Large hotel groups put spending programmes on hold as New York attacks cause slowdown in tourism.
British hoteliers have had a rapid rethink of their spending plans in the wake of last month's terrorist attacks in the USA.

Hilton Group has put a £150m capital spending programme on hold, and Thistle Hotels is reviewing at least two projects.

Hilton has 20 projects underway in the UK, the largest of which is a £20m hotel at Gatwick airport. Other projects are mainly small-scale refurbishment contracts.

Desmond Taljaard, global head of property at Hilton, said the company was still deciding whether to carry on with the Gatwick project or mothball it. He said: "In the hotel business we are all holding our breath and just hoping that we don't turn blue." Hilton has cut staff by 4% in London since the attacks; occupancy at its 13 London hotels has fallen 20%.

Sources close to Thistle said the hotelier is reviewing two projects. One new-build hotel has been postponed, and a major refurbishment is to be scaled down. Its interim figures show capital spending in the six months to 15 July was £25.6m.

We are holding our breath, hoping that we don’t turn blue

Desmond Taljaard, head of property, Hilton

A spokesperson for Thistle said it had issued a warning that its spending programme would be scaled down in light of the US economic slowdown, but admitted the World Trade Centre attacks had also affected thinking.

He said: "A lot of expenditure had already been cut back already, but obviously we are in cost review mode now."

Thistle and Hilton are not the only operators to be hit. Accor in France has issued a profit warning.