We both felt that whilst the recognised brands were concentrating on the cities and towns to the point of saturation, this left a gap in the rural leisure market. With increasing numbers of us visiting the national parks and with the resurgence of the seaside resort, an opportunity presented itself to satisfy that demand.
Traditionally the country house hotel and B&B were the only offers available. So given the domestic market and foreign visitors looking for an offer that suited their needs, being a short stay providing facilities for walkers, cyclists, and dog owners that did not just pay lip service to the facilities but offered specialist and appropriate environments fit for purpose, would be an exciting addition to the rural leisure offer.
The differential point will be in the general feel of the hotel having a funky mix of rural chic and urban edge, but more specifically the added value of the leisure interest facilities, including a bike room with secure storage, washing and servicing facilities and the ability to clean muddy mountain bike clothes and dry them.
There will also be a dog grooming area with special sinks, dog shampoos, dryers, huge baskets of towels, vet beds in the rooms with little treats and dog listening equipment for those pampered pets, after all most dogs are treated better than some owners’ children.
Walkers will also have facilities to clean and dry boots, jackets and equipment, a little like a ski lodge. However, the active outdoor interest groups are not the only people we see as our target market. We will have a retreat lounge with free tea and great coffee for residents, with cakes provided in the afternoon in the best tradition of the English afternoon tea. Perfect for those looking for a break to recharge their batteries and enjoy some of the country’s most beautiful areas. A cinema room showing films for the family during the day and classics in the evening, will also offer escapism for wet and windy getaways.
Having had experience between us in both the five-star country house market and the commercial sector, we know that people’s needs have changed as have their lifestyles. In my position of chair for a while of the B.H.A. northern region, many operators would bemoan the growth of the budget hotel chains, rather than asking what was attracting the massive numbers to the budget offering. As with the country’s housing market, the focus became more on the food offering and grand bedrooms, which have their place but miss the growth in people just wanting an offer fit for purpose matching their lifestyle. I think the biggest overall effect would be that quality was a 20th century concept and experience is now the 21st century requirement.
I was once panicking about the future in a meeting some two or maybe three recession’s ago when Sir Marcus Worsley, a very wise old hand, stopped me and said the best profits were made in recession and on the way out, because the management concentrated on what they do rather than worrying about everybody else. We believe that whatever happens with Brexit, life will go on. This country has faced many challenges over its history and this is just one more and an opportunity to offed a kittle light in the darkness.
Apart from the attractive façade of the hotel, it’s south facing aspect, stunning views, and the fact that Scarborough is the second most visited town in the country. It offers access to all the element of Bike and Boot, cycling by road or over the North Yorkshire Moors, walks along the wonderful Yorkshire coast, visits to the stunning North Yorkshire countryside, the Open-air theatre, Stephen Joseph theatre, Spa complex, Cricket Ground, beaches, and of course for those that are inclined, the exciting sea front with all that it offers.
We hope to gain planning at the beginning of February and this would be the first purpose-built Bike and Boot with facilities second to none, so fingers crossed.
We have seen hotel visits become the norm for all sectors of society. No longer do hotels offer a barrier to use, rather the opposite, age, wealth and social standing are no barrier to any sector of the market. We see this as very exciting. The internet for our industry has been a game changer, Third Party Agents, Trip advisor, social media, being both a great opportunity to access markets and now individuals directly do in some cases enable comment and adverse criticism that makes some uncomfortable.
The industry must embrace the internet and see it for what it is. Those that do not, will do so at their own cost. We are also seeing the perception of the industry as a place to work changing, as young people will no longer work 80/100-hour weeks unquestioning, they have life’s outside the industry. So employers need to offer great training, a career path, excellent staff facilities and a working environment fitting for a life in the 21st century.
For Simon Rhatigan – The Feversham Arms Hotel in Helmsley where he took the Hotel to being recognised as one of the best in the country.
For Simon Kershaw – The development of the Carlton Towers Estate with the leisure operation in the house and further commercial development across the estate.
Accessing funding in a structure that enabled us to both purchase, develop and then trade the hotel. It proved a rare thing to find a bank that understood the hotel sector and was prepared to talk to us on realistic terms.
Simon Rhatigan app – Ringo
Simon Rhatigan holiday destination – Florida
Simon Kershaw app – Spotify
Simon Kershaw holiday destination – Scarborough of course