Alex Pritchard, CEO of Kew Green Hotels, talks to Sydney PauldenAlex Pritchard is the CEO of Kew Green Hotels. That is a company name that may not be instantly recognised by hotel users, but it is very familiar to hotel owners. Set up in 2001, Alex’s organisation is responsible for the operation of 55 hotel properties in the UK. They are mostly run under well-known brands such as Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, , Crowne Plaza, Courtyard by Marriott, ibis Styles and Hampton by Hilton. It also operates some for independent owners.
When we take on an existing property’, Alex explains, ‘we make sure it is run according to the style and guidelines of the particular brand, but we also put our stamp on it to make sure it offers the quality we demand. In 2015 and again in 2016 we invested around £16m on refurbishing facilities.’
With 48 Holiday Inns, Kew Green is the largest franchiser of IHG properties in the UK. It also operates some hotels for independent owners. Amongst those is its largest property, the 5-star Grand Hotel in Brighton and the 4-star Richmond Hill Hotel in west London.
‘Most of the hotels owned or run by Kew Green’, says Alex, ‘are 3- or 4-star properties in provincial locations, including important business centres such as Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham and Portsmouth. Our immediate plans include acquisitions in more city centres, such as London, Manchester, Oxford and Cambridge. And beyond that, we have our eye on Paris and Berlin’.
Kew Green is now also to become known as a brand in itself. Its parent company is CTS, which is based in Hong Kong, where it has already established its first property under the name Kew Green Wanchai Hong Kong.
Kew Green’s annual turnover has now reached about £180m. ‘Of that’, says Alex, ‘around £18m comes in from the Meetings and Events sector. So it is obviously a very important component for us.
We have up to about 20 properties that we call our “power houses”. They are able to host major events. The Grand, for example, in Brighton can accommodate conferences for up to 1,000 delegates.
The smaller properties have facilities such as boardrooms for local meetings.
‘To provide the best service for event organisers, we have established what we call our Commercial Hub. Located centrally in Rugby, it is staffed by specialists who can ensure a speedy response to enquiries, matching each with the property that can offer the most suitable facilities. They can also take into account availability and budget.
‘Furthermore, we have now introduced a facility on our website, www.kewgreen.co.uk , that has online booking tools, so that organisers can actually book in their own events.’
Alex can be confident that his MICE business will grow. ‘We have experienced a 40% increase in enquiries for events and, in statistics recently released by a research company, we were the top hotel group for conversion of enquiries into actual business’.