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LONDON-Leisure group De Vere today signaled a major expansion of its brand to capitalize on the recovery in the hotel market.

De Vere pledged to accelerate the roll-out of its mid-market Village hotels and offer more rooms at its existing estate, which includes Brighton’s famous Grand Hotel. At the year end there were 13 Village Hotels & Leisure Clubs with 1,313 rooms (2003: 1,245). Village Maidstone opened in June 2004 and is trading in line with expectations.

“The group’s most exciting growth opportunity within the existing business is Village, where we see potential to increase the estate from its existing 13 sites to more than 50 across the UK,” says chief executive Carl Leaver.

There are four new Village hotels scheduled to open by March 2006, which will bring the total number of Villages to 17. Three further sites are in various stages of negotiation. “It is our intention to accelerate the roll-out of Village to four or five new sites per annum from 2006/07 at returns significantly ahead of our weighted average cost of capital,” Leaver adds.

In addition, the company is in talks to manage a string of top golf courses in Europe to take advantage of the trend for UK golfers to travel abroad for their sport. The De Vere brand is already synonymous with leading UK golf courses such as the Belfry in Warwickshire, Slaley Hall in Northumberland and Loch Lomond.

It came as De Vere posted a 14.7% hike in pre-tax profits before exceptional items to £45.6m for the year to Sept. 25 ($87.16 million), with turnover rising. The group also benefited from a recovery in the hotel market, particularly in London, despite the impact of Euro 2004 and poor weather on corporate bookings.

In addition to its portfolio of 21 hotels, De Vere operates 15 health and fitness clubs trading as Greens, 13 Village leisure clubs and distillers G&J Greenall.

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