BARCELO Group has pulled out of the UK hotel market – giving one of Blackpool’s biggest hotels a new identity.
The Spanish firm agreed to pay £20.25m to withdraw from an agreement to run 20 UK premises owned by Puma Hotels – including Blackpool’s Imperial Hotel.
Barcelo withdrew after failing to negotiate a reduction in rents it was paying to Puma – owned by investment firm Shore Capital.
Puma has now resumed the operation of the four-star hotels, including the 180-bedroom Imperial in Blackpool, 152-bedroom Imperial in Torquay, and Billesley Manor in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
It previously operated the premises under its Paramount brand prior to signing a 45-year lease with Barcelo in 2007.
The Spanish firm rebranded the property as the Barcelo Imperial.
But just five years into the agreement, Barcelo threatened to quit the UK if its calls for a rent reduction were not met – and preferred to pay the £20m settlement to do so.
In a statement, Puma Hotels’ head of marketing Jane Rawlinson said: “In such an exciting year for British tourism, we are delighted to have successfully launched Puma Hotels Collection.
“The new brand will focus on the unique characteristics and location of each hotel, whether through the local cuisine, the grounds, or nearby facilities and attractions.”
All of the hotels will drop their Barcelo branding and Chardon Management, already operating 33 UK hotels, is understood to be assisting in running the chain.
Clare Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool said she was delighted the Imperial looked set to be unaffected.
She added: “Thank goodness it’s going to carry on as usual.
“It’s important to the town and it’s a beautiful building.
“But we need continued investment in the property and I’d like to see what’s happening there.”
Mrs Smith said that the withdrawal of a chain the size of Barcelo from the UK was a sign of the times.
She added: “It is difficult times and we all need to pull together and we’ll see it through.
“Hopefully the changes at The Imperial are all behind the scenes and no one will know any different.”