Virgin expected to announce first London hotel by year-end

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Virgin Group is expected to announce its first lifestyle hotel in London by the end of the year.

Speaking to Boutique Hotelier at the Hospitality Technology Europe event in London on February 4, Virgin Hotels head of development Allie Hope said launching a hotel in the capital, the birthplace of the Virgin brand, was a “top priority” for the group.

“We’ve looked in Shoreditch, looked in Central [London] – it can be something a bit cutting edge with 200-300 rooms,” she revealed.

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Asked when a signing is likely to be announced, Hope said: “I’m an optimist because I’m a developer so I think by the end of the year”.

She added that the group would eventually establish a portfolio of “upwards of three” hotels in the capital.

The conglomerate, which launched Virgin Hotels in 2010, has yet to open its first property.

Two hotels are currently being developed in the US – in New York and Chicago – with the latter slated to debut in Autumn 2014 with 250 rooms, four F&B outlets and a club.

Hope said each of the four-star Virgin Hotels in the group would have its “own flavour”, differentiate itself on tone of voice and service style through hiring for attitude and training skillsets.

Each property will have a different designer and various partnerships with local suppliers.

“Technology will be a huge part of the concept – not necessarily developing our own but using what’s out there,” said Hope.

She said technology will be streamlined between the airline and hotels, so guests flying with Virgin will be able to pick up a film where they left off inflight in a Virgin hotel room for example.

Asked who Virgin Hotels had identified as its competitors, Hope said: “We haven’t identified one particular group but we will be competing with the lifestlyle sector, and even with some traditional hotel brands such as Marriott and Hilton”.

Speaking of the current lifestyle hotel market, she commented: “Comfort and ease of use is missing from the lifestyle space. You shouldn’t have to suffer for good design.

“The lifestyle segment hasn’t been scalable in the past. There’s Morgans with only 12 hotels, [Starwood’s] W has around 60 hotels and they’re a lot more branded now – they’ve lost their local flavour,” Hope continued.

However, she said Virgin Hotels’ biggest unique selling point would be the brand – and its loyal global following – founded by Sir Richard Branson.

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