StockMarketWire.com - Premier Inn hotel chain owner Whitbread said it was planning to cut up to 6,000 jobs, or 18% of its workforce, due to an expected continuation of weak demand in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

The company also reported that its sales had slumped 77% in the first half following the closure of most of its hotels due to the pandemic.

'With market demand expected to remain at lower levels in the short to medium-term, we have now taken the very difficult decision to announce our intention to enter into consultation on proposals that could result in up to 6,000 redundancies for our hotel and restaurant colleagues,' Whitbread said.

'We expect a significant proportion of these redundancies to be achieved voluntarily.'

'Our priority now is to ensure that the process is fair and that impacted colleagues are supported throughout.'

UK hotel sales on a like-for-like basis for the six months through 27 August tumbled 78%.

Whitbread said the majority of its estate in the UK had reopened by the start of August, with 98% of its hotels open by the end of the first half.

It said its UK accommodation sales performance has been ahead of the market since reopening.

'We have seen strong demand in tourist locations, while market demand remained subdued in metropolitan areas and London,' the company said.

Occupancy levels had steadily improved on a weekly basis, averaging 51% in August.

UK restaurant performance was boosted by the positive impact of the government's Eat Out To Help Out subsidy scheme scheme.

Whibread said August UK total sales, including accommodation and food and beverage, improved to 38.5% down year-on-year.

'Our performance following the reopenings has been ahead of the market, however, it has been clear from the beginning of this crisis that even as restrictions are eased and hospitality businesses such as ours reopen their doors, that demand would be materially lower than FY20 levels for a period of time,' chief executive Alison Brittain said. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com