Category Archives: Interviews in the leisure sector

‘My £125 million Travelodge transformation’ – Travelodge ceo Peter Gowers talks prices, kettles, beds and rugby

From basket case to billion pound business, Travelodge has undergone a remarkable turnaround in just three short years. The chain was on the brink of collapse with a debt mountain of £635 million in 2012. But last week its owners – led by Goldman Sachs – put the chain up for sale with an expected £1 billion price tag.

Small wonder that chief executive Peter Gowers, who has led the turnaround, looks cheerful as he lounges in one of the rooms at the London Waterloo Travelodge hotel. It took a £100 million programme, but Travelodge recorded sales of £497 million last year, with underlying profits jumping 63.5 per cent to £66.2 million and sales are continuing to grow this year.

‘It was a huge opportunity to turn round a fantastic brand that had been through some challenging times,’ says Gowers, who joined Travelodge at the end of 2013 from self-storage company Safestore.

travelodge chief executive
Travelodge chief executive Peter Gowers with his singing ‘Travelodgical’ puppets

While Travelodge would never claim to be the height of luxury, Gowers has managed to tap the market that wants unfussy, convenient accommodation at a bargain price.

‘We have very big corporations [as customers] like BT, Vodafone. The Government is our single largest customer – it wants to get good value for our taxes.’

But Gowers, who used to run InterContinental Hotels Group’s Asia business, believes the essential simplicity and value of the hotel is its strength as long as the basic product is kept slick and modern.

‘Travelodge was a very well-run trading business but through a succession of owners it wasn’t able to invest in its core product and when that happens, things get very difficult. With £100 million in the business, the performance has been dramatically improved.’

On top of the £100 million, a further £25 million was spent on the new ‘Travelodgical’ advertising campaign with its singing puppets – ‘the ads have been fantastically successful for us’ he says – while the rest was spent on refurbishing its 522 hotels, buying artwork, 38,000 new beds and painting a ‘blue signature wall’ behind every headboard. According to behavioural psychologists consulted by Travelodge, the blue wall makes people feel relaxed. Continue reading ‘My £125 million Travelodge transformation’ – Travelodge ceo Peter Gowers talks prices, kettles, beds and rugby

A coffee and a chat with Sir Rocco Forte on politics, religion and hotels

Sir Rocco Forte is not shy about revealing his political opinions.  As the nation approaches its most closely fought General Election in living memory, the veteran hotelier lets fly left and right – slamming Miliband, backing Cameron, mocking European bureaucrats and defending zero-hours contracts. He may be 70, but there is no sign of his energy waning.

It is all very heady stuff for a Monday morning, sitting as we are in the opulent surroundings of the Kipling Suite at Brown’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair.

‘The Conservatives are the best bet we have at the moment,’ he declares. ‘I wouldn’t say I was a big fan, but we’ve seen the economy growing faster than any other; they’ve created a load of jobs.’

rocco forte interview
Sir Rocco Forte is approaching 70 but retirement is the last thing on his mind

Continue reading A coffee and a chat with Sir Rocco Forte on politics, religion and hotels

My interview with Karen Forrester of TGI Fridays

karen forrester interview TGI Fridays

The TGI Friday’s restaurant chain turned itself around, thanks to a fire that gutted one of its flagship sites, I’m told in my interview with Karen Forrester from TGI Fridays.

While most bosses would consider this an unmitigated disaster, Forrester saw the destruction of TGI Friday’s restaurant in Birmingham as a chance to start again. Continue reading My interview with Karen Forrester of TGI Fridays