Whitbread raises target for Irish market

With its Premier Inn hotel brand dominating its segment in the UK, and growing its presence fast in Germany, owner Whitbread has now laid out plans for significant growth in another market, Ireland

Whitbread, owner of the Premier Inn and Hub hotel brands, has upgraded its expectations for the Irish hotel market. It has set a new, higher medium term target of 5,000 rooms in the Irish market, taking account of its experience to date, and of market fundamentals.

The company is already a dominant player in the UK market, and is fast building a portfolio in Germany, where it has 56 hotels open and a further 34 in development. It has previously seen Ireland as an add-on to its UK presence, and only launched in the country in 2018, when it acquired a development site in Dublin city centre. Today, there are six Premier Inn hotels in Ireland, five in and around the capital, Dublin and a recently opened addition in Cork.

Market confidence

“Our confidence for Premier Inn in Ireland is driven by the positive performance of our trading hotels in Dublin and Cork as well as our belief in the growing demand for high-quality budget hotel rooms in Ireland,” said Matt Gent, the company’s development manager for Ireland. “We are confident the brand will perform well in towns and cities across Ireland with strong local business economies and drivers of year-round tourist demand.”

Analysis suggests total consumer demand for hotel accommodation will grow to more than 20 million room nights by 2030, supported by a rise in international visitors, tourism demand and a strong economy.

Whitbread has now developed a network plan for the Irish market, with a wish list of sites for new hotels. These include 11 towns and cities across Ireland, as well as further additions in the Dublin area. Locations include Cork, Galway, Killarney, Kilkenny, Kinsale Limerick, Sligo, Tralle, Waterford, Westport and Wexford. In the capital, it would like hotels adjacent to Heuston and Connolly stations, and in South Docklands and Dublin 2. In outer Dublin, five new sites have been identified.

A flexible approach

Whitbread adopts a flexible approach to growing its hotel portfolio across all markets it is focusing on. The company will deploy its own resources to purchase development sites and conversion opportunities. It will also sign long term lease agreements with institutional investors, who then build hotels for it to occupy and trade from.

In December 2023, the group acquired a site in Dublin’s Sandyford Business Park, where it plans to build a hotel of around 150 rooms. That followed the acquisition of a development site in Dublin 8, where Whitbread acquired a development site with existing planning consent for a 100 room hotel.

The development pipeline momentum is evident in openings. In December 2023, Whitbread opened its largest Irish hotel to date, the 262 room Premier Inn in Dublin City Centre. That was followed in January by completion of Premier Inn Cork, a 187 room development carried out with development partners Greenleaf, Warren Private and Elliott Group. The project involved sensitive redevelopment of a local landmark, Moore’s Hotel, combining new build and reuse of existing structures.