Talks are taking place with county councils, district councils, the NHS and private property owners for franchise deals with easyHotel sites in towns including Margate and Ramsgate.
The brand, part of the group owned by easyJet founder and billionaire entrepreneur Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, is expanding and talking to organisations and individuals about getting involved in a franchise deal.
The group has 38 hotels, 12 wholly owned and the rest run as franchises, with a unique approach meaning a whole building is not required.. As long as the hotel has its own entrance, an area for a compact lobby and floor space for around 100 rooms, it could be part of an office block or above a parade of shops.
And the idea of working with local authorities to convert redundant council office buildings into easyHotels could mean a fresh income not reliant on government grants or council tax and an injection of additional tourist cash into the Thanet economy.
Head of easyHotel’s franchise development St John Harvey said: “It is a good opportunity to put a property that is empty, partly empty or an eyesore, to a better use. Local authorities can become a franchisee of easyHotel, a recognised and trusted brand, and choose whether they run it, or we run and manage it as much or as little as they like.
“They are putting the property to use and retaining the asset and appreciation value. Councils are having to become more commercial and entrepreneurial with the drive to become more efficient with less funding.
“Turning an asset into a hotel creates an investment for future use and could be used for borrowing as collateral.
“We are flexible about the property and flexible how it is managed. Location is very important for us, easyHotels do not have restaurants and bars so we insist on locations in the community – a five minute walk from bars, restaurants, train and bus transport.
“The majority of guests use the rooms as a springboard, they just want a room that is safe, clean and comfortable and will then spend their money in the local area. We are unapologetically compact with comfortable beds, showers and air conditioning. If a guest wants wi fi or TV, later check outs, then they pay a bit more.”
Margate and Ramsgate are attractive options and initial talks are already underway.
Dad-of-four St John, who lives just outside Canterbury, said: “Margate is a real target for us, and Ramsgate, there are lots of very interesting buildings and people coming to Margate are a mix of short stays, overnights, weekend visits. There are a lot of positive things happening in the area with inward investment, Turner Contemporary, Dreamland. These things are drawing people to Thanet and now is the time to get in there. Yes, there is competition but it is not saturated and our guests will be spending in the local community.
“St John, who spent a year working in commercial services for Kent County Council before returning to the private sector, says establishing the hotels would be a process of due diligence, drawing up a business case and carrying out building conversion work.
He added: “With the properties we have so far looked at in this area it would not take longer than two years. It is a very good base for our concept, there have been big changes over recent years in Thanet and they are all for the better.”