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Jurys Inn keeps on developping

Established in 1993 as a brand, Jurys Inn was part of the Jurys Doyle Hotel Group until 2007, when the company decided to sell its midscale operations. At the time, Quinlan Private, a leading Irish real estate investor, acquired the portfolio and the brand, in association with the Oman Investment Fund. Jurys Inn has since undertaken an ambitious growth programme and the repositioning of its hotels.

Based in Dublin, the group now operates 30 hotels in Ireland and the UK and has taken a first step in Continental Europe, to reach approximately 7,000 hotel rooms. This ambitious strategy has been implemented since the arrival at the helm of John Brennan. Former regional Vice President for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, John Brennan is an hotelier by tradition. His father, Michael, was a legend in the original Doyle Hotel Group, and his brother is also in the hotel business. He left the Canadian group in 2007 to join Quinlan Private as Director of Hospitality and then took over his position as Chief Executive Officer of Jurys Inn from Niall Geoghegan, shortly after the separation from the Jurys Doyle Hotel Group in 2007. Jurys Inn was then purchased for €1,166 billion by Quinlan Private and its business partner.Jurys Inn is also spending €1.8 million on a new IT platform to drive revenues and reservations, after saving almost the same amount on operating costs through energy savings, re-contracting with suppliers, wages freeze… In the long run, the group is also counting on its environmental approach to save even more. Across all its hotels, Jurys Inn has implemented a range of green programmes, from installing energy efficient light bulbs to monitoring each hotel’s energy consumption using an external assessor. “Jurys Inn is set to be the UK’s greenest hotel group by becoming the first in the UK to have all its 29 UK and Ireland ‘everyday exceptional’ city centre hotels rewarded either a gold or silver award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme”, proudly claims John Brennan with an aim to achieve gold in all of them. This issue is not only a “green” gesture: “Over 76% of UK consumers are more likely to take environmental issues into account when booking their holiday this year while 54% of guests say that hotels should use sustainable energy sources”, indicates a survey published by the group which is already seeing a recognizable return on its investment to become more green. In fact, the target is cost savings of €1.2m over three years - savings which are then passed on to guests via low rates. That should be one of the many reasons leading to Jurys Inn’s recognition as the Best Independent Hotel Brand 2010.In 2009, Jurys Inn unveiled its new brand proposition supported by a new visual identity. The new positioning is centred around “Exceptional Everyday City Hotels” and justified a comprehensive review of the inventory. Joe Quinn, Chief Operations Officer, explains the refurbishment programme - €9 million in 2010 alone - is an integral part of the wider strategy to deliver on this brand promise: “The refurbishment programme will bring some of our older hotel stock - including Manchester, Islington and Edinburgh - in line with our latest properties and will ensure all our facilities are consistently of a high standard and fully meet the needs and expectations of both leisure and business customers.” He further insists on the reasons for the changes: “The new brand positioning is firmly in tune with our DNA of offering great customer service, great locations and a great hotel experience. Our ambition is to become the mid-market leader in the UK and Ireland hotel markets by putting hospitality at the heart of the hotel industry, which we frankly believe many of our competitors are failing to do”.The programme follows a significant €4.6 million major refurbishment and upgrade of two of Jurys Inn landmark Dublin hotels, at Christchurch and Custom House Quay, in addition to significant upgrades for the hotels in Cork and Galway. Further investment and refurbishment work scheduled for a number of the Group’s other properties this year will continue into 2011.The programme was conducted despite a challenging operating environment, as everywhere else in Europe, and rather poor financial performance. In 2009, the budget hotel chain’s earnings were down by almost 30 per cent, from some €50 million to about €35 million. “The final quarter of 2009 was better than expected,” explained John Brennan who also insisted that Jurys Inn has outperformed the market in Britain and Ireland, where revenue per room has declined by anywhere up to 20 per cent. He specifically outlines the key elements of the group: “efficient labour model”, keen pricing and city centre locations. “We’re not comparable to Travelodge or Ibis,” he says. “There’s no hotel on motorway junctions in the Jurys Inn portfolio.” One benefit from the downturn, insists the CEO, is that cost-conscious corporate clients have been happy to trade down to the Jurys Inn model. “I don’t think they’ll be going back... they’ll be staying with us,” he adds. A challenge that justifies the new image.The second major item on the agenda of Brennan’s team is to accelerate brand expansion. Despite a large debt since the acquisition of the group, the two shareholders, Quinlan Private and the Oman Investment Fund, and a syndicate of banks have provided an extra €60 million to support the business and finance the development in Britain and Continental Europe. In the meantime, the debt was refinanced, extending the maturity out to 2014 and shaving about €15 million a year off its annual interest payments. There is still the pending question of writing down the value of the business to reflect the collapse in property values and the global credit crunch. But this is for Quinlan Private to decide after conducting a complete audit.It doesn’t prevent the group from expanding its perimeter. And to help its development, Jurys Inn has appointed André Martinez as Non-Executive Director. The former Chairman of Morgan Stanley’s Global Lodging division until 2009, and former CEO of Accor Economy Hotels explains that he will “assist the transformation of the company as it takes advantage of the recovery in the hotel sector.”Thus, the group opened seven new hotels in 2009, including one in Prague, its first foray into Continental Europe. The hotel is operated under a management contract unlike the rest of the portfolio. “This was an opportunity to seize on a market that I happened to know fairly well from my previous experience. It was natural to go for it”, explains John Brennan. And a new property opened last summer in Bradford and a further three openings are scheduled for 2011 i.e. Portsmouth, Gateshead and Glasgow. “We also have properties earmarked for future expansions including our hotels in Islington and Edinburgh, both of which currently run at 90% occupancy, and closer to home the Custom House hotel, which has received planning approval for a significant extension,” says Joe Quinn. But for the immediate future the Chief Executive Officer considers that the market conditions are even more favourable on the British real estate market and therefore he intends to concentrate the future development on the British Isles. “In addition, we’re looking very closely at further opportunities for growth in the London market,” says John Brennan Among the recent openings, the CEO cites Aberdeen as a huge success for the company and comments on the slow start of the Czech property. “The market in Prague had a really torrid time in the beginning of 2009, but it’s got progressively better. Our occupancy rate is in the 60s and we’ll build from there.”The rooms’ design and décor in the new Prague hotel are in line with that in the brand new UK hotels and the recently refurbished rooms in Jurys’ Dublin hotels in Christchurch and Custom House Quay. “The design of these rooms was heavily influenced by feedback from existing and prospective Jurys Inn customers and represents a stylish new direction for Jurys Inn. However Prague will also offer some additional new features including complementary internet access, a laptop safe and a mini fridge,” said John Brennan.

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