sheet and compelling growth opportunities both in the UK and in Germany, and having worked with Dominic I know that he will bring great energy and drive to delivering them. I wish him and all my Whitbread colleagues every success for the future."
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