Bristol hotel market gears up for rapid growth in 2016


Home to the river Severn, the longest river in the UK, Bristol is a rapidly moving city, with a thriving social scene and student playground, not to mention a buoyant hotel market dominated by some of the big name chains. Looking ahead its development is set to continue, with some new hotels set to stir things up and encourage more people to visit this attractive city.

Bristol is currently Europe’s Green Capital, the first UK city to be awarded the accolade, and is regularly voted as one of the best places to live in Britain, due to its eclectic and unmistakable identity.

Thanks to this it’s meant the city is being recognised as the fasting growing hi-tech sector outside of London, opening up a whole world of new opportunities.

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The city centre is currently undergoing some large scale redevelopments, including the long overdue improvement of the historic waterways, and is already reaping the benefits, welcoming a host of new arrivals to the city.

Bristol was named the overall winner in the Sunday Times Best Place in Live in Britain list in 2014, with the newspaper acknowledging many attributes of the city, from its social scene, scenery and heritage, through to the low levels of unemployment.

A big part of Bristol is its thriving student scene with two Universities – University of Bristol and the University of West England – sharing a combined student population of approximately 47,000, adding considerably to the vibrancy and economy of the city.

The area’s main shopping centre is Cabot circus, which opened in 2008 and is one of the largest retail-led city centre urban regeneration projects in the UK. With over 90 shops, 15 restaurants, a hotel and 13-screen cinema, as well as offices and 250 residential apartments, it attracts 17 million visitors each year.

The city’s transports links are continuously being developed with a number of significant projects underway to improve the services. Bristol Airport is currently in the process of undergoing a £120m expansion that is predicted to enable the airport to handle 11.6 million passengers a year by 2030.

This new expansion will attract a number of new retail and restaurant brands and includes an on-site hotel.

As well as this, a new high-speed rail service is being planned for 2017 and will see journey times to London cut to 80 minutes.

The long awaited development of Bristol Arena, a £90m development due to be completed in 2017, is expected to have a significant impact on the city’s leisure industry, not least because it will provide the city with a 12,000 capacity, live music venue, but this also forms part of plans to regenerate a large 70-hectare site known as Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.

This redevelopment is set to be one of the largest and most significant regeneration projects in the UK. Once viewed as a much wasted and neglected asset, Bristol’s waterfront areas are benefitting from a series of large scale developments bringing life to the waters’ edge with schemes such as Finzels Reach and Wapping Wharf offering mixed use developments and waterfront leisure opportunities.

A planning application to extend The Mall at Cribbs Causeway by over 50% has also been submitted to South Gloucestershire Council. The proposal includes plans to create new retail, leisure and restaurant space as well as a hotel, apartments and improved transport links, representing a £316m transformation of the area. If approved, it is anticipated the work will commence in 2017 and be completed by 2021 and no doubt the arguments whether this will have a detrimental impact on the city centre and other regional centres will continue long beyond that.

The eighth largest city in the UK with a population approaching 440,000, Bristol is a vibrant and passionate city that has its own unmistakable identity.

So what does this all mean for the city’s hotels?

Bristol’s hotel sector is experiencing significant growth, with hotels increasingly anchoring major developments across the city.

The city offers a plethora of accommodation options from quirky hostels such as the Full Moon and The Lanes, through to country estate hotels on the edge of the city, many of which are highly sought after wedding venues.

The city is also well served by a number of budget hotel operators, predominantly located at the Harbourside and near to the city’s transport hubs. However, one look at TripAdvisor and all the top-rated hotels are part of a chain or group, highlighting the distinct lack of boutique hotels. Could this be an area that is yet to be tapped into by boutique hotel developers?

With numerous, large scale developments underway, the city is set to welcome the arrival of at least six new hotels in the near future though.

In the city centre, the developers behind Finzels Reach plan to convert the former Courage Brewery site into a 168-bed Premier Inn, this phase of the development is due to be completed in 2016, with a further Premier Inn nearing completion at Lewins Mead, joining their two existing city centre hotels.

The aforementioned airport expansion will see the welcome addition of an on-site 201-bed hotel at the airport, managed by Hilton Worldwide group under its Hampton by Hilton brand, due to be open in spring 2016. Hampton will further enhance its presence with the opening at York House near St
James Barton, following the conversion of a former office block, which includes additional ground floor restaurant space.

The proposed extension of Cribbs Causeway also includes plans for a 120-bed hotel. Plans are in place for Bristol to welcome its first five-star hotel, with the £10m conversion of the historic Guildhall, located on Broad Street.

The Trevor Osborne Property Group plans to create a luxury 93-bedroom hotel with a spa complex, rooftop swimming pool, restaurant and conference facilities in this 19th century Grade-II listed building and adjacent Grade-I listed former Bank of England. This would be a welcome addition to a city the size of Bristol, which currently lacks five-star accommodation.

Whilst individual transaction numbers within the city centre remain low, primarily due to the fact that most hotels are operated by corporate brands, portfolio transactions continue apace, one such example being Marathon Asset Management’s acquisition of a 1,200 bed hotel portfolio earlier this year, which included Bristol’s Hilton Garden Inn on Temple Way. Other notable activity includes the rebranding of the Grand Hotel on Broad Street, one of the city’s best known hotels, formerly operated by Thistle, however since July now forms part of the Hotel Collection.

Thanks to Fleurets