New £2.5m hotel revamp 'good for Ipswich', says manager
A complete multi-million pound top-to-bottom transformation of one of Ipswich's biggest hotels is a powerful sign of the strength of the town's economy, its manager has said.
Fairview Hotels could have in theory built a brand new hotel from the scratch with the £2.5million it used to revamp the Novotel hotel it bought in 2017.
But sensing a dynamic hotel market in Suffolk's county town, which has also seen the arrival of an easyHotel in the past year, it decided to totally refurbish the premises close to the Waterfront.
While the improvement works have caused disruption, costing the venue some trade, it believes the dramatic changes have paid off - with a 90% occupancy rate between Monday and Thursday.
Nuwan Jayasena, general manager of the hotel in Greyfriars Road, admitted the arrival of a budget chain with lower prices - albeit with smaller rooms and fewer facilities - caused a "slight drop in occupancy" on certain nights.
But he believes the 101-room Novotel had "not been massively affected" by budget hotels, because its mid-market pitch is successfully attracting guests.
He also said those unable to make reservations at Travelodge or easyHotel were booking into Novotel instead.
"This is effectively a completely new hotel," Mr Jayasena said.
"Going through the refurbishment was tough but it was definitely worth it. It is more modern and the guests are loving it.
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"We have a huge demand for hotel rooms in Ipswich. Often if you try to book a room Monday to Wednesday, they're full.
"There are a lot of corporates and a lot of leisure people - football brings a lot of people as well.
"Monday to Thursday, we're running at 90% occupancy.
"Having the refurbishment now enhances the product. Guests will get better value for their money.
"By doing this, I think I can already see an increase in my bookings.
"We had that confidence that you will get your return back - that's why we invested £2.5m.
"It will bring people to Ipswich and be good for the town."
Neil Forbes, director of hotels at Fairview Hotels, said: "Ipswich has very high occupancy rates.
"There are an awful lot of businesses here. You have got the whole spectrum - but you have also got weekend leisure."
However he admitted that guests today have higher expectations, for example by wanting their hotels to have greater wi-fi connectivity.