But for a handful of exceptions, the Channel Islands’ hotel market is typified by independent guesthouses. But on 28 June it added a well-known brand to its hospitality market when Premier Inn opened a 91-bed hotel in the Jersey capital St Helier.
Facing on to Charing Cross and Pitt Street, it is Premier Inn’s first hotel in the Channel Islands, the island’s first mid-market chain hotel and the first hotel to be built in Jersey for more than a decade. And according to Whitbread Group, which owns Premier Inn, it is looking for other opportunities on the islands.
Plans for the hotel, which forms part of a mixed-use scheme that also includes a 5,000 sq ft Co-operative Locale store and 2,000 sq ft of further retail space, were approved in December 2014. The scheme was developed by the Channel Islands Co-operative Society from which Premier Inn is leasing its space.
“This is part of our strategy to have 85,000 beds [under the Premier Inn brand] by 2020,” says Derek Griffin, head of acquisitions – London and south and east England at Whitbread Group. “We’ve been looking to enter new markets. St Helier is a business hub and has a good tourism market – it seemed a good place to start.”
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He adds: “Our aim is always to be part of a mix of accommodation options. In St Helier, we are a small part of a wider and thriving market – this new hotel will give people choice. Financial companies struggle to find places to put people up affordably – we will cater to that demand as well as leisure visits.”
Jersey and Guernsey have faced a fall in tourism numbers since the heyday of ‘bucket and spade’ tourism in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s but still draw a significant number of visitors each year. For example, Jersey – an island of nine by five miles – attracted 727,000 visitors in 2017 and is on track to reach one million by 2030.
The hotel was officially opened by John Le Fondré, the chief minister of Jersey, who said at the launch that it was a “very welcome addition, and a tangible demonstration of confidence in our tourism sector”.
According to Keith Beecham, chief executive at Visit Jersey, the new Premier Inn will add an additional 3.3% of capacity in terms of the number of hotel beds on the island.
“We see our role as helping the world fall in love with Jersey and in a way Premier Inn is helping us to do that,” he says. “There are millions of people looking at its website and Jersey is visible to them on there for the first time.
“I have every expectation that Premier Inn’s investment will be a successful one and that other investors will look at opportunities here.”
Griffin says the hotel’s occupancy is high and that it is reaching maturity “very quickly“.
He says: “The signs are that we’re well ahead of where we expected to be at this stage. Judging by initial performance in St Helier, things are looking good. We’ve got an open mind and we’re looking at other opportunities. We have our eyes open to anything suitable.”
St Helier’s new Premier Inn is set to offer visitors choice. And if the firm’s plans to expand on the island come to fruition, those visitors could have even greater choice in the years to come.
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Premier Inn set to offer visitors to Jersey’s capital greater choice