Travelodge recently launched the first ever budget hotel in Durham city centre. Opened last November, the £2 million hotel has 57 bedrooms and a bar cafe.
What makes this development so interesting is that 23 of the bedrooms have been constructed within a listed former railway station, and a further 34 beds are in a new two storey hotel block at the rear of the site.
“This development is a unique marriage of conversion and new build,” says Jackson. “We worked with Scottish contractor Robertson’s who did a first-class job.”
Jackson and his team also liased with the city council and various heritage bodies to ensure that the character of the historic building was retained.
“The station is a truly wonderful building,” says local historian Bill Fawcett. “I am delighted to see that the hotel has been sympathetic to the original architecture. It’s great that visitors to Durham will be able to see old and new combined so well.”
Travelodge manager Katherine Allotey said: “Durham, with its famous cathedral and university, is one of the most visited cities in Britain and the new Travelodge will be a boost for tourism in the area.
“It is closely located to some of the North East’s major commercial centres which in turn will attract business travellers to the region.”
Whether establishing a new lodge in a city centre or on a roadside, location is the most important consideration that has to be taken into account. Sites must be easily accessible, simple to find and visible. In addition, the hotels need to be located where people will find them useful and convenient.
“We usually need to be located near to other businesses or facilities such as airports, leisure attractions or mixed-use schemes,” says Jackson. “We have also started to build facilities in conjunction with fitness clubs and cinema operators.”
Another development has been to make Travelodge hotels as convenient as possible for business users. There is now a network of Workspace facilities at Travelodges around the country, where customers and colleagues can meet to get things done. Workspace meeting rooms can accommodate up to 50 people, and there are other facilities available such as relaxation lounges and luxury washrooms.
Perhaps the only thing limiting Travelodge’s ambitions is the planning process.
“It makes no sense,” says Jackson. “Whenever a proposed development appears to be in a greenbelt site, you often just get a blanket refusal. This is regardless of whether you are bringing a vital service to the area or not.
“All this delays the construction process and can affect employment in the local region. It can be a major frustration of the job.”
Nonetheless, March has been a very busy month for Travelodge. A number of new hotels have just been completed, including a 62-bed lodge in Didsbury, south Manchester and a 48-bed lodge beside Aberdeen Airport.
In Oldham, a 50-bed hotel has just opened in conjunction with a local brewer. “Another scheme is a 31-bed lodge at Ringwood, in the New Forest. We have been very active of late,” says Jackson.