The Irish Hospitality Management specialist sees Belgium and The Netherlands as a strategic hub for its expansion of short-stay and long-stay locations across continental Europe and expects considerable growth in the coming years with eight hotels in the pipeline.
Eleven hotels in Belgium and two in the Netherlands (more than 1,000 rooms) became part of the new umbrella management brand, PREM Hospitality, in September. PREM Hospitality has its headquarters for continental Europe in Drongen, Belgium and is a prominent player in the operational management (hospitality management) of hotels on behalf of local and international owners and investors. PREM Hospitality is preparing for a significant increase in the number of rooms it manages from 2020 onwards, when it will be opening several new locations, mainly in Belgium and the Netherlands.
A clear signal to investors
The PREM Group’s success story, which encompasses sector-related companies (including software solutions, digital marketing, central booking systems, loyalty programmes and business centres) as well as its new PREM Hospitality brand, started in Dublin in 1996. 23 years later, the group has grown into a significant European specialist in hospitality management, supporting 38 hotels in Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. First and foremost, the new ‘PREM Hospitality’ brand makes the establishments involved (2,900 rooms in total) more recognisable and renders communication with the various target groups more efficient. The umbrella brand also sends a clear signal to potential partners and investors.
“We have been something of a best-kept secret up to now,” explains Bouke Koppert, the Chief Operating Officer of PREM Group Continental Europe.
Bouke, who is in charge of the 20-strong team of hospitality experts in Drongen, near Ghent, has more than 20 years’ experience in the hotel sector. He has witnessed the industry’s development and how the hospitality market has become a profitable segment for both owners and investors. International expertise with local anchoring
“Quick wins are of little interest to us,” Bouke clarifies. “We consider the best possible returns in consultation with the owners and communicate in total transparency. The long-term result is that mutual trust increasingly leads to the extension of our activities with the owners.”
That is why Bouke does not believe in the paternalistic approach of large groups that are not anchored in the local economy. He explains the fact that PREM Hospitality now has locations in Brussels, Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam as well as medium-sized cities such as Nieuwpoort, De Haan, Delft, Mechelen, or even Oudenaarde in terms of their flexible approach and efforts to take the characteristics of each location into maximum consideration. “We work closely with the mayor and local authorities, and understand, for example, what types of restaurants are required or what types of hotels best suit a particular region, city, or street” adds Betty Houben, the Director of Sales & Marketing.
At the same time, the supporting role of a larger umbrella entity such as PREM Group turns out to be a decisive factor for international investors. With its local team of specialists in HR, sales and marketing who know how to translate the PREM-DNA into regional standards, PREM Group always has a head start on local players in hospitality management who have to rely on freelancers.
PREM Hospitality undoubtedly also has an advantage because of its presence in so many regions, which means it is less sensitive to temporary local problems and can therefore provide better stability.
The PREM Group Continental Europe team will surely agree that the cultural affinity between Ireland and the Low Countries, a shared viewpoint and a common approach make for an even smoother and more pleasant partnership.
In short, “Do the right thing.” Besides flexibility and transparency, other values such as ownership and a focus on results are also high priorities. This is entrepreneurship with both feet on the ground. “And driven by passion,” stresses Betty Houben. “Whether it’s here in The Benelux or at the parent company in Ireland, the PREM Group is full of passion. People who do not feel this passion will not feel at home here.”
With its own academy and various training courses such as the Irish leadership programme, which is accessible to all employees, PREM Hospitality ensures that all staff members can fully develop their talents and ambitions.
This passion is definitely reflected in the PREM Group’s plans for the European continent, in particular for Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. It has no less than eight new projects in the pipeline, representing a total of approximately 1,000 rooms or a doubling of PREM Hospitality Continental Europe’s portfolio, with the opening of Premier Suites Plus Amsterdam in early 2020 located in ‘The Hourglass’ on Amsterdam’s Zuidas. Furthermore the group will continue to open new locations in Antwerp and Brussels in the near future. PREM Hospitality chooses the best partners for all new locations when it comes to working with franchisors or a brand of its own such as PREMIER SUITES. PREM Hospitality has good relationships with IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), ACCOR, and the Radisson Hotel Group. Its flexibility is also reflected in the types of management contracts signed with the owners and investors and the range of services offered
PREM Hospitality has built up experience in managing a large number of segments in long-stay tourism, from budget to mid-market to top segment hotels. For all these categories, PREM Hospitality is always looking to offer the.guestsan experience, whether this is in the budget segment or the top segment. “What both tourists and business travellers want most is to experience something they can take home with them. And on longer stays, they want to feel almost as though they are at home.”
Evolution of the Benelux market
PREM Group was able to anticipate this feeling like no other by entering the long-stay market twenty years ago, at a time when few competitors were interested in this segment.
Today, now that the sector has become considerably more professional, the size of the ‘long-stay’ market is increasing dramatically. People travel for longer – especially for work – and in these types of establishments, safety and comfort are very much appreciated. This is borne out by the spectacular success of PREMIER SUITES PLUS Rotterdam, one of PREM Group’s own brands.
Bouke also expects a similar interest in this type of accommodation in Benelux: “It is important not only to see this in the context of the number of overnight stays. The space, the lounge, the feeling of being at home, being able to cook for yourself for example, and the availability of all the necessary services go down well with travellers.” These types of locations are also proving to be an increasingly profitable model for hotel owners.
According to Bouke, the Belgian and Dutch hotel sectors can look to the future with great enthusiasm: tourism is experiencing strong growth in our cities and metropolitan areas, the Asian market has now discovered us, and the globalisation of the economy is also having a definite impact on business bookings.