|By Sarah Bridge, Financial Mail on
Sunday, LondonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 01, 2012--TRAVELODGE is set to widen the gap with budget rival Premier Inn by opening four new hotels in London this month, making it the biggest operator in the capital for the Olympics.
The new hotels are opening in Balham, Enfield, Woolwich and at ExCel in Docklands, bringing Travelodge's London total to 54.
Travelodge chief executive Grant Hearn said he was expecting the effect of the Olympics to be "neutral' as the usual tourists stay away from the capital in the belief that it will be too overcrowded.
He predicted that hotels nearest to the Olympic venues would be fully booked throughout the Games while those in Central London would be running at 75 per cent to 80 per cent occupancy -- the opposite of the normal situation.
"We always thought it was going to be difficult," he said. "The groups that would usually come to London are going to Paris or Rome instead."
Many three and four-star hotel operators were having to slash prices to avoid being left with empty rooms. "They held out for top prices, but are starting to panic a bit," said Hearn.
US hedge funds Avenue Capital and GoldenTree Asset Management and investment bank Goldman Sachs are still trying to finalise a deal to take control of Travelodge, which has been struggling under massive debts.
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