More hotel beds are needed in Portsmouth if the city is to boost visitor numbers, it is claimed.
More than eight million people visit the city each year, with tourism bringing £550m to the local economy annually.
Attractions and business leaders have backed a call for more hotels to be developed to help increase tourists’ lengths of stay, how much money they spend in the area and bring new business opportunities to the region.
Portsmouth City Council has put together a prospectus to try and tempt hotel chains, particularly high end ones, to consider investing in the city.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is one of the attractions getting behind the attempts to secure new investment.
Chief executive Lincoln Clarke says: ‘We’ve seen a great increase in our visitor numbers over the last year, and as a two-day attraction we encourage this move by the council.
‘We want to see our visitors stay in Portsmouth but sourcing accommodation locally is one of our biggest challenges.
‘We are in full support of this prospectus and recognise the need for investment in this area.’
Spinnaker Tower’s general manager Sarah Webb says Portsmouth is in ‘desperate need of more hotel rooms’.
‘We would support any effort to achieve this,’ she says.
‘It is incredibly important in order to develop as a tourism destination that we encourage more overnight stays and this can only be achieved if we actually have the rooms for it.’
Keeping tourists in the city for at least a night is one of the key reasons why the prospectus was developed.
Jack Busby, director at Gunwharf Quays, also says he welcomes the opportunity to encourage tourists to stay in the city for longer.
‘At Gunwharf Quays we’re keen to welcome more tourists and provide a premium outlet shopping destination for city visitors to enjoy,’ he says.
Questions have been raised about the need for more hotel rooms during the winter months without investment in other areas of the tourism industry, however.
BJ Schreuder, general manager at Portsmouth Marriott Hotel, said although there is a shortage during the peak season, there needs to be more activities for the winter months.
‘The demand is there for more rooms in the city,’ he said.
‘We need to create more of a demand in January to April and October to December.
‘Marriott has been looking at an opportunity in The Hard area, but I don’t know how far those plans have come along.
‘Other hotel chains are always looking at the city for opportunities.
‘But I think it needs to be an all-year around destination.
‘We need more hotels but we also need to create more business for the low season.
‘That would be by holding large conferences in the city or by having more attractions for people to come to.
‘Currently there are only six months of the year when there is the demand for more beds.’
Attracting businesses is a key issue if the city is to secure investment in the future, according to Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.
Caroline Collings-Wood, chairwoman of the Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Federation of Small Businesses, said the city needs more high quality hotels to entice businesses and hospitality into the city.
‘We need a diverse hotel offering,’ she said.
‘We need the seafront to have a wonderful conference centre and hotel.
‘If we did it could bring huge businesses in.
‘The perception is that Portsmouth is rundown. It’s starting to punch above its weight but it is still not seen as a city like Brighton.
‘I do think the council is working on it but I do believe we need something big.
‘While boutique hotels are great, and we already have some good restaurants, what we really need is high quality offering.
‘These things only open when you have really good accommodation because people often want to stay over when they go to nice places.
‘We need to do something to get something with gravitas that is well known.’
Maureen Frost, the chamber’s deputy chief executive, said there are ‘strong indicators that corporate demand for quality provision will increase as the economic recovery gathers pace’.
She said: ‘Hotel investors and developers need to understand what return on investment they can expect in Portsmouth.
‘We have a great story to tell, both on the tourism side and for business use. The prospectus shows strong demand for the city’s hotel accommodation with high levels of room occupancy and interest in hotel conference facilities.’
Action in city centre
THE construction of a new Premier Inn hotel in the centre of Portsmouth has recently started to take shape.
The former Midland House building has now been ripped down to make way for the new hotel and shops.
Supermarket chain Tesco and Costa Coffee have put their names forward to take over the lease of the two shops under the hotel in Dugald Drummond Street.
The development will be the latest addition to the city’s skyline, with an 83-bedroom hotel being built on the site of the disused 1960s-built Midland House.
Workers are already on site, with hoardings around it.
Once the new building is completed in mid 2015, Premier Inn will take a lease on the site for the hotel.
It is expected the hotel chain will move in and open during the 2015/16 financial year.
A Tesco spokeswoman said the company would like to open a store under the hotel and will be consulting with the public as the development starts to take shape.
Plans and capacity
A NUMBER of sites across the city are highlighted in the city council’s prospectus as possible places for hotels to be developed in the future.
Some of them already have planning permission and others have in the past which has not yet been acted upon.
The sites include Eastney Barracks, owned by the Royal Marines Museum, Lakeside North Harbour and Clarence Pier.
Sites such as Zurich House in Stanhope Road, Landport, have had plans drawn up that have never gone ahead.
Conditional planning permission was granted for a 210-bedroom Jury’s Inn and 93-suite aparthotel, which was renewed in 2010, but was not implemented.
A separate application for Number One Portsmouth, left, next to Portsmouth and Southsea train station, was submitted to planners for an 18-storey aparthotel, which is yet to be started on.
And the Portland Hotel site, which has permission, will be auctioned later this month.
Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, says there are other sites are also being looked at.
‘It’s good that the city council has put this together,’ she says. ‘Potentially we have got a site at Kingston Prison which would make a very interesting proposition.
‘The prison is being looked at as a potential hotel site which could have some community benefits to it.
‘The prospectus is a good idea and it is something that is long overdue. I know that the Marriott would like to open another hotel. We don’t have enough in the city.’
According to the prospectus, the Marriott in North Harbour is currently the city’s largest hotel, with 174 rooms.
It is one of only two four-star hotels in Portsmouth – the other being the Hilton Hotel in Farlington, pictured above, which is soon to become a Holiday Inn and lose its four-star rating – with seven classed as ‘budget’.
In total, there are 1,406 bedrooms in the Portsmouth area. Southsea has 476 bedrooms across 15 hotels, with seven of those classed as ‘boutique’ and one as ‘budget’.