Independent budget hotel chain Umi is looking to expand its brand both in and outside the UK through franchise agreements with hoteliers. Founder Steve Lowy, who owns and operates hotels in Brighton, London and Moscow, said franchising was currently the most flexible option to expand his company and take advantage of the growing budget sector. The company currently has no property partnership or enough capital to expand on its own and legal restrictions in some countries also make franchising the easiest option.Lowy said hoteliers wanting to ‘re-ignite’ their business or those starting out in the industry who needed the security of running a property under an existing brand, rather than starting a new one were the ideal candidates for a franchise. However, under the agreement, hotels would not have to change their name, unless they wanted to.
Under the agreement, franchisees would be asked to pay a start-up cost, a low commission charge on bookings gained through Umi websites and to commit to a three-year minimum term. In exchange, they would get marketing support, sales and budgeting training, staff manuals and use of the group’s BookItWith online booking service.
Umi was set up in 2006 when Lowy was just 25. He took over the old Westminster Hotel in London’s Notting Hill, relaunching it as a budget hotel aimed at young travellers. He went on to open the hotel in Brighton in 2008 before launching his third hotel in Moscow earlier this year under a partnership agreement with the owners of the former Petrovka Loft hotel.