Cappuccino to go and rooms to stay will create 350 jobs

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HUNDREDS of jobs are to be created in Scotland as part of a rapid expansion by budget hotel chain Premier Inn and Costa coffee, it has been announced.

About 350 jobs will be created over the next three years, as part of 10,000 new posts throughout the UK and Ireland, the companies’ owner, Whitbread, said yesterday.

The expansion will see the creation of two city centre hotels, one in Edinburgh’s Princes Street, bringing the total of Premier Inns in the capital to 12, and another in Glasgow’s West Nile Street, giving it a total of 17.

A further extension to an existing hotel in Fort William is also planned.

The three projects will bring with them an estimated extra 150 jobs, a mixture of full- and part-time permanent posts.

Premier Inn has 58 hotels across Scotland. It has plans for 10,000 Premier Inn rooms and will continue the aggressive expansion of Costa, which has increased its UK outlet numbers by 158 to 1,375 over the past year.

A Whitbread spokeswoman said there would be an additional 20 coffee shops in Scotland, creating an estimated 200 jobs.

The ambitious expansion plans were revealed despite a 0.9 per cent fall in like-for-like sales at Premier Inn in the 11 weeks to 16 February, although it said it had outperformed the overall hotels market, which was down 3 per cent outside London.

Costa coffee continued its “excellent” performance, with sales up 24.4 per cent, helped by store openings.

Whitbread, which has the most hotel rooms in Britain, said its size and flexible pricing had helped it win market share, as sales growth at its Premier Inn business and the broader sector stalled over Christmas and New Year.

Chief executive Andy Harrison said: “Consumers are still under heavy financial pressure, with falling disposable incomes. We think the economy is pretty flat.”

He added: “Premier Inn has outperformed its competitive set, benefiting from our commitment to maintain our hotels to a consistent high standard. Our scale, strong balance sheet and good returns enable us to continue to expand in line with our plans and win share of the hotel market.”

Professor Joe Goldblatt, an expert on international tourism and events at Queen Margaret University, Musselburgh, said that the European Union was predicting a net shortfall of 3 million hospitality and tourism jobs by 2015.

He said: “In 2014, we’re about to see major event tourism, such as the Ryder Cup, Homecoming 2014, Commonwealth Games 2014, and many other events that are happening in that year.

“If we don’t have the people to provide the high quality service that visitors from around the world expect, it’s unlikely that they will return, so our goal should be to demonstrate such excellent hospitality that they will want to come again and again.”

Prof Goldblatt added that businesses were also beginning to loosen their corporate travel spending, which would benefit budget hotel chains.

“For the past three years they have been locked down tight but now they’re starting to ease up because corporations are realising that they have to start selling again,” he said.

“They can’t just keep cutting, they now have to create new sales, and the only way to do that is to get products and services on the road.”