Whitbread eyes staycation demand as annual losses hit $1.4 billion

FILE PHOTO: A signage of the Premier Inn Hotel is seen outside the Durham North branch, in County Durham

(Reuters) – Premier-Inn owner Whitbread reported on Tuesday an annual loss of about $1.4 billion after COVID-19 curbs crimped all major travel in Britain for most of 2020, and said it sees a “significant” bounce in staycation demand during the summer.

The country’s hospitality industry suffered a major blow from the coronavirus crisis, with travel and entertainment spending severely limited by government rules to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Britain’s latest lockdown is still easing out, with hotels and cinemas set to open no later than May 17, according to a four-stage plan https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-britain-factbox-idUSKBN2AM207 set in February. More than half of Britons have also been given at least one coronavirus injection.

“The vaccination programme in the UK means we can look forward to the planned relaxation of government restrictions as we move into the summer, with … the return of leisure guests to our hotels” Chief Executive Officer Alison Brittain said.

Statutory pretax loss for the year stood at 1.01 billion pounds ($1.40 billion), compared with a profit of 280 million pounds a year ago, the company, which also owns the Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and Bar + Block chains, said.

Sales fell 71.5% to 589.4 million pounds, the company said, adding that occupancy levels declined to 23% in January and 29% in February.

($1 = 0.7197 pounds)

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)