• Opening the Thames barrier

As Leonard Cohen sang, first we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin. In the hotel sector this usually works the other way round, with any prospective operator undergoing initiation by International Hotel Investment Forum before eyeing the global hubs.

However, even once you've been let loose on London, Paris or New York, it's not as simple as all that, as Travelodge found in March when it announced that it had taken London.

The group said that the opening of its Ealing hotel had added 99 rooms to its London portfolio, which now totals 5,714 rooms across 40 properties, compared to Hilton's 5,690 (according to independent verification by hotel consultant Melvin Gold). Travelodge said that it was on track to have at least 50 hotels and nearly 7,000 rooms in London by the start of the Olympic Games next year and was looking to the suburbs to achieve this.

But, in BBC sitcom terminology, one man's Bucket is another's Bouquet and what is London to some is not entirely the UK capital to others. Overtaking Hilton would involve not including Hilton's Gatwick and Stansted hotels and, while the Underground does not stretch that far in either direction, the two are acknowledged as part of the London sprawl and not just by the likes of Easyjet.

According to research by Otus, the Hilton brand had 19 hotels in London (including Gatwick and Stansted, and counting Croydon as part of London) at the end of last year, with a room count of 6,756. Travelodge at that point had 5,362 rooms in 40 hotels, again including Gatwick and Croydon (now 5,714 in 40 hotels).

Cohen sang about the difficulty of changing the system from within. It seems as though some brands are at least having a go at changing the definitions within it.

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