A PRIME hotel on Torquay seafront has been sold to Premier Inns, which has pledged to invest more than £4million in the local Bay.
The three-star Belgrave Hotel will become a Premier Inn with 85 bedrooms when it reopens in June
The exact sale price of the Belgrave Road business has not been revealed but hospitality company Whitbread, which owns the Premier Inn brand, confirms it will be ploughing a total of £4.1million into the takeover.
It follows the news Travelodge will be building a brand new 90-bedroom facility on the site of the former Crest Hotel along the Newton Road, Torquay.
Tourism leaders have welcomed the news, saying it will enhance the range of accommodation on offer in the Bay.
Hotelier Carol Smith bought the Belgrave almost eight years ago for £3million.
She was not available to comment due to being out of the country but it is understood the hotel officially changed hands last week.
Whitbread, who own the Brewer`s Fayre restaurant on Beacon Quay, says the acquisition was the result of 'extensive' research into the English Riviera.
A new Beefeater grill restaurant will form part of the new development, which Whitbread hope will be popular with locals.
Richard Pearson, acquisition manager for Premier Inn, said: "The decision to open a new Premier Inn and Beefeater at this site is the result of extensive research into the area.
"We feel not only will Torquay residents benefit from this new restaurant, but so too will people visiting the local area."
The new-look seafront hotel will have 15 more rooms than the present one, all decorated in the latest `stylish` bedroom design.
Rooms will have en-suite facilities, flat screen televisions, tea and coffee making facilities and a desk area with wireless internet facilities.
Aviva Pearson, the Bay`s director of tourism, said the English Riviera as a whole would benefit from the mass advertising Premier Inn employ.
She predicted Whitbread`s interest and commitment would not be the end of `big investment` in the resort and added: "They think the resort has a lot of potential.
"I`m taking this as a sign of faith because these national companies do not make a move unless they feel an area is ahead of the game.
"The Bay will benefit from the marketing of a national company and it will encourage other hotels and accommodation providers in the area to promote themselves further."
Gordon Oliver, chairman of the Torbay Hospitality Association, heard speculation about the takeover last week.
He said Whitbread`s interest was a positive sign of confidence in the Bay and added: "It`s another plus for the area.
"To have additional bedroom space in a quality location is to be welcomed warmly.
"Whitbread already owns the Brewer`s Fayre restaurant on Beacon Quay and there`s always been an indication the company had great confidence in the Bay and was looking to make further investment."
He pointed out that the 2.5-acre site already has planning permission in place for a large extension to the original building, which dates back to 1865.
Lynne Hookings, chairman of the Torbay Tourism Forum, said those within the industry had been aware the Belgrave was on the market for a while and was not surprised to hear of the sale.
She said Premier Inn is well-regarded for offering a quality product.
But Mrs Hookings said it would be a shame to lose a hotel with a three-star rating and its associated conference and wedding events.
She added: "Premier Inn very much goes on the branding and tends not to seek to be graded. It doesn`t usually go in for a lot of entertainment or conferences either.
"That doesn`t mean they`re not good quality hotels, because they are. They`re very popular because people know what to expect. People like to buy a brand because they feel safe with it."
Mrs Hookings said in the past there`s been lots of opposition from existing hoteliers to brands such as Travelodge and Premier Inn opening in the Bay.