Why was the hotel refurbished?
The owners, Cannock Group and Hetherley Capital Partners, bought this property from Accorhotels back in 2015, and since then it really has been due for a refurbishment. No investments had been made since the hotel opened, and after seeing what our competition was doing we really felt that it was time to properly invest in the property and refurbish it. The hotel really needed it in my opinion, and it also meant we would finally be up to the same standard of other Ibis hotels.
Was the hotel open during the refurbishment period?
Yes the hotel did remain open during the refurbishment period, and this was done by having the renovation take place floor-by-floor. This meant only one floor was out of action at any given time. What helped was the fact the property only has three floors, so as soon as renovations were finished on the ground floor for example we were able to start offering those rooms again, then the first floor and so on – phase by phase really. But naturally we lost some of the occupancy rates during the refurbishment, but that makes sense as there were less rooms to sell.
What were the challenges of keeping the hotel open?
It was very hard, because as you can image there was so much going on; the contractors working, the noise, and at the same time all the staff needed to ensure that everything was running as smoothly as possible. At one point the reception area was completely out of action, and we weren’t able to greet guests there due to all the health and safety reasons. There were a lot of challenges on those days.
But I feel that we managed to keep everything really organised throughout this period, and some of the complaints were only to do with noise and and other factors like that. But that is always the case when going through a refurbishment, and the payoff was more than worth it. We did put a banner on the front of the hotel to make sure all the guests knew what was happening and were aware of it.
Could you tell me about your history in the industry?
I started in Cardiff when I was doing my IT degree, as a night auditor working part-time. I was then promoted to team leader and then I was given the opportunity to open up Ibis Newport as an assistant manager. That was actually during quite a hard time as the recession had just hit us when we opened the hotel. I worked there for another three years and then I had the opportunity to move to Ibis Birmingham Airport, which was a much bigger operation as it was a much bigger hotel. Finally I ended up working for Ibis Coventry.
Was there a main theme for the renovation?
All of our rooms have now been transformed into ‘Suite’ rooms, which is a new concept that has been introduced by Ibis. All of the rooms now look fantastic after being refreshed.
Where there any large changes to property? Full reconstruction or deconstruction?
We were quite fortunate with this as we didn’t have to make any drastic changes to the hotel. The only major change was to the set up of the restaurant, but it retained a lot of what made it interesting in the first place. It looks a lot more modern now, and much more welcoming in my opinion. Apart from that there weren’t any substantial changes structure wise, which meant less time spent having to refurbish the hotel.
However, the reception was totally ripped apart and reconstructed, along with the whole of the ground floor. We have removed the traditional check-in desk, and now we welcome guests using our phones and have our staff stand near the newly refreshed entrance to the hotel. It’s part of our new strategy of making guests feel more at ease during the check-in process, so we stand right at the front and welcome guests straight away.
The breakfast area also saw a major refurbishment, and the designers implemented a new table and layout for guests. For the lounge a modern carpet was installed and the ceiling has also been painted with an ‘Accor’ theme to it.
They tried to use modern colours when choosing the paint, settling on a dark grey colour for the repainted walls. New furniture has also been added throughout the hotel as well, and all the corridors have also had brand new Ibis standard carpets installed. All the rooms saw a major refurbishment, but we were fortunate that the bathrooms didn’t really need a full renovation.
How has the restaurant been improved?
The restaurant has especially been improved as a result of the refurbishment, and the evidence of that has been shown in our revenue really improving over the last three months. People are going to bar more and the breakfast section has been repositioned to make it easier for guests to navigate the area.
How has it been for the guests?
It has dramatically changed the atmosphere for the guests and you can see the full effects of the refurbishment in our Tripadvisor reviews, as well as our guest service scores having also improved considerably. The staff are enjoying working in the hotel even more now, which has changed the perception of the hotel entirely. My challenge is continuing to ensure that level of quality and to keep aiming higher. The guests are really happy with the new rooms, and I had a lot of people come up to me and say how much they like the beds and the new look of the hotel.Everyday we get positive feedback. Whereas before it was quite negative feedback with a little bit of positivity, now we get just good feedback from our guests.
The only thing is to make sure that any of the guest we couldn’t serve while the hotel was being refurbishment know that they can come back to a brand new hotel. Although we are already seeing great results with up to 90% bookings for the months ahead.
Did you have any input in the design of the hotel?
Honestly no, because that was entirely handled by the external contractor which was hired by the owner of the hotel.
How have the guests responded to the new mobile check in?
It is very personalised – the whole idea behind it is getting rid of that traditional way of interacting with guests. There is a large gap between the guest and the reception and through the redesign we can now welcome the guests personally. The new design has helped with that as if we aren’t too busy we can even sit with guests in the lounge and talk with them while they wait.
Is there anything you prefer from the old design?
Nothing at all. It’s all fantastic, I didn’t prefer anything from the old design. It really does look great now.
What is your favourite aspect of the project?
I like everything to be honest. Getting the rooms to this standard has been a great achievement. It has given me a greater motivation to work.
Are there any plans for future refurbishment work?
I think that really is it for us now, as I am not aware of any future plans. I think everything that needed to be done has been done.