It’s not all doom and gloom, Sue Bromley discovers, as projects in the pipeline will lead to the return of some lost housekeeping roles and even create new ones.
There is no getting away from the fact that these are tough times which will see some hospitality businesses close, temporarily or for good. Others will struggle on, hoping spring and early summer will bring both relief from the virus and plenty of sunshine to fuel the staycation and then tourism market.
But, beyond the current gloom, there are many who believe that better, possibly great, times are ahead. Refurbishment projects are taking place during closures enforced by law or by hoteliers who have decided to make the most of the down time. It’s not just long-established hotels which have had to shut their doors temporarily. We also feel for teams like those at the elegant new Nobu Hotel London Portman Square which opened at the start of December and was forced to close again within weeks.
Meanwhile up and down the UK neither COVID-19 nor Brexit have stopped a stream of announcements of new developments including hotels, with major players revealing expansion plans. Perhaps some will fall by the wayside, but the underlying theme is one of a determination to boost the economy and create jobs. Patience is needed and we may have to cling on and wait for better times, but the 2020s are still currently set to produce a wealth of housekeeping roles in prestigious properties.
Hyatt, for instance, recently revealed ambitious plans for expansion across Europe, with the UK as a priority growth market, where it plans to nearly double its offering. This includes the December announcement that one of its affiliates had entered into a management agreement to develop a new Hyatt Regency Hotel in London. The 196-room Hyatt Regency London Olympia is slated to open in 2024 after redevelopment of the exhibition centre.
Before all that, the 203-room Park Hyatt London River Thames is expected to open in 2022 on the south bank of the river directly opposite Westminster and close to the new US Embassy. It’s bound to attract those from the States and discerning global travellers and will include a secure executive wing and event spaces.
It’s not just in London that hotel developments have started or been announced. In Liverpool work led by construction specialists Russell WBHO has started on converting the Grade II listed Municipal Building into a four-star hotel designed by architects Falconer Chester Hall for developer Fragrance Group. The two-year project will create 179 guest suites, restaurant, bar, and conference facilities as well as a pool, gym, and treatment rooms.
Internally, the wealth and scale of historic features to be protected and restored include decorative vaulted and coffered ceilings, friezes and marble fireplaces depicting reliefs of Liver Birds and Queen Victoria, tile dados resembling polished parquetry, a former muniments room with metal window shutters and a striking basilica-like main hall, make its restoration an exciting challenge. Lots to keep housekeepers busy there!
Another project requiring careful restoration will be the conversion of Portsmouth’s old Royal Marines Museum which is set to become a five-star hotel. The historic seafront building was closed over three years ago by the National Museum of the Royal Navy but has now been bought by Grand Hotel Excelsior International Ltd for an undisclosed figure.
Right up to date and brand new, Radisson Hotel Group has announced that it is bringing its Radisson RED contemporary hotel brand to Newcastle. Set to open in 2023, the innovative and style-savvy city centre hotel with 200 guestrooms and extensive conference and banqueting facilities will be close to St James’ Park, home of Newcastle United FC.
And smaller, but no doubt perfectly formed, will be a new hotel set to open this year at the Oyster Wharf development in Mumbles, overlooking Swansea Bay. A four-star hotel with 16 guestrooms is being built in a design to complement the former Tivoli Amusements art deco building as the site is redeveloped. The new hotel is set create 30 jobs, has been pre-let for 25 years to the City Pub Group, and was made possible with a £2 million investment from the Development Bank of Wales through funding from the Wales Tourism Fund and the backing of Visit Wales.
At the other end of the scale, there are positive signs of determination by Valley Ridge Holdings to proceed with ambitious plans to open a £500m staycation resort offering year-round water and winter sports at Great Blakenham in Suffolk. This one is very much ‘down the pipeline’ with a launch planned for 2023/24.
But at the end of 2020 the Valley Ridge developers brought in former Malmaison CEO Robert B Cook as a board advisor, having also appointed David Church, previously MD at HFF and Cook, to the board. The extensive holiday park is set to include eco-friendly wooden lodges and a 350-guestroom four-star hotel. When it comes to refurbishments, there’s no doubt that the recent £4.7million transformation project at Croydon’s Hilton Hotel is impressive. It includes the redesign and comprehensive refurbishment of 168 guest rooms, including bathrooms.
The newly renovated rooms feature Hilton Serenity beds and modern conveniences include smart TVs which can be connected to laptops for personal streaming. The hotel has implemented Hilton CleanStay, Hilton’s standard of cleanliness and disinfection, developed with RB, maker of Lysol and Dettol, to help guests enjoy an even cleaner and safer stay from check-in to check-out. For some, refurbishment work has been a ‘stop-start’ journey, but they are battling on, particularly those where the location should be a magnet in a staycation boom. This perseverance is well demonstrated by Lake District Hotels, made up of six properties run by the Graves Family.
Work began on their Borrowdale Hotel in 2020 but was halted by the first lockdown and is now set to start again. It is being led by the Frank Whittle Partnership which has spearheaded recent upgrades at the group’s hotels, including contemporary bedrooms.
Here at Housekeeping Today we salute all those battling on, determined to reach the day when hospitality as a whole can provide the welcome services which bring back guests time and again. Much of 2021 may still be filled with uncertainty but there are more than glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. Shine on, housekeeping teams!