Puro propelled by Poland’s travel boom and GDP success
 
Puro propelled by Poland’s travel boom and GDP success
25 FEBRUARY 2020 8:34 AM

A decade old this year, Poland-based Puro Hotels continues to bring quality and style to Poland’s growing traveler base while starting to consider a move into other Eastern Europe gateway cities.

KRAKOW, POLAND—Puro Hotels owns all of its footprint—the brand, the investment, the development and the operations, and it is now seeking to expand out of its native Poland, according to Przemysław Wieczorek, the firm’s investment director and a member of its management board.

This year, the company turns 10 years old, but its initial investment originally came from Norway, with Puro’s founder and CEO Rune Askevold inviting Norwegian friends and acquaintances to co-invest in the brand.

Askevold, who resides in Warsaw where the lifestyle-sector hotel firm has its headquarters, says the brand is a Polish one, not Norwegian.

In August 2018, Puro welcomed investment from Polish investor Family Investment III Ltd., which now owns 30% of the company.

The company grew organically by buying land and buildings and operating subsequent hotels, Wieczorek said in an interview with Hotel News Now at HOTCO in Budapest. When Puro opened its first hotel in 2011, a 102-room property in Wrocław, it introduced to Poland a thing never seen there before—hotel self-check-in kiosks.

The company has introduced other innovations, notably around design.

Wieczorek said the firm’s hotels are considered to be in the 4-star category in terms of room size and amenities, but he believes such a grading system does not say enough about the firm’s and brand’s story.

“Quality and design have continually grown and increased through the development of our current roster of seven hotels,” Wieczorek said, who added room count generally has increased, too.

Puro has two hotels in Kraków, as well as properties in the western Polish city of Poznań and another in the Baltic Sea city of Gdańsk. 2019 was the busiest year for Puro, Wieczorek said, with the company opening its sixth hotel, a 130-key asset in Łódź, and seventh, a 148-key asset in Warsaw.

“We consider our hotels to be the (Polish) leader in quality and lifestyle, and we have more common space than other hotels, as much as any property allows us to have,” Wieczorek said.

Design responsibilities largely have been with London-based designers invited by Askevold, Wieczorek said, which he added has allowed Puro’s Polish hotels to enjoy world-class quality.

Looking farther afield
Altogether, Puro has approximately 1,100 rooms in its portfolio. Its three-hotel pipeline comprises an additional 900 rooms, all in Poland. The three properties include a second hotel for both Wrocław and Poland’s capital Warsaw and a debut in Katowice. All three hotels should be open by 2023, Wieczorek said.

“Our main idea is to stay in Poland to fulfill our plans to be in its most-important cities, but three markets outside of the country that we think would be natural homes for us are Prague, Budapest and Bucharest,” he said. “We’re are very confident about our product. We’re competing with the best, but we have uniqueness. We do not see a similar style to ours.”

The challenges to Puro’s business model include finding necessary locations and rising business costs, Wieczorek said. Development costs in Poland’s major cities have also increased significantly over the past three years.

“Capital is not a problem once you have interesting opportunities. We try to create decent and healthy long-run cash flows, and we believe we are more efficient in that we finance, buy, develop, own and manage,” he said.

Wieczorek said three developments are spearheading Poland’s success, notably the strength of the economy, an increase in travel from the Polish middle classes visibly over the last 10 years and with growth to come, and the country is less expensive than other markets and has already good infrastructure built in the last few years.

“Poland is the only European country with no negative (gross domestic product) numbers over last 20 years, precisely since 1992 when the national economy saw the first positive results of its economy’s transformation,” he said.

The return of experienced Polish labor from the United Kingdom and the presence of much Ukrainian construction and related services have equally benefited Poland’s hotel industry.

“We see no crisis. We have an understanding of where and how Puro will grow, and how to compete,” he said. “We are ready to grow further, 20% per year—securing new projects, that is the plan.”

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