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IHG adds exceptional UK hotels for InterCon and Kimpton with Principal Hotels acquisition

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As was rumoured a few weeks ago, IHG announced today that it is buying Principal Hotels, and two De Vere properties, from Starwood Capital.

(Starwood Capital no longer has any connection to Starwood Hotels or Starwood Preferred Guest, although it did at one point.)

The acquisition is a joint venture with French company Fonciere des Regions which is acquiring the underlying property assets.

This is a great move by IHG.  In fact, I think it is a better deal than buying Regent HotelsPrincipal has spent a substantial amount of money in recent years acquiring historic UK city centre hotels and upgrading them.

By coincidence, I was in St David’s in Cardiff on Wednesday for the Qatar Airways press event.  I was also in the York hotel last year and was impressed by what has been done to it.

IHG acquires Principal Hotels

There are the hotels which are coming into the IHG family following the acquisition:

The Principal London (just reopened, the old Russell Square)
The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square
The Principal Edinburgh George Street (pictured above)
The Principal Met Hotel (Leeds)
The Principal York
De Vere Oxford Thames
The Grand Birmingham (pipeline)
The Principal Manchester (see below, the old Palace)
The Principal Blythswood Square (Glasgow)
The Principal Grand Central (Glasgow)
The Principal St David’s (Cardiff)
The Principal Oxford Spires
De Vere Wotton House

IHG acquires Principal Hotels

The hotels will be mainly rebranded as Kimpton with one or two InterContinentals.  Some have also been earmarked for IHG’s as-yet-unnamed new upscale brand.  This is a major development for IHG, which has struggled to do much with the Kimpton name since it was acquired.  Starwood Capital spent a vast amount of money on the hotels it has refurbished and, whilst potentially not quirky enough for Kimpton, will not require much to be changed.

It is a major kick-start for Kimpton in Europe.  To date there is only one hotel in Amsterdam, which we are reviewing again very soon.  A Paris property is under development but that is a while away.  Adding the best of the Principal properties is a major boost.

That said, the ‘Principal’ brand has started to get traction in the UK as a name associated with high quality city centre hotels and it will be a shame to ditch it, but obviously IHG – as a global company – won’t want to run a UK-only chain.

Keith Barr, chief executive officer of IHG said:

“We are focused on continuing to expand our leadership in luxury and upscale, which are both high-value segments with significant growth potential.

“Bringing Kimpton to such an important market as the UK is a key part of our plans, as is the introduction of our new upscale brand, which will provide an exciting, differentiated offering to both guests and owners.

“Together with the recent addition of Regent Hotels & Resorts to our portfolio, we are building real momentum behind our plans to deliver industry-leading net rooms growth.”

Don’t rush to make bookings.  The acquisition will not be completed until later this year and the hotels will still need to be integrated into the IHG booking system.  There will also be some disruption during the rebranding which will take place over two years.  Overall, though, this is very promising news for UK business travellers with IHG status.

You can find out more on the IHG website here.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. trickster says:

    The refurbishment of the Palace in Manchester has turned a once dowdy hotel into something really rather nice. Having worked just over the road from it for a few years, I’ve been to a couple of functions & meetings there before and after and the transformation is impressive. If this is the standard of them all then this is a great acquisition.

    • Agreed. I stuck my head in the door last time I was in Manchester and was impressed. I think Manchester and one Edinburgh will become an InterCon. I can imagine the Welsh Assembly keen to see St David’s become an IC as well.

  2. Nigel Williams says:

    Looks like the smaller chains are getting swallowed up. 🙁

    (Cheeky) O/T – Anyone here Marriot Platinum willing to book a room for me? Im only gold so dont get the guaranteed room availability (Need Twickenham for a concert) Happy to pay the party up front and let you earn the points! 🙂

  3. “Edinburgh George Street” was an Intercontinental not that long ago.

    • Mark says:

      Its sister in Charlotte Square (other end of George Street) was a Crowne Plaza until taken over by Principle a few years ago.

    • Scott says:

      I believe you may be thinking of somewhere else – it certainly hasn’t been an Intercontinental within the last decade that I’ve been walking past it & Wikipedia suggests it was called The George Hotel for 136 years before being renamed to The Principal at the end of 2016.

      • Rory says:

        The George Hotel was, for many years, The George Intercontinental, Edinburgh. Unusual, I know, for Wikipedia to be wrong.

  4. Also, Blythswood Square is, by some margin, the best hotel in Glasgow… I spend a year commuting there are sampled most of them. It’s definitely at the Kimpton end of the decor spectrum.

    • David says:

      You think? Can’t say I was impressed when I stayed there, and wouldn’t be in any hurry to return.

      • Well, I didn’t say it was great, just the best in Glasgow. Where would you stay in preference? The Hilton is grim, Malmaison worse. None of the others I tried were better and certainly not worth a long walk to the office.

        • I’ve not stayed in the Blythswood but the restaurant was pretty poor when I went and the bar has too much of a gin focus. A few cocktails for people who don’t like gin would be good.

          Indigo gets good reviews. The Radisson is meant to be decent too.

        • Genghis says:

          We stayed at Indigo in March. Thought it was excellent. Decent upgrade.

        • JamesB says:

          Most of the celebrities go to Malmaison, never know who you will run into in the bar. It got a refurb last year or year before I think, not been in it since. I have a soft spot for Grand Central, even before the refurb. Always felt like a set for a period drama.

        • AY-up says:

          The maintenance and cleaning at Blythswood Square leaves a lot to be desired (had to change rooms twice on a previous visit, and once on the following visit, due to inadequate cleaning and broken bathroom fittings), and the service recovery poor (last time they offered to bring us champagne to apologise; an hour later the room service person bemusedly brought us one glass to share between me and my partner). Of course, these are isolated personal experiences, but they’re enough to put me off the place.

          The Hotel Indigo is slightly better placed (for rolling out of bed onto the airport bus), and while the breakfast is not too great and there are some shockingly mediocre rooms (the top floor has low ceilings and particularly bad bathrooms), you get what you pay for and it’s not too bad. Cleaning has always been adequate.

          I was really impressed by the Ibis Styles, even if it’s not quite the same class of hotel. It does, however, lean a bit too heavily on the whole “people make Glasgow” thing with the welcome message on the TV all in local patois.

      • Scott says:

        Not been in the Blythswood since it became a Principal in 2015, but certainly prior to that, I’d say it was the best in Glasgow. Also, bar had plenty of cocktails to choose from, and a couple of local beers, although, again, that may have changed.

  5. Suzanne says:

    The Principal in Manchester is brilliant, I’ve stayed there a few times now. And the Refuge bar and restaurant attached are also recommended. The indoor garden area seating in the centre of Refuge is usually fairly empty and discrete despite being one of the prettiest bits.

  6. Scallder says:

    Not quite sure whether it’s the upscale brand you’re referring to, but I’m staying at a refurbished Crqone Plaza at the end of the month for work in Amsterdam that seems to be newly branded as ‘QO’

    Not sure whether this is another brand that they are going to try and roll out

    • Doreen says:

      Lovely hotel – but seems brand new rather than rebranded ?

  7. What this will do – eventually – is provide a few more “aspirational” properties at which to redeem the IHG MC free night in the UK. If you already live in central London it’s pretty pointless for UK redemptions.

    • Matt says:

      I totally agree! Although the Bath and Stratford-Upon-Avon Indigo’s due to open in 2019 look promising nice weekend getaway properties if you live in London.

      • Brighton Indigo too at some point.

        • Neil says:

          That would be good. Slim redemption pickings at present!

          • The fact that every Brighton hotel is dire is more important I think! (Hilton is OK-ish)

        • Matt says:

          That’ll be great too. Brighton just needs more hotels full stop. During Pride weekend in August this year the crappy looking Hilton costs £350 last time I looked, and the holiday inn has been fully sold out for months!

        • Matt says:

          That’s £350 for 1 night I should add!

        • Evan says:

          I think the Hilton is ok if you get one of the refurbished rooms, breakfast is good. Free fizz at weekends before 9am. The Grand is ok too but no redemption opportunities there.

  8. James says:

    Totally and utterly OT:

    Any news on whether ITA Matrix has got rid of the multiple origin search option ?
    Seems to be a BA style ‘enhancement’ 🙁
    Disaster if this feature has been removed.

    Get error thrown up when trying to use it.

    • David says:

      What problem are you getting? – I’m able to enter multiple airport codes separated by commas fine.

  9. Matt says:

    I haven’t stayed in a Indigo or Kimpton yet, but what are the differences in the brand and target markets? They both seem to be going for a little bit kwirky, boutique and a relatively modest layer of luxury? Or have I misinterpreted as I’ve only had a look at a few properties on the web. Also what’s the status recognition for Plat and Spire like at both brands?

    • Not clear. I doubt IHG would have created Kimpton from scratch given Indigo. Kimpton is more upmarket, bigger rooms, free wine party every night. Cult fan base.

  10. JamesB says:

    Is Indigo Leicester Square open already? Anybody tried it yet?

    • I think it is open BUT it has no alcohol licence yet.

      • JamesB says:

        LOL, I don’t think that will go down well, wonder how many pointsnwe could get back on that.

    • Matt says:

      I haven’t tried but it does look like a pretty cool property, and a great location if you’re looking to party in soho or see a show. I live in central though so no use to me but I still welcome more aspirational IHG redemptions in the UK.

      • JamesB says:

        £550ish on 10 nights of necessary or pleasure stays across my two accelerates this year will yield over 180k points. I am planning to redeem them for a 3 night weekend here which, based on some published rates, could be over £1300 value. Indigo has become my favoured IHG brand.

  11. Interesting. I agree with previous comments: Principal has spent money where needed and turned fairly crappy about-to-start-feeling-run-down properties in York and Manchester into very decent offerings.

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