When the marketing team approached me about writing my very first blog, I felt quite excited. Social media is simply mind-boggling but I absolutely love it and love how people can so easily express their opinions and interests. My name is Jessica Boughen. I work for QHotels in Spa Operations. My day consists of looking at ways we can improve the quality and standards of our spas for our hotel guests, spa visitors and leisure members. Also, I am always looking at new opportunities and striving to offer exciting and unique experiences too.
I have been in the spa industry for 16 years and the first thing I wanted to create for QHotel guests was a selection of Q signature rituals. These treatments would be completely exclusive to QHotels. Along with this I would give the therapists a chance to really use their skills and expertise in a mixture of treatments and add special touches such as heated blankets on the treatment beds, pillows and bolsters for support and some extra special touches such as inhalation bowls. I am delighted to say, after 3 months of very hard work, training and preparing we have just launched these exclusive spa rituals at all QHotels 17 spas throughout the UK. If you want to be the first to try one of these delightful rituals, you can find out more information here.
Until next time, enjoy your spa rituals, and don’t be afraid to let us know about your experience through Facebook or Twitter! We would love to hear your thoughts.
Did you enjoy the 2011 summer?
If you blinked you may have done. As you all know I am an avid golf fan and was thankful that I was securely tucked up at home with a cup of tea and a chocolate hobnob whilst the irrepressible Darren Clarke strode majestically to a three shot victory in Sandwich in what was arguably the worst weekend of weather the Open had seen in quite some time. Northern Ireland now boasts three major champions in three years – incredible achievement for them. Now that the Open has passed Olympic fever grips Kent with qualification at Medway Park this weekend for team GB’s pentathlon hopefuls. With the recently released news that Brands Hatch will host around 34 cycling events for the Paralympics in 2012, this is fantastic news for Kent. Bridgewood is only a short cycle ride from the famous circuit and very well placed for Ebbsfleet (less than 11 minutes) with the Olympic village a further 18 minutes on – the whole games less than 30 minutes away – what bliss.
Don’t forget to check out our summer offers on our web page, we have a great bucket and spade promotion which will help you make the most of some of Kent’s blue ribbon beaches. The weather is set to change so make sure you take advantage and book one of Bridgewood’s great packages which also include free dining for the kids. If the beach isn’t your thing then check out the Olympic Village – you’ll be there before you know it.
Have a great summer break.
They say the 3 most stressful things in life are, moving house, changing job and becoming a parent for the first time. Last time I blogged you I declared I was expecting my first child in September so I decided to add to that by moving from The Stratford to Hellidon Lakes Golf & Spa Hotel, so am I a gluten for punishment?
I say No, The Stratford is a beautiful boutique hotel in a town centre and I loved my 3 years there but change is so important in this industry and when I was aware that Hellidon Lakes Golf & Spa Hotel had an opportunity I grabbed it with both hands. With the golf comes a fresh challenge and one that I was not used to at The Stratford. This challenge is both professional and personal, I played the championship 18 holes course and quickly realised why Hellidon Lakes’ golf course is so highly regarded in The Midlands. Her shortcomings in length are certainly made up for in challenges around the course with strategically placed bunkers and as our name would suggest, so many water hazards!! A challenge indeed and one I am determined to succeed in.
One phrase I have always liked is ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and I believe that England is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and something that us Brits take for granted. As I type this, I overlook the Cherwell Valley from the Terrace Bar of Hellidon Lakes Golf & Spa Hotel with an un-obscured view of Mother Nature in all her grandeur, I gain an incredible amount of my inspiration to generate new ideas and initiatives to improve Hellidon Lakes Golf & Spa Hotel and make it an even better resort and conference venue by looking out into the valley and delve into my deep thoughts. The vista is one to be seen and if you have not made your way to Hellidon Lakes Golf & Spa Hotel I suggest it to be high on your list and experience it for yourself.
I will certainly update you on my father-to-be saga as it nears and as time runs out for me to gain a golf handicap around Hellidon Lakes’ golf course!
Hellidon Lakes Golf & Spa Hotel
I have never blogged before and while not being a complete computer Luddite I did regard the request to complete a blog with some trepidation. I have been the General Manager at The Hampshire Court Hotel for 2 years but I still consider myself to be very fortunate both to lead the hotel but in particular to lead the fabulous team here. I decided early on that I would like to take personal advantage of at least some of the extensive leisure facilities we have at the hotel and get a bit fitter. Predictably this lasted about 3 months and has been pretty much missing as part of any routine since. This needs to change soon though!
In October this year the Basingstoke half marathon will be taking place and the main sponsor of the event is Shire Pharmaceuticals. As Shire are a company who choose to use The Hampshire Court Hotel extensively, it seemed only right that we submit a team for the event. Our team is made up of Chris - Ops Manager, Georgina – Leisure Club Manager, myself and 2 more unsuspecting people who have that pleasant surprise to look forward to. Since we first talked about the half marathon, Norton Park, our sister hotel near Winchester became quite competitive and asked for a team to be entered on their behalf. QHotels now have 2 teams and 10 people entered all raising money for Asthma UK. I will update you on results / fatalities after the event in October. Although significantly better at sports than computers I am by no means a natural runner and I had taken the view that participating in the half marathon would be a one off which supported a great client for the hotel, a worthy charity and a promising new local initiative. However I did not bank on the efforts of Kelly Taylor, Hampshire Court’s new Director of Sales. In all of the appointments Kelly has had with our corporate guests, the merest mention of a run has been greeted with a ‘Dan our GM would love to do that.’ As a result my non use of the gym really does need to change.
There is a silver lining to this state of affairs and that is, I will be able to get into shape in the newly refurbished gym suite here at The Hampshire Court Hotel. We have spent just over £220k in the gym and in conjunction with Pulse fitness can now boast the most innovative, state-of-the-art cardiovascular and resistance equipment, including IPod integrated systems. The new gym is sure to be a real hit with both residents and members alike… …and it will give me an opportunity not to disgrace myself in October…
General Manager – The Hampshire Court Hotel, Basingstoke, Hampshire
As we bed in our new spa facilities at Norton Park, I was reviewing the changes that have occurred to the spa industry over the last number of years.
I first became involved in the spa concepts at Mount Juliet in Ireland and followed through to my own spa at Inchydoney Island in Ireland where we created the first Thalasso (fresh seawater) spa in the UK and Ireland. In those days spas were created as a health option and could be quite Spartan. Today the spa culture has re-invented itself as a tranquil place to unwind and escape the stresses of the modern world.
The interesting part is where do spas go in the future? What will be the next requirement? There are many treatment options these days be it Thalasso, Asian influenced residential havens like Norton Park or even high street shops fitted out for day treatments.
What is becoming clear is that the spa industry is one that, in these hard economic times, finds a ready selection of clients who will find the funds to be pampered and cared for. The unique aspect that makes and challenges the industry is the absolute requirement for a team in a spa to be able to capably and genuinely care for our guests in a manner that creates that calm. Thus the service care that the Asian spas brought to the western spa industry needs to be translated into the care in the west. These are the challenges and making sure that our future therapists are fully aware of the skills and guest care requirements. My current concern is that the training systems are at times very weak and guest care also takes a secondary place. Further, individual therapist beliefs still invade a company or spa culture as a result of poor training in their past.
The key to a very good spa must therefore be an excellent spa manager who has a very focused and disciplined approach to guest care and a strong people approach to the team to define what they must or must not do. The challenge is training and discipline – two key aspects to the spa and, in fact, the hospitality industry.
We will be delighted to see you at our brand new Spa at Norton Park – pop in and experience the tranquil haven we have created.
General Manager of Norton Park
& Regional General Manager
Having recently recovered from watching arguably the greatest last day of the Masters , my mind could not help but think of the battle that awaits the worlds top golfers at Royal St. Georges later on this summer. I love my golf and how my heart went out to young Rory MciIroy, as a keen golfer I understood only too well the frustration, as a parent I wanted to wrap him up and protect him from the savage 2 hours that he was about to undertake on the back nine. Oh what a cruel game. Now we wait for Augusta’s latest hero Charl Schwartzel to deliver that same drama on the famous links at Sandwich. What an incredible prospect that promises to be. I am sure like me, you will want to witness this keenly contested duel. We still have rooms for The Open at Bridgewood Manor so please do give the team a call and reserve yours. You may find yourself needing a quiet haven away from the masses and Bridgewood Manor will certainly deliver that for you. As Rory no doubt ponders on what might have been, he will take some brief comfort that he led the greatest sports event on earth for 63 holes. He has it in him to win a major some day so let’s make sure that we give him a champions welcome on the 14th July.
Bridgewood Manor, Rochester (incredibly close to Sandwich)
In my first attempt at posting a blog, I discussed whether social media was a revenue channel or a channel for engagement. Having now watched the comments come into our blog and spending some time going through our social media work with the marketing team, it’s led me to a different question; will social media take over the way in which we deal with customer queries and concerns?
We have certainly started been using the social media channels to manage customer feedback, since we launched our strategy midway through 2010. At QHotels, we’ve achieved some real social media customer wins. We’ve served coffee and Danish via Twitter in our conference hotel; Stratford Manor, we have managed to turn a potential issue into a raving post about Norton Park in Winchester and over half of our hotels are “recommended by TripAdvisor” as being recognised as a recommended hotel by their visitors. Some of our hotels can also promote the newly launched “Bravo” badge which says that we are “excellent” in the face of many travellers.
It all leads me to think that we must be doing something right with our customer service ethos. Not only when the customer stays and how we deal with them during their stay but equally when we respond to customers through the social media channels whether Twitter or TripAdvisor. This is a testament to our Director of Operations; Vivien Sirotkin who not only manages to keep driving forward the standards of our hotels through all the metrics that we use, but was recently recognised in the top 100 ladies in hospitality and shortlisted in the Women 1st inaugural awards for a lifetime achievement award. A massive achievement and certainly a woman I’m proud to have in my team.
Well what a great March we have seen here in Stratford-upon-Avon, firstly the much anticipated opening of the brand new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the town and then to have Her Majesty The Queen to visit Stratford to officially open the theatre.
Having taken a full escorted tour of the new theatre it really is an art in itself without any actors on stage!! The behind the scenes activity whilst a play is being performed is truly incredible and hats off to all the production team as well as the front facing actors that manage to pull all of this together at such regularity. If you have not arranged to witness this fantastic theatre then I suggest you get in there quick as Stratford-upon-Avon has been buzzing since the theatre re-opened its doors.
It does astound me how patriotic the British people are and seeing the Queen come to town brought out the usual flag wavers and flower girls hoping to catch our Monarch’s eye! You then have the flip side where people go to the extremes, one gentleman was so passionate about the Queen’s visit that he wore a white suit with a huge red St Georges cross right across his body, it really was a sight to be seen.
With the theatre re-opening it was a great opportunity to ask my chef, Mark Grigg, to re-jig our pre-theatre food offering and having sampled many dishes from this delicious menu I have now re-enrolled to my gym to try to get rid of the excess pounds for the stunning home made desserts!! I also have added incentive to lose any excess pounds as I recently found out that I am going to be a father for the first time, juggling fatherhood and running one of the busiest hotels in Stratford-upon-Avon is a challenge I am both nervous and excited about and I hope I have the opportunity to update you all on how that goes after the little one arrives in September!!
I hope the weather continues to stay lovely, we were recently up in Scotland for the QHotels award ceremonies and it was snowing in March!!! I was delighted for my team that we were runners-up in both customer service and hotel of the year categories which is a great achievement for the team here at The Stratford Hotel and this stands us in great shape for the Visit England awards in Birmingham in April. We are nominated for English Hotel of the Year following on from our regional award in 2010 so fingers crossed we get 1st place and not the runners up slot!!
If you haven’t already, please do make the effort to see a Shakespeare play in the town he was born, lived and laid to rest. It really is a fantastic experience and please do tie that in with a stay at The Stratford to top off your visit.
I look forward to welcoming you to The Stratford soon,
General Manger – The Stratford
Hi my name is Simon Barker and I have the enormous privilege of being General Manager of Bridgewood Manor in Kent.
Recently I was having a chat with one of our regular guests who had stayed at a competitor hotel the week before (shame on him) because he wanted to ‘try out somewhere different’. Ok I thought – I understand that, venue fatigue and all that, a change is a good as a rest, even though we’ve recently launched a loyalty scheme for regular guests, so he can get more out of stay with us now.
“So why did you come back after only one visit I asked him inquisitively”?
“Because I missed your staff Simon” was his reply. “At the other hotel the staff don’t care like your staff do, they don’t go the extra mile like your staff do and they certainly don’t seem to enjoy their jobs like your staff do. Staff can be ambassadors or assassins Simon” he told me.
So having much food for thought I spent the rest of the day reading the many positive guest surveys that I had received from the weekend, re- read the TripAdvisor reports that had praised my team and then thought, what a great honour it is to work with these dedicated individuals who, collectively, form one of the best hotel teams I have ever worked with.
I’m sure you can all relate to this, how many times are you paying for a service and not get any recognition? Buying your daily newspaper, filling up at the pumps, buying your weekly shop, are you really getting a ‘I really hope you enjoyed your visit here and I really hope you come back’ kind of smile? Here at Bridgewood Manor you do, and I have the customers and the reviews to prove it.
I’d better get myself off to morning brief and tell my team this story and give them a bit of motivating start to the day. They’ll think I’m mad!!
I was delighted when Debbie our Director of Marketing Services invited me to be a guest blogger on the QHotels blog. Having never written a blog before I sat in front of a blank screen for some considerable time. I decided to blog about my excitement for the up coming Olympic Games in 2012 and the wider impact the games will have not only for London but the country as a whole.
Exciting times ahead! I am happy to report that we are getting a lot of enquiries from both corporate and overseas tour operators. We are only 26 minutes from Stratford International by high speed train so you could say we are only a hop, skip and a jump away! London is experiencing high demand and perhaps appearing expensive with their limited availability. What ever the reason I remain optimistic that Ashford will benefit hugely.
The Legacy. As a nation if we get the essentials right; the welcome, the service, the experience right throughout all areas of the community and prove that we are excellent hosts, the legacy for 2013 and beyond will lead to increased tourism and benefit the economy overall.
Ashford International Hotel