By Muvija M
(Reuters) -Holiday Inn owner IHG said on Friday demand was coming back strongly and forecast a busy U.S. summer season as travellers take advantage of an easing of coronavirus lockdowns.
COVID-19 vaccinations and the relaxing of restrictions in regions including the United States, IHG’s biggest market, have offered respite after a painful 2020, as has a trend to holiday closer to home in some of the company’s largest locations.
“There is clear evidence from forward-bookings data of further improvement as we look to the months ahead,” Chief Executive Keith Barr said.
IHG, which also owns the Crowne Plaza brand, said there was a notable pick-up in March, particularly in the United States and China, which had carried on into April.
While revenue per available room (RevPAR), a key performance indicator, was down 50.6% in the first quarter, it was up 20.8% in March, with the Greater China region seeing a jump of 288.6%.
Shares in the UK blue-chip company, which have more than doubled since pandemic lows last year, were up 0.3% at 0810 GMT.
FED UP OF BEING COOPED UP
IHG’s UK rival Whitbread also forecast last month a significant bounce in demand this summer as more Britons holiday closer to home.
“In resort locations, all of our hotels are very busy”, IHG finance chief Paul Edgecliffe-Johnson told a media call.
“People are fed up with being cooped up, people want to travel.”
He forecast demand for rooms in some U.S. locations would be greater than the availability this summer.
IHG, which had called 2020 the most challenging year in its 200 year history, said the risk of volatility remained.
“The situation in India is a reminder for everybody that the pandemic is not over,” Edgecliffe-Johnson said.
IHG said it had repaid 600 million pounds ($834 million) it had taken under a UK government lending scheme introduced last year to help businesses cope with the pandemic.
($1 = 0.7192 pounds)
(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru. Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Mark Potter)