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Poland Hotel supply: Spotlight on the provinces and the economy segment

The metamorphosis of Poland’s supply continues. In 2000, the country had 8,301 properties for tourism accommodations. In 2008 this figure was only 6,857. Poland is gradually seeing outdated collective structures – youth hostels in particular – disappear to the benefit of an all-new hotel supply. From 500 hotels in 1991, then 1,000 in 2002, the country has now grown to more than 1,400 hotels for nearly 75,000 rooms.The upscale segment was the first to benefit from this general trend and the number of 4* and 5* hotels doubled between 2003 and 2007. In addition to the global hotel industry leaders, Poland saw niche products appear, offering proof of a certain level of maturity. The boutique hotel Rialto has long been one of the treasures of the hotel industry in Warsaw. But the movement also reached the provinces as in the case of Blow Up Hall 5050 in Poznan, which opened last year. This conversion of a former brewery is the brainchild of businesswoman and art collector Grazyna Kulczyk. The decoration of this hotel is radical: black and white, a space where gusts are plunged into a universe of pixels by Rafael Lozano Hemmer, contemporary artist who developed the interactiveanimation at London’s Tate Museum.Growth continues for higher categories. Warsaw, a hub for businessmen, and Krakow, the heart of tourism, were developers’ initial targets. Today, groups are turning toward major cities in the provinces to fill out the coverage of their networks. “There is considerable potential. Their importance will grow constantly,” expects Krzysztof Steplowski of Qubus Hotel. Poznan, the number-two economic center in the country as well as Wroclaw, Lodz, Katowice, Szczecin, the conurbation Bydgoszcz-Torun and even the “Tri-Cities” – Gda?sk, Sopot and Gdynia – are all territories that hoteliers are trying to conquer.Thanks to support from Orbis, the major player on the market where Accor has control, Sofitel and Novotel now have 15 hotels. Radisson Blu has 5. Among projects for future implantations, Hilton has two properties in its pipeline, in Gdansk and Wroclaw, in addition to one in Warsaw. Sheraton, meanwhile, is preparing to inaugurate fifth property in Masuria, the land of a thousand lakes, a hotel targeting leisure and MICE clientele. The Novotel brand, meanwhile, is expected in Lodz, a city where the high design, 278-room Andel’s hotel opened in a former industrial mill dating to 1878. An Angelo Hotel, the cousin brand of Andel’s, will open in 2010 in Katowice.Qubus Hotel is following a parallel movement. This subsidiary of the Norwegian conglomerate Caiano has specialized in the opportunistic development of 4* hotels off the beaten track, targeting mostly local clientele. Thus the group has no hotel in Warsaw, but the brand is present in Legnica, Kielce and Gorzow and is planning to open a new property in Bielsko-Biala. The group also has 3* hotels in Zlotoryja and Zielona Gora.In secondary tourism cities, certain independent hoteliers are beginning to look for the guarantee of a global brand. In addition to two properties by the Premier label in Krakow and Katowice, Best Western is present in Zakopane, the country’s major ski resort, in Bialowiesa and Bialystok, near the national park Bialowieski, and in Oazow Mazowiecki in Mazuria. In the major cities, the strength of the distribution of international brands is also becoming an argument to stand out against the competition. The franchise could become an appreciated model. “At this time, the majority of hotels are independent. This situation will change and Poland’s hotel industry will turn towards a model based on franchising or leasing,” predicts the representative of Qubus Hotel, a group that is looking in this direction to pursue growth.The recent decision of the local Hotel System developer supports this forecast. This subsidiary of the group Salwator Capital, elected Choice Hotels brands to develop its turnover. Five properties in Krakow, Poznan, Katowice and Wroclaw will fly Quality’s pennant, while the hotel Grand Baltic Resort & Spa in Dzwirzyno will fly Clarion’s. Hilton Garden Inn will also use this development mode to leave its mark. The third contract was signed in December for an opening in spring 2010 in Krakow. It will open before those initially planned in Warsaw and Rzeszow. Patrick Fitzgibbon, the Senior VP Development for Europe and Africa, is proud of this interest in the brand: “There is significant demand from Polish owners and developers for contemporary and affordableproducts.”Midscale chain hotels are finding a natural position in the main cities in the country. In fact, development, initially concentrated on the upscale, opens the way for more affordable hotels. “In Gdansk, there are practically exclusively 4* hotels or youth hostels and pensions,” remarks Domenika Szulc, director of the Polish Tourist Bureau for France and Belgium. Mercure is logically the best represented brand with 13 properties and is seeing potential competitors appear. Scandic took over two Holiday Inn hotels in Wroclaw and Gdansk in 2009. And, among the new projects, Courtyard by Marriott should open near the renovated Warsaw airport.But, even more than the midscale, it is the standardized economy hotel segment that has the broadest growth margin. And it is this segment that has the highest concentration of new projects. By completing the Ibis and Etap Hotel networks, Orbis plans to grow the share of the economy offer in its supply from 25% to 55%. B&B Hotels also has important ambitions in the country with the construction of a first hotel in Torun that should lead to further properties. In this regard, Louvre Hotels’ plans are even more advanced. From 2004, the other leader European leader on the economy segment set foot in Warsaw with a multi-brand complex of Kyriad - Campanile - Première Classe hotels.Thanks to the JV signed with Austrian investor Warimpex, the group is now turning toward other major cities in the country. “The goal is to develop a Campanile network in the 15 largest cities in the country and reinforce the presence of Première Classe. We are coming with our last generation products. The design appeals to Polish clientele, as does our restaurant offer that corresponds to their expectations,” explains Olivier Derycke. Louvre Hôtels is pursuing a multi-segment approach with two Campanile-Première Classe complexes under construction in Katowice and Wroclaw. For the Campanile brand alone, following recent openings in Lodz, Zielona Gora and Bydgoszcz implantations may be expected soon in Lublin, Poznan and Szczecin.

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