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Breaking Travel News interview: Stuart Bailey, chief executive, Splendid Hospitality Group

Breaking Travel News interview: Stuart Bailey, chief executive, Splendid Hospitality Group

Having recently welcomed Conrad London St. James, Supreme Hotels, part of the Splendid Hospitality Group, is set for further UK expansion.

Here Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole sits down with Splendid Hospitality Group chief executive Stuart Bailey to get the latest on the plans.

Breaking Travel News: Supreme Hotels recently welcomed the new Conrad London St. James property to its portfolio, ending a brief relationship with InterContinental Hotels Group at the location. What was it about Hilton Worldwide generally and their lifestyle brand Conrad specifically that appealed to you?

Stuart Bailey: First of all let me explain, Supreme Hotels is part of the Splendid Hospitality Group which is the umbrella company for our portfolio of 15 hotels with nearly 1,500 bedrooms in London and across the UK. 

We work with the support of major brands such as IHG, Choice and Hilton Worldwide and we match each brand to the style and location of our properties. 

Earlier this year we realised that the vision that Hilton has for Conrad Hotels in the luxury market would suit us well. 

We valued the clear distinction between their Waldorf Astoria and Conrad brands and the rest of the Hilton portfolio. 

I have to admit it was also an irresistible opportunity to work with Hilton to bring the Conrad brand back to London in an exceptionally good central location. 

The Conrad brand focuses on individually tailored luxury and this suits us well.  It also matches our own ethos for intuitive customer service. 

One of our first new initiatives for Conrad is a Christmas shopping partnership with some very British brands: Land Rover, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols, Paul Smith and Bremont.

BTN: Splendid Hospitality Group also owns the Hilton London Bankside, which is currently under development in Southwark, south London. Could you bring us up to speed with that property and what we can expect there?

SB: Work at the site for Hilton London Bankside is on target and we will open in summer 2015 in good time for the Rugby World Cup. 

We opened the Express by Holiday Inn London – Southwark as the first Express by Holiday Inn in London over 15 years ago.
Splendid Hospitality Group has known this area for quite some time now. 

We have watched the area change and develop really dramatically over the last few years. 

Our new hotel is situated right next to the award winning NEO Bankside development, with views over Tate Modern towards St Paul’s Cathedral.

Hilton London Bankside will offer 292 stylishly appointed guest rooms, including a 100 sq m Presidential Suite and 20 further suites with different configurations, all showcasing modern design and spacious bathrooms.

Other amenities will include an executive lounge and a LivingWell fitness centre with an indoor swimming pool. 

The hotel will also feature an opulent ballroom with capacity for 700 guests and eight meeting rooms with professional amenities including video conferencing and Wi-Fi. 

One of the great joys of working on a project like this is picking the cream of contractors and designers with whom to work. 

Dexter Moren Associates, working with Twenty2Degrees have designed the property’s unique structure which comprises tall and low-rise buildings, with layers of glass, bronzed metal and brick incorporated into the building.

A four level glass atrium at the hotel entrance completes the sleek exterior.

IGP Management is the construction partner and project management is handled by Arcacia.

The South Bank rejuvenation began back in 2000 with the transformation of the riverside’s old power station into the Tate Modern, one of the world’s most iconic modern galleries. 

The amazing new wing currently being built to enhance the facilities at the Tate Modern will open in 2016. 

Our hotel is in the perfect location to serve both business and leisure travellers to this part of London which is now a destination in its own right.

Conrad London St. James is the latest addition to the Splendid Portfolio

Away from the capital there are also plans to welcome Hotel Indigo York next year? Is Yorkshire, host to the Tour de France Grand Départ earlier this year, a market that excites you from a leisure perspective?

SB: We are attracted to York as it is a world-class, must-see destination for both leisure and business visitors. 

The latest figures from Visit York reveal that there are seven million visitors annually contributing an astonishing £606 million to the local economy. 

York is also attractive to us because of its popularity with international visitors. 

The top five ranked overseas countries visiting York are the USA, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and France. 

We have just acquired the Cedar Court Grand Hotel in York, Yorkshire’s only five star hotel and we will unveil our plans over the next few months. 

We are just able to announce our new name and branding for the hotel – it will be known as the Grand Hotel & Spa York in the future.

In May 2015 we will open the 101 bedroom Hotel Indigo York on Walmgate York which we will theme to reflect York’s chocolate heritage. 

Every Hotel Indigo is designed to reflect the neighbourhood and York is truly the UK’s home of chocolate. 

All over the city you will find echoes of York’s chocolate past.

In fact Rowntrees still produce six million Kit Kats every day in York and other famous names such as Aero, Smarties, After Eight, Yorkie and the Chocolate Orange were all created in York.

BTN: Can you outline for our readers here at Breaking Travel News any other plans for expansion Splendid Hospitality Group has for the coming 12-18 months? How does Splendid select the locations for its properties here in the UK?

SB: Splendid Hospitality Group will continue with its successful strategy of matching key locations to the right brand of hotel for the neighbourhood. 

In our experience limited service hotels do well at key junctions and travel hubs.

We place full service five star hotels in busy City centres that have thriving business communities and are also likely to attract international visitors.

To illustrate this point we have just invested over £12 million in revitalising and upgrading the Holiday Inn London Wembley which now has a superb ballroom for 750 people and a spa. 

Again it’s all about location and this hotel is just minutes from Wembley Arena and Stadium.

Looking forward to 2016 – 17 we are likely to be announcing an additional two or three major projects including an additional development near Wembley, but its early days for details yet.

BTN: Are you confident in the future of the hospitality market here in the Britain? A great sense of optimism seems to have returned of late as the economy continues to recover. Is this something you share in?

SB: London has been a fantastic base for us over the last few years.

As most operators will acknowledge London has never really gone away. 

The strength of international investment interest in London means that gaining every site is a hard battle and a significant victory. 

The provinces have bounced back and are now performing really well, with increased rates which have put the bounce back into this side of the business. 

This regional growth is sustained by a dramatic rise in overseas visitors and the latest predictions from Visit Britain confirm that this trend is likely to continue for the future.

However, in this climate it certainly isn’t time to sit still. 

We are fortunate to have good internal structures which help us attract excellent staff.

If we look forward three or four years we believe our guests at the top end of the market will be looking for more and more tailored experiences.

To fulfil this demand we will need to develop and rely more on the intuitive, personal skills of our staff as well as advancing technology. 
Particularly outside London, we think we will have to be very flexible in the way we match our offering to the demands of different visitor demographics.

Interview: Chris O’Toole