Man behind Jurys makeover has few reservations
John Brennan oversaw a financial restructuring that reduced Jurys Inn’s debt by 60 per cent and has set his sights on long-term growth
It’s not just been about debt restructuring for Jurys Inn. There’s a growth story at play, too, albeit a more modest iteration than was originally envisaged by Quinlan and his backers. In Christchurch, the lobby area has had a €300,000 makeover to give it a modern look with Costa Coffee added to the service mix.
“This is the start of a process that will see us spend in this particularly property something in the region of €2 million,” Brennan explains. It’s part of a wider £30 million investment across its network of 32 hotels over the next three years to keep them fresh and relevant.
It has already spent €2 million on its Customs House property in Dublin’s docklands while the Galway Inn is close to finishing its €1 million refurbishment. “We’ll renovate the Cork hotel between Q4 of this year and Q1 of next year,” Brennan adds.
This is a “good deal more than” merely keeping the properties ticking over. It’s part of a broader strategy to reposition the hotels away from the its historical label as a three-star budget chain to being “mid-market hotels”.
Is it a move from the backpacker to the briefcase? “I’m not sure we were ever in the backpacker [market] but we are very much orientated towards the briefcase,” Brennan says dead pan.
A greater push is now being made into the corporate market. Brennan reports that the Christchurch Inn has benefited from Ireland’s hosting this year of the EU presidency, which has brought plenty of officials to town for various meetings.
“We’re probably up 30 per cent year over year in our corporate business at the moment,” he says. “It really reflects the fact that we’ve got great city centre locations, a great physical product and we’re invested heavily in service and standards. We’re seen as good value for corporate travellers.”
Going mid-market has also allowed Jurys to increase its room tariffs. “Absolutely, there is an opportunity to raise rate,” he admits although he’s coy about the quantum citing various factors such as location and time of year.
Significantly better value
“The corporate market pays a premium in comparison to some of the other market segments we may have had previously. But at the same time these customers are getting significantly better value than if they were going to the more normal full-service, four-star hotels.” A night in the Christchurch Inn will typically cost you about €100 on a bed and breakfast basis. However, you will have to pay for wifi access.
It’s not just about refurbishment either. the Islington Inn in London is getting 143 additional rooms as part of a £13.5 million development. Planning permission has been secured and funding is in place with the builders slated to go on site within the next six weeks.
“That will open in the summer of next year,” Brennan says. “The hotel is incredibly successful and the Islington area is in a period of resurgence. The hotel is full most of the time and we’re looking forward to having that extra capacity.” Brennan says Islington is one of the Inn’s most profitable hotels. A night there will cost £140 on average. Jurys Inn is also in “negotiations” to expand its Edinburgh hotel. “It’s probably our third best performing market in the UK. London is probably number one and Aberdeen number two. We want to see another 130 bedrooms added to that particular hotel.”
Planning permission has been secured and it’s now a matter of finalising a deal with the landlord. “We’ll also renovate the existing hotel [190 bedrooms] as part of that process,” Brennan says. That would involve a spend of £3 million by Jurys Inn and up to £20 million by the landlord on the extension.
With its debts restructured and its shareholder base reconfigured, Brennan says Jurys Inn can also start thinking again about adding new properties to the chain or taking on management contracts.
“We believe there will be opportunities to acquire properties as they become available in the UK specifically. We could also see ourselves entering into long-term management agreements for owners who currently have properties that they want to rebrand.”
City centre hotels
Brennan doesn’t see Jurys Inn adding much to its portfolio here. “We’re open minded to projects in Dublin or other core urban areas. But we won’t manage resort hotels in rural Ireland. That’s not our core business or speciality. They need to be city centre hotels, [rooms with] 20sq m (215sq ft) or above, 150 bedrooms or more, and they need to be contemporary and well invested.