Belfast Telegraph

Hotel group growing as its profits soar

By Graeme Evans

Food and hotel group Whitbread has set out ambitious plans for 50% more Premier Inn rooms in the UK and to double the size of its Costa coffee shop business.

The leisure group's five-year milestones emerged alongside results showing a 20% jump in underlying profits to £287.1m in the year to March 3.

Whitbread ended the financial year with 44,295 Premier Inn rooms and 1,871 Costa stores but under plans unveiled by chief executive Andy Harrison it hopes to increase Premier's UK capacity by 50% to at least 65,000 rooms. This will include 4,000 additional rooms in the current financial year.

For Costa, it expects continuing rapid growth in the UK store network and "even faster international growth" as the group looks for sales of around £1.3bn and 3,500 stores worldwide within the next five years.

Mr Harrison said: "We see a significant opportunity for Whitbread, building on our good returns on capital and the availability of quality sites."

Premier's drive for more of the leisure market, backed by an advertising campaign featuring comedian Lenny Henry, resulted in occupancy of 76.2% in the financial year, up 6.6% on a like-for-like basis.