Hotelier of the week: Suzannah Richardson

The Holiday Inn Express – Heathrow Terminal 5 (formerly the site of the Quality Hotel) opened in September with 124 rooms. When phase two is completed next summer it will have 300 rooms, and be the largest in its brand category in Europe…

How successful has the opening been?

It has started extremely well. I’ve been really surprised by the amount of business we’ve had, and the amount of interest and awareness there has been at the hotel after such a short time. I think being part of the IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) brand has really helped as people tend to recognise the brand, and they know exactly what they can expect from it.

And what kind of customers have you had coming through the door?

We’re getting a fair share of business and leisure travellers. There are a lot of business people from the local area staying with us. There are those going off on holiday from the airport that stay the night before they travel, or even the night after they return. There are also our leisure guests going to Legoland. So, all together, we are attracting a good mix of guests, which is fantastic for the hotel and exactly how we want to continue.

When is the hotel at its busiest?

In general terms, we have our business travellers during the week and leisure guests at the weekend. But there is a bit of crossover, such as leisure guests in the week if people are flying form the airport. It really is a mixed bag.

What are your biggest challenges and long-term strategy?

Come the summer next year we will have opened the second phase, an extra 176 bedrooms, bringing us up to 300. We will be the largest Express in Europe, and much larger than anything else in our sector in the area. The first challenge was getting the hotel ready to open.  On the opening day we had to make sure everything was in order, and that the team was aware of the new brand standards, something they were not used to with the Quality Hotel. We have to make sure we leave a lasting impression on guests in order to ensure we get the repeat business. Keeping standards consistent is vital.

And what are your expectations for next year?

The Heathrow market is strong, and there has been growth this year and we forecast that the growth will continue. We’ve had the last few months to get to grips with the business and work out whom our clients are. We need to be ready for the phase two opening next year. We must continue to do what we are doing just now.

Richardson joined IHG in 2003 working at the Holiday Inn Northampton before moving on to Milton Keynes. She joined the Holiday Inn Express – Heathrow Terminal 5 hotel from the Holiday Inn Woking where she was operations manager.

 A night at the Holiday Inn Express – Heathrow Terminal 5 costs on average £92.

 www.hiexpress.com