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Whitbread’s sales have beaten expectations as the UK’s largest budget hotel operator pulled in business from the squeezed independent sector, while sales in its home market were especially buoyant.

Like-for-like accommodation sales in the UK rose 21.3 per cent in the three months to June 2 compared with the same period in 2019, before the pandemic hit, the Premier Inn owner said. Compared with the lockdown-hit period of last year they more than tripled.

Shares in Whitbread rose nearly 4 per cent in early London trading on Wednesday, trimming the year’s decline to 11 per cent.

Premier Inn’s recovery “continues to be ahead of expectations”, chief executive Alison Brittain said on Wednesday, with the hotel chain “significantly” outperforming the market.

Brittain attributed part of the improved performance on “accelerated independent supply contraction”.

Total accommodation sales were 27.2 per cent ahead of rivals in the sector while UK food and beverage sales are approaching pre-Covid levels, the statement said.

“This impressive first-quarter performance together with improved visibility into the second quarter, gives us increased confidence in delivering a strong first half and remaining ahead of the market for the rest of the year,” Brittain said.

Greg Johnson, an analyst at Shore Capital, said Premier Inn had been buoyed by particularly high demand in London.

A consumer-driven recession looming this year however could dent the improving trend in sales, he warned.

Germany too, where Whitbread has been expanding, has outpaced expectations over the past two months as the country emerges from lockdown restrictions.

“We are optimistic that the full-year outlook in Germany is improving,” the statement added. “There is no change in our view of the medium and long-term value creation opportunity for Premier Inn in Germany.”

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