If you are determined to provide the best and most memorable experience for your hotel or restaurant’s guests then at some point you will doubtless consider luxury. Is the service that you and your hardworking staff provide luxurious? Do your guests leave with a sense of calm and wellbeing? Are they satiated and if so will they become your ambassadors?
According to Peter Hancock of Pride of Britain Hotels, it is possible to transform a good hotel into a luxurious one. But first you need to understand what luxury really means.
Perhaps our best known connoisseur of luxury remains the incomparable Winston Churchill, whose ‘sybaritic lifestyle’ has featured in countless books, articles and indeed movies. Alongside his extraordinary achievements, he imbibed heroically too. His secretary is known to have said “Mr Churchill is easily satisfied with the best”. His stated priorities in terms of luxury were copious hot baths and cold champagne, among many other indulgences, but the one upon which he most relied was the team of staff who somehow managed to keep up with his relentless work rate.
So luxury, a dreadfully overused and abused word already, means different things to different people. For a town dweller, the open countryside must make a welcome change. For someone with a tiring physical job, the opportunity to sit idly is a true luxury. To many, great food is worth travelling considerable distances to enjoy. We all have our own ideas about luxury, even when talking about hotels.
My own prejudices have been formed by a 40 year career in the hotel industry which includes 18 to date with a wonderful marketing group called Pride of Britain Hotels whose slogan is ‘The Art of Great Hospitality’. Here I shall attempt to define what transforms a good hotel into a luxurious one, under five headings in ascending order of importance.
There are times when it is desirable or even necessary to show off. This could be to impress a business associate or a potential spouse. Whatever the motive, nothing shouts success better than rolling up at the entrance to a grand hotel bearing a famous name. The uniformed doormen, the fresh flowers, the gleaming mirrors and the sheer size of the place all conspire to create a feeling of wealth and extravagance.
To be able to select from a range of options is in itself a luxury for most of us. Bath or shower; breakfast in bed or in the dining room; an early lunch, a late lunch, no lunch; curtains thick enough to block out daylight should a mid-afternoon sleep be desired; a hundred gins vying for your attention; Sancerre or Champers; Burgundy or New World; the suite with the piano or the one with a balcony; the one with both! Luxury hotels make it possible to obtain almost any (legal) route to pleasure and can adapt instantly to their clients’ whims.
To go beyond the good and into the realms of luxury we must consider all the senses. Thus, everything you see, smell, hear, taste and touch are important. Beautiful surroundings cost a considerable amount to provide, as does superb food. It is quite simple, though, to give your guests access to lovely music or quality sheets. A key element in luxurious accommodation is having lots of space, including wardrobe space, and something close to total silence for a good night’s sleep.
Why struggle to open the door or pop that cork when someone else can do it for you? A luxury lifestyle has no place in it for washing and ironing or lugging the heavy cases, let alone clearing away dirty dishes. With enough money virtually all of life’s drudgery can be delegated to others. Bertie Wooster, the creation of PG Wodehouse, was rich enough to employ the inimitable Jeeves who did everything for him, including most of the thinking required. In real life a decent concierge can act as a substitute personal assistant, booking flights or theatre tickets and much more…effortlessly decadent.
Bovey Castle Hotel
Nothing matters more than service at a luxury hotel. Let’s face it, their guests have just about all the other trappings at home: their favourite food and wines, pleasant views, immaculate furnishings and so on. What very few of them can match, unless they are members of a prominent royal family I suppose, is a vast team of professionals striving night and day to give of their best.
Don’t ask me how they do it, but these extraordinary people remember and use guests’ names instinctively. The welcome is genuine. You are made to feel like the most important person in the building…and so is everyone else.
So next time you visit a top British hotel and stare out of your suite at the lovely countryside, with perhaps a glass of something expensive in one hand, remember what a privilege it is to buy a slice of this luxury living even if it’s only for a day or two. These are the ‘sunlit uplands’ Churchill promised a terrorised nation in 1940. How lucky we are to enjoy them today.
The Spa at Calcot Manor
We are grateful to Peter Hancock, Chief Executive of Pride of Britain Hotels, a collection of never more than 50 independent luxury hotels.