What prompted the refurbishment in the first place?
We had the opportunity to acquire the site that was previously occupied by a 120-bedroom Falmouth beach hotel next door, that mostly burned down in 2012. We created a large five acre plot and developed a resort masterplan, encompassing the development of the new St Michaels Hotel and Spa – plus the additional development of new hotel rooms, spas and lodges.
Did the hotel remain open during the refurbishment?
Yes, we remained open all the way through the refurbishment, which was quite challenging when we had over 120 builders on-site. But the cost of closure would have been prohibitive, so we had to get on and manage the work as cleverly as we could to minimise guest disruption.
Can you give me an example of how you over the challenges of staying open during that time?
How we managed guests came down to good communication, understanding and involvement. Fortunately, we had a lot of guests who hadn’t been before and were very excited about what was happening, and were seeing this one visit as journey as opposed to a fixed point in time. It was about doing an awful lot of work with the builders to be sensitive to guests needs like not having the radio on to minimise the impact.
The other challenges included creating and having the vision for the masterplan, and then getting that approved and agreed by stakeholders, planners, local residents and the town council.
Fortunately, we ran between 77-89% occupancy over the whole of that time, and we still kept all our staff on and made a profit – albeit a reduced profit. Now it’s all open every one is really excited and pleased with the result.
Could you give me an overview of what exactly has been refurbished?
Thus far, we have created a new beach house wing of 32 premium bedrooms, all with a lot of luxury facilities including six foot wide luxury pocket-sprung beds, rainforest deluge showers, air conditioning, balconies and sofas. A lot of attention to detail has gone into the creation of these bedrooms. Something I am particularly pleased with and proud of is the creation of our dressing tables, which instead of the ubiquitous work surface or corporate desk, we have gone all out and provided a great space with lots of well lit mirrors for makeup, hair ect.
A lot of hotels just provide a desk, and don’t provide well lit mirrors with convenient plug spaces and usb ports to charge your phone. It was also great for me, having spent a lot of my 10 years as owner of St Michaels, seeing the end result of the refurbishment – it was great to do some new build rooms as well for the first time as well.
The total investment for the resort required three different types of investors in order to fund this very large scale project – it’s closer to £70m actually. This sort of investment and this sort of facility is quite unusual in terms of that spend level in Cornwall. So it needed three different types of companies to be involved.
CBRE Global Investors have acquired the freehold of the hotel side for one of their bluechip pension funds, BH Group have invested into the business and Acorn are a proven developer in the south-west and one of the top providers of premium seaside apartments. The Acorn Group is also undertaking the development of 53 south-facing, seaview apartments, all with balconies and plate glass windows. Assembling that deal arrangement, as well as creating the vision for the resort in the first place, was all a key part in terms of making this all happen.
Has all construction work been completed?
All of construction for the hotel has largely been completed. We have four garden spa lodges which we are putting in by this Easter, which will be quite exciting and allow guests to have premium free access to the spa throughout their stay.
During winter 2018 we also created a new access road from the beach, so guests will arrive directly opposite the sea – which I feel will be a much nicer sense of arrival. That will complete the hotel and central resort side of things, but work has now started on the 53 apartments. That will take about 18 months, and that’s all fenced off on a seperate site so it will certainly be less impactful than the work which took place at the main hotel.
What is your favourite aspect of the project?
I suppose we are particularly proud of the spa. The 21 station hydro therapy pool is certainly exceptional as far as the south west is concerned. Together with that we have also put in some fairly unique thermal facilities like the very first Cornish sea salt steam room, using salt that has been taken out of the sea only 20 miles from the resort. We also have different types of steam rooms, saunas with sea views, a hot tub and a Finish bio-sauna as well. There are a lot of facilities in the spa that have been very much appreciated and have created a really amazing wow factor.
Tell me about what has been done to the kitchens and restaurants?
We have basically transformed our main restaurant and conference and banqueting space into a new brasserie called Brasserie on the Bay, which has a particular focus on fresh fish and seafood. We have also created a brand new eatery called the Garden Kitchen, which is situated above the spa and has a wood fire oven. That’s an entirely new venue and is a very casual, drinking, eating and socialising place that’s gone down incredibly well with guests.
Could you tell me a bit more about the Liner?
The Liner is the brand name given to the 53 sea-facing apartments that are currently being started on site now. They will be sold to owners, but the resort will offer a full management and marketing service in order to give future owners a good return on investment, as well as private usage during the year.
Do you have any future plans for more refurbishment work later on?
You can never say you’re done or finished when it comes to physical investment in your property. It’s something that needs to be ongoing and permanent. For example, we have also started to upgrade some of the existing rooms, and that whole process of renovation, renewal and refreshment will continue on a yearly basis.
Was there a main inspiration in terms of the design of the renovation?
In terms of the actual philosophy behind the resort, the refurbishment very much embraced international trends of the very best resorts worldwide. It was about creating a wonderful nucleus of facilities at the heart of the resort. That core to the resort is important, but then the big trend internationally is also to offer customers a range of different accommodation types. Whether that is apartments, real estate, eco-lodges, suites, bedrooms ect.
Our interior design and used materials was also all about amplifying Cornwall, Falmouth and giving guests the best possible experience of the area through all of its manifestations, whether that’s food, drink, art or coastal interiors.
How has the response been?
It’s been incredible, absolutely amazing. We’ve had a lot of jaws dropping in terms of the quality and breadth of the spa and people love the new arrival lounge. Our guests also love the fact that our resort is rooted in the local community.
Is there anything you prefer from the old design?
Well we have retained certain elements. A lot of the strategies and principles have followed through, they have just been interpreted in a more contemporary way.
Who handled the actual construction work?
We had a project management team, and a construction manager that I employed. On top of that we had a main contractor which was PC Chapman, which were the main builders. And then a whole range of specialist suppliers, whilst also doing all of the procurements ourselves in terms of fit outs. Every piece of fabric, material, furniture and beds was carefully selected and tested by myself and the team before buying. It was very personal.
What’s your view for the next five years for the hotel?
It’s now about building a growing reputation, ensuring all of the facilities we have created deliver a high standard of service and building the business to show a return on investment that we have put into the resort.