Catherine Chetwynd takes a tour of some of the most exciting developments in the UK’s accommodation sector this year – from renovations to new openings
Lockdowns might have been financially punishing for hoteliers and serviced apartment operators but on the plus side they provided an opportunity for refurbishment without disrupting guests. The pandemic also failed to suppress investment in new-builds and conversions – many projects were already too far down the line to stop – so as domestic business travellers get back on the road they will discover some new kids on the block.
Let’s start our tour in London. Quick off the mark was the Cheval Collection, with the opening of its first four-star brand, Cheval Maison, just off Cromwell Road. The building was taken over from another provider, stripped down, redecorated and a ground floor lounge and lower-ground gym introduced. The group’s upgraded app brings pre-arrival check-in and instant messaging with front office teams.
The Savoy opened its forecourt as a 1920s-inspired pop-up bar and terrace in April, allowing it to welcome visitors before taking overnight guests in May; and the former The Curtain Hotel launched as Mondrian Shoreditch London after a comprehensive redesign, with 120 rooms and BIBO Shoreditch brasserie and tapas bar under Andalucian Michelin-starred chef Dani García, complete with an adjoining Spanish Courtyard with a retracting glass roof. With Covid safety and comfort in mind, many hotels have created such outdoor spaces for their guests.
Over in Soho, the much-anticipated debut of The Londoner – billed as ‘the world’s first super boutique hotel’ is set to breathe new life into Leicester Square. From Edwardian Hotels London, the 16-storey hotel opens in September and brings 350 rooms, six concept eateries, a members club-style private area, a wealth of meeting and event space, a cinema and an entire floor dedicated to wellness.
“As domestic business travellers get back on the road they will discover some new kids on the block”
Beaverbrook Town House, a 14-room sister hotel to the luxury country house hotel in the Surrey Hills, has just opened in Sloane Street in partnership with Cadogan and The Westin London City is another notable September opening.
Dorchester Collection’s 45 Park Lane has added a spa with a 20-metre pool, private training room, gym, sauna and steam rooms, and hydrotherapy pool to Mayfair Park Residences – facilities that are open to guests in either property.
Leonardo Hotels spent an aggregate £34.5 million on the Royal London City, Royal London St. Paul’s and Royal London Tower Bridge, providing updated bedrooms and Leo’s bar and a restaurant on all three sites. New is a rooftop bar with public access at the St. Paul’s property and a renovated and rebranded Spa at Royal London City. In addition, May saw the launch of BREEAM-certified Leonardo Hotel Bristol Glassfields on Temple Way, with 197 rooms, meeting room, bar and restaurant.
A massive makeover took place at The Hoxton, Holborn, creating a brighter, larger lobby, a coffee bar, restaurant and wine bar Rondo, 46 additional bedrooms, and redesigned event space described as ‘disco chic’ (which sounds more distracting than conducive to work!). Lower occupancies and lockdowns allowed all the work to be done at once, rather than in phases.
Bishopsgate Plaza, opposite Liverpool Street Station, hosts Pan Pacific London, which will open at the start of September and represent the group’s entry into Europe. An entire floor will be dedicated to wellness with an 18.5m infinity pool and gym, while the hotel’s meeting rooms will come with floor-to-ceiling windows.
“It was important to offer our corporate guests a chance to socialise with other like-minded customers outside their private apartment”
Flying Butler took on 12 new properties throughout London and in Reading as part of its plan to grow inventory by 140 units and undertook major refurbishments of four of them. This included a £800,000 refit of Flying Butler Reading Central, where in response to the isolation some guests may have experienced during lockdowns a multifunctional communal area was created on the ground floor with a café and zoned spaces for working or socialising. “It was important to offer our corporate guests a chance to socialise with other likeminded customers outside their private apartment,” says CEO Dominic Sherry. As Flying Butler hosts many long-stay travellers, the apartments are notably spacious, starting at 33sq.m for a studio.
Properties on London’s doorstep have also had a retelling. For example, Coworth Park in Ascot has opened a three-bedroom gatehouse cottage, North Lodge, on the outskirts of the grounds, with a private garden and outdoor dining area. De Vere Beaumont Estate in Windsor undertook a refurbishment of Georgian mansion house The White House, which forms part of the property. The upgraded 26 bedrooms include walk-in showers, Roberts radios and smart TVs.
Hilton has opened the latest Curio Collection property, aparthotel The Fellows House Cambridge, with 131 rooms, pool, sauna and steam room. Cycas’ signature double-decker properties now include aparthotel 92-unit Residence Inn Slough and the 152-room Moxy, with a shared Thunderbirds-themed bar, fitness studio and six meeting rooms. They are in the former library, part of a multi-use development that includes restaurants, retail space and stylish private apartments.
“Lower occupancies and lockdowns allowed all the work to be done at once, rather than in phases”
Oxford is benefitting from the opening in July of Westgate Premier Inn, with the top floor dedicated to Premier Plus rooms which come with improved working areas, air conditioning, flatscreen TVs, fridges with free water, Nespresso machines with pods, stronger Wifi and more. The hotel hosts the brand’s 1000th Premier Plus room and there are plans to double the number of these to 2,000 across the network.
Development in Manchester continues apace, including the opening of Staycity in the Northern Quarter, with 224 apartments, 24-hour reception, lounge, pantry, Staycafé, exercise room and laundry.
Meanwhile, The Midland Manchester has emerged from a £17 million overhaul of its bedrooms. New is a split-level bar and lounge in the foyer; Mount Street restaurant now serves classic dishes all day.
Meliá property INNSide Liverpool opened in August after a three-year redevelopment of the former Echo and Daily Post building, with 207 rooms, restaurant, Sky Bar with 360-degree city views, and seven meeting rooms on a floor with a dedicated kitchen.
“With Covid safety and comfort in mind, many hotels have been quick to create outdoor spaces for their guests”
In Scotland, Cheval Abbey Strand Apartments at Holyrood were renovated ready for reopening in June, with new access to the physic garden – with its medicinal and culinary plants that would have grown in the 17th-century garden – in the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It is exclusive to Cheval guests in the evening, once the palace is closed to the public. Meanwhile Cheval Old Town Chambers has added an extension, with 24 new apartments, ground-floor reception, lounge, bar and restaurant, plus a new entrance on the Royal Mile (rather than via an alley).
A £1.3 million renovation of The Ballachulish Hotel, Glencoe, upgraded 53 bedrooms, restaurants and three meeting rooms for a reopening in April, while Crerar Hotels invested £500,000 in Glencoe Inn, modernising 15 bedrooms, public areas and introducing a garden Spa. Its restaurant, The Gathering, features a new Steak & Lobster Bistro and Red Shed Pizzas.
And last on our tour is The Isle of Mull Hotel & Spa, which has undergone a £3.5 million makeover of its 75 bedrooms with six Seaview and two Retreat suites. Its public areas, restaurant, spa and pool have been upgraded and a new sea deck overlooks Craignure Bay. It’s dog friendly too, so perfect for all the lockdown puppies.