Steigenberger Hotels looks to buy its way into the UK

g to expand its portfolio by up to 15 hotels a year and may look at buying a small hotel chain to break into the UK market.

The group, which has the upmarket Steigenberger brand and the mid level InterCityHotels brand, is 80 strong at the moment with the majority of properties in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Arco Buijs, who became the chief executive last year, wants?it to be the fastest growing hotel group in those countries.

By 2013 twelve new hotels are planned for Germany, Austria and Switzerland alone, including two four-star superior hotels in Bremen and at the new capital city airport, Berlin Brandenburg International, as well as two Grand hotels, in Leipzig and on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom.

Elsewhere Buijs said he sees enormous potential for global development. He added: “I want the respect and reputation Germany has for cars to be carried through to its hotels.”

Around €100 million will be invested by 2014 in renovation of existing hotels and taking on new ones. The company has four people working full time to find the right properties across major European cities and beach resort areas.

Buijs said a small chain purchase in the UK was an interesting prospect but he had no particular chain in his mind at the moment. London will be the first foothold in the UK but Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow are among other potential targets. Buijs believes this will help brand awareness in the UK, a market he considers one of its most important.

He has also restructured the group's sales team adding four global sales agencies and an expansion of regional sales with offices in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, D? 1/4 sseldorf, Stuttgart and Munich. There will also be dedicated specialist sales teams for leisure, consortia and airport sales and a Telesales team is being created.

Buijs said: "We are facing up to the challenges of international competition and creating the conditions that will enable us to play a competitive role in the market in t