Jonathan Schofield on the hotel bonanza that challenges Manchester’s tourism

HOTEL INDIGO opens this month, bringing a further 187 bedrooms into the city centre. Last year we had 9,420 rooms in the city centre. In 2018 that figure has grown again and is set to jump even further in the next couple of years - estimates say by up to 4000.

Confidential asked Sheona Southern, managing director of Marketing Manchester, about the implications of this surge. 

Wow. That is a lot of extra capacity...

“Our latest figures show that the visitor economy was worth £8.1bn to Greater Manchester in 2016,” she said, “an increase of 23% over the four years since 2012. Back in 2014 the Tourism Strategy for Greater Manchester outlined a target to reach £8.8bn by 2020, meaning another 9% growth is required from 2017-2020 and we are on course to hit that. 

“However, as confidence in the region grows and we get more attention from international markets, we have seen a significant increase in hotels choosing to open in Manchester,” Southern continued. “At the close of 2017 there were 9,420 rooms in Manchester city centre. Through confirmed projects we know that by 2020 we will have a minimum of around 13,000 rooms in the city centre, and with more projects waiting for the green light it could exceed 13,500.” 

Wow. That is a lot of extra capacity. Yet on many occasions this seems solely needed. From footy matches to one-off events, the bigger festivals and concerts to conferences and bumper Saturdays, hotels can be full to bursting. 

Dhn One Love Manchester Benefit Concert002
Bumper weekends involving concerts and football matches can make finding an available room a nightmare

You can get a room in the week for around £42. For that match game they were charging over £250

This time last year I was asked to find a last minute room for a Manchester United fan from Scandinavia. He wanted to attend a game at Old Trafford against Newcastle United. The only rooms available around the Piccadilly area were in the hapless Britannia Hotel, which I wasn’t going to recommend in a month of Sundays. In the end I got the guest a bed out at Salford Quays. Still, I was interested in what the Britannia might charge. You can get a room there this week for around £42. For that match game they were charging a figure north of £250. More competition might help reduce that ridiculous sum. 

It does present a significant challenge though. Sheona Southern again: “At the moment we have an average annual hotel occupancy rate of around 80% in Greater Manchester, and the same in the city centre, which is very strong. If we’re to maintain this 80% occupancy, we as an industry are going to need to grow the number of room nights sold within Greater Manchester by 1.5 to 1.7 million, on current levels, by 2020.”

Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester 1
Manchester's Radisson Blu Edwardian is one of the city's premiere hotels

This is a colossal leap. For the record we have around 11 million staying visits at present. In the Member’s Meeting for Marketing Manchester on Tuesday, the figure of an extra 1.7 million extra room nights was used to concentrate the minds of organisations and individuals involved in tourism to come up with ideas and strategies to fill those beds.

Of course, the huge Factory project, with its 6,500 capacity, is set to join the entertainment and cultural package in 2020, and there are several refurbishments and extensions of other venues and institutions such as Band on the Wall and Manchester Museum...but still, finding 1.7 million extra room nights is a mighty task. 

Yet the prize is great. If the city succeeds then it’ll be not only a bonus for our hotels, but an economic splash from which the ripples should spread much further.