Q&A with Tony O’Brien, UK Development Director at Travelodge

We spoke with Tony O’Brien, UK Development Director at Travelodge

Name: Tony O’Brien

Role: UK Development Director at Travelodge

Who are Travelodge?

In 1985, Travelodge became the UK’s first budget hotel brand when it opened its first hotel at Barton-under-Needwood. Today, we operate nearly 600 hotels across the UK, Ireland and Spain and annually welcome over 21 million guests.

With a mission to provide affordable travel for everyone, we are currently looking to expand our UK hotel network and have identified a further 300 locations where we would like to open a Travelodge hotel.

Travelodge employs over 12,000 employees and is dedicated to its purpose of creating an environment where everyone can learn more, earn more and belong.

How many Hotels do Travelodge currently have?

Travelodge operates around 600 hotels and more than 46,000 bedrooms across the UK, Ireland and Spain. Around 580 of these hotels are in the UK, with approximately 80 in London.

Target locations?

Travelodge operates hotels from many different locations, including:

  • The heart of major city centres (London Covent Garden, Manchester Piccadilly, Glasgow Queen Street, Liverpool The Strand, Birmingham Moor Street)
  • Prime locations in major tourist areas (Bath City Centre, York Micklegate, Chester Bridge Street, Windsor King Edward Court Shopping Centre)
  • Central and Greater London locations
  • Edge of town and urban fringe sites
  • Roadside locations
  • Business Parks
  • Retail and Leisure Parks

We would therefore like to consider any suitable opportunities for a new Travelodge opening.

How many new locations are you targeting?

Travelodge has requirements to open over 300 new hotels throughout the UK and over 20 new hotels in Spain

Size requirements? 

The average size of our new Travelodge hotels is around 90 rooms, although the sizes tend to range from around 70 rooms in smaller towns, 80-90 in medium sized towns, 90-120 in larger cities and 80-150+ in London.

The minimum number of bedrooms that we require for new hotels is approximately 60 (although we may consider fewer in some key locations). 

For Travelodge hotels that include our Bar Café restaurant, each bedroom requires approximately 32 sq.m. GIA. For vending only Travelodges, each bedroom requires approximately 30 sq.m. GIA.

We do not have a standard footprint and can configure our hotels to suit most sites.

Where no on-site parking is needed (town and city centres, some Greater London locations and sites where suitable off-site parking solutions are available), the site requirement is simply the building footprint. A 20-bedroom footprint will require a site of approximately 640 sq.m.

For locations where on-site parking is needed, a parking ratio of around 1 space per 2 bedrooms is needed (in drive-to locations this will increase to 1.2:2). So, for these kinds of developments, our minimum site requirement is around 0.25 Ha.

However, it should be noted that we will open new hotels as part of mixed-use schemes, above or alongside other complimentary uses (including drive-thru, supermarkets, A3/A5, offices, residential etc.). In these instances we are often willing to share some car parking provision, which can reduce the total developable site area needed.

Where there is good ground floor demand and rental value, we are happy to sit above another ground floor unit and move our reception and Bar Café to the first floor, with a simple, small ground floor lift lobby for the hotel, in order to maximise development value and enable us to secure the best locations.

Additional requirements?

In addition to new build hotels, Travelodge will also consider office and other building conversions, either in whole or part. We will also convert other branded going concern hotels to the Travelodge brand.

Planning consent?

Hotel planning use (C1) is usually welcomed warmly by Local Planning Authorities, as it supports their Local Plan requirements to encourage tourism and visitors to their boroughs. Hotel use can also often facilitate securing planning consent for mixed-use projects.

Freehold or Leasehold?

Travelodge has a leasehold model of acquisition, taking institutionally-acceptable, FRI, 25-year lease terms, with 5-yearly rent reviews in line with the CPI index, collared and capped at 0% & 4%. This allows maximum flexibility, enabling Travelodge to form part of mixed-use developments, open in the best locations and to add value to the overall investment package.

We enter into Agreements for Lease and Leases with developers, conditional on receipt of planning permission and have standard contracts drawn on fair, institutionally-acceptable terms.

Our developers build the new Travelodge hotels to a full turnkey specification, in accordance with our Tenant’s Requirement Document appended to the Agreement for Lease. The new lease is then entered into upon practical completion, with the new hotel usually then opening for trade within 7 days of PC.

Additional Questions:

What are the main challenges you face when acquiring new property?

Current market conditions are challenging for new development of all kinds in the UK. However, Travelodge is trading strongly and well-placed versus our competitors and other operators to add value for new developments, especially mixed-use projects where the hotel can sit above other ground floor uses.

Favourite occupier and why?

Travelodge’s customers spend hundreds of thousands of pounds every year in the local shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and attractions. Good, complementary operators for us to locate alongside include coffee shops, pub and restaurant outlets and supermarkets. However, Travelodge also is an excellent operator for retail, leisure and business parks, with the hotel being a fantastic amenity supporting the parks and existing operators, who in return, provide excellent local amenities for the hotel guests.

What is your favourite building?

The Natural History Museum, London

Favourite retail or leisure destination?

Lords, the old Cardiff Arms Park and Old Trafford in the 1990’s.

Contact details?

Travelodge’s target requirements and email and mobile phone contact details for our Development Managers can be found here