Hotel group’s marathon effort for the Olympics

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InterContinental, the world’s biggest hotelier, is looking for a further boost from London’s Olympic Games this summer, it said yesterday, after reporting a 5 per cent rise in first-quarter profits thanks to strong growth in China and the United States, its two biggest markets.

The British-based group, home to the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and InterContinental brands, said with 79 days to the start of the Olympics it hoped to gain from assisting in running the 15,000-strong athletes village and lodging the games’ visitors in its London hotels.

Chief executive Richard Solomons said that its Olympic involvement, including its Holiday Inn sponsorship, would help the group’s hotels continue the growth they had seen during the early part of the year

“Broadly the momentum of the business is continuing, and we are very comfortable with the year so far,” he said.

He added that talks on the long-awaited sale of its flagship InterContinental New York Barclay hotel were still progressing with one exclusive buyer, which analysts said was likely to be the Qatari hotel owner Ghanim Bin Saad Al Saad.

The sale of the Manhattan hotel for around an expected £185m in return for a management contract has been going on for over a year, and is expected to lead to a share buyback.

Despite economic problems in Europe, Solomons said its business there had performed well with a strong reliance on its key markets of Britain, France and Germany. The hotelier, which operates more than 660,000 rooms in over 4,500 hotels worldwide, posted a first-quarter operating profit of $118m, which compared with an average forecast of $116m given by analysts. Revenue rose 3 per cent to $409m.

Mr Solomons pointed out that April was not a big month for hoteliers.