Having recently taken over management duties at two new hotels, Focus Hotels Management is keen to demonstrate the results its expert approach can deliver
Focus Hotels’ success in the fast-moving hotel sector is down to more than just great facilities, it’s based on an indepth understanding of this competitive market and how to use this expertise to deliver consistent profitability. The business concept itself was established in mid 2007 by a partnership of three founding directors – Peter Cashman, Alun Edwards, and Tony Mylchreest, each with extensive commercial experience at a senior level in the hospitality and hotels market.
In brief, Peter, who is also chief executive of Focus Hotels, acted as a founding and main board director of CHE Hotel Group PLC for over 20 years and during this time was directly responsible for all aspects of the group. He has also held senior management roles with Centre Hotels. Over the last five years Alun was responsible for over 40 owned, managed and franchised hotels in the UK within the CHE Hotel Group, whilst Tony has spent 19 years working with the CHE group, including nine as operations director with responsibility for a large hotel portfolio.
As a result, Focus Hotels has become recognised as one of the top quality independent hotel management companies operating in the UK market. The company’s primary focus is the three and four-star hotels that lie in the middle of this market. “Our core offering today is quality management, which over the last two years, despite the recession, has demonstrated consistent growth in both turnover and profit, bucking all market trends. Within our portfolio we provide a full service offering to owners, managing all requirements of the business with the owners being able to fully stand back and look after their other business interests,” summarises Peter.
Currently this portfolio totals 14 hotels with more than 1500 bedrooms, all in excellent condition. During 2009 and 2010 Focus Hotels spent more than £10 million across its estate upgrading all of the hotels, and earlier this year rebranded ten hotels with Accor, one of the world’s largest hotel operating companies, under its Mercure brand. “We look to manage both branded and non branded properties as our approach is to always find the best home for each property, and we felt that the Mercure brand was the best for those properties,” explains Peter.
“We fully recognise that international brands such as Mercure provide significant volumes of business to the hotels under their brands through their close relationships with large corporate business travel agents and major corporate clients themselves. Both also have significant databases and extensive loyalty club membership schemes.”
One of the more unique characteristics of Focus Hotels’ portfolio is that all of the hotels the company operates today have been in, or just out of, administration when it took over their management. As such, they had been starved of capital investment for many years. Together with Focus Hotels the owners recognised that in order to become successful these hotels required significant investment, and this has since re-established the hotels within their markets as high quality establishments offering excellent facilities. Following the refurbishments Focus Hotels has seen significant returns on business levels and this is expected to continue over the years to come.
Today the hotels attract two main customer bases, as Peter elaborates: “The first is corporate, focusing on the middle market quality business traveller and small corporate conferences. We have a customer base of large local and national companies. Secondly, in the leisure market we have a reputation for offering our customers high quality leisure breaks including one of the few ‘all inclusive’ leisure breaks in the UK market. This is a very successful market for us and drives significant volumes of business to all our hotels.”
“As a management company we survive by the quality of the results we provide to our owners and that is recognised by the fact that owners continue to give us hotels to manage, such as the new hotels we have taken on at Bristol and Heathrow,” he adds. These latest additions have only been made in the last month, following the administration of Ramada Jarvis. Already the Ramada Hotel Heathrow and the Ramada Hotel Bristol, both four-star hotels, have been fully integrated under Focus Hotels’ management. In turn this has prevented the loss of 170 jobs, as the business is retaining all existing staff as part of this agreement.
Launched in 2008, the four-star Ramada Hotel Heathrow has 200 bedrooms, an excellent restaurant, bar, conference facilities, and onsite parking. Similarly, the Ramada Hotel Bristol, also four-star, has 200 rooms, a top quality conference facility, leisure services, and the Kiln restaurant and bar.
Peter elaborates on how these acquisitions fits in with Focus Hotels’ long-term strategy: “The current market, particularly outside of London, is very difficult with almost all hotel companies experiencing static or declining business. It is a fact that this market will provide opportunities for Focus Hotels to grow its estate, particularly as owners will want to put their hotels within a company that has demonstrated it can outperform its competitive sets within the market and deliver quality results even in these difficult times. We recognise however that this is going to be a challenging period for all hoteliers, with squeezed personal and corporate spending, yet we are always looking at new ways to drive business to our hotels. This includes branding but also a very unique direct marketing approach which brings significant business to all our hotels.”
The successful nature of the current London market means that the cost of property for investors wishing to work with Focus Hotels is almost unrealistic at the present time. Therefore the business is continuing to actively seek new properties outside of this hub which match its existing estate, primarily in the upper three and four-star markets. “We expect to see our company continue to grow over the coming years and have a target to have 20 hotels in our portfolio within the next few years, and then up to 30 hotels in the next five years,” concludes Peter.