Lake District hotel The Cranleigh Boutique recently won a social media award for having amassed over 100,000 \u2018likes\u2019 on its Facebook page. Tom Davis\u00a0caught up with owner Stephen Hargreaves to find out more about the hotel itself.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nTell us a bit about the history of Cranleigh Boutique and how you came to own the hotel.\r\n\r\nI purchased the Cranleigh Boutique eight years ago. It was a run-down, two-star, neglected hotel with pink and purple bathroom suites, and it was like an old people\u2019s home - that\u2019s the only way I can describe it. What I wanted to do was do something different really, and bring a bit of London, a bit of the city, into the Lake District.\r\n\r\nWhat inspired you to buy the hotel?\r\n\r\nI just saw an opportunity; it was as simple as that really. I have always been in property, so I\u2019ve always understood values in this area. It just landed on my desk, in a manner of speaking, at the right money and that\u2019s what brought me to the hotel trade. It\u2019s just the fact that I could see potential.\r\n\r\nCould you tell me a bit about the design of the hotel and the inspirations behind it?\r\n\r\nPutting the right team together was essential. A lot of the ideas came from London hotels, so I spent a lot of time researching various places in London, and also a lot of time researching the best hotels in the Lake District, and I stayed in them all.\r\n\r\nAnd then it was a case of putting a team of people together that I could rely on and were capable of doing what I needed to do. For instance the bathrooms, which are a big feature for me, are really important and most hoteliers don\u2019t spend enough time and effort focusing on them. Making cool bathrooms was a game changer for us and interior design is also extremely important: it makes hotels sumptuous, comfortable and luxurious. So, the bathroom people and the interior designers were two very important people.\r\n\r\nEvery project I do now is \u2018how do I make it even better than I\u2019ve done it before?\u2019 For example, the ones we are working on now which are the Church Suites, will be the most high-tech hotel rooms in the UK. No one has ever put technology in a hotel room like we are doing. So, it\u2019s always about pushing the boundaries and trying to figure out what we can do that no one has done before, and you can only get that by working with people that really know their job, I will get them round and we will brainstorm how we can do something that we\u2019ve never done before.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe hotel\u2019s bedrooms have very modern technologies, do you think modern hotel guests are starting to expect these things when staying at a hotel?\r\n\r\nThe way I always look at it is the market we\u2019re going to is the high-end market where people tend to know what they want, it has to be equal to if not more than what they\u2019ve got at home. Most people will want more than, they will want to experience new things, we all want to experience the next cool thing, whatever it is, the next gadget, the next car, we all want that in our lives, and that\u2019s how I am looking at it in a hotel room.\r\n\r\nYou are based in the Lake District, how does this help you to attract guests?\r\n\r\nFor me the Lake District is a special place, it has a reputation. If you think of a hotel in the Lake District, you are probably thinking of flowery curtains and probably a little bit old-fashioned. What I am trying to do is change the persona of what a hotel is in the Lake District. To come up to the Lake District and stay in very high-end boutique type accommodation is unheard of and it\u2019s very rare.\r\n\r\nWhat do you think makes your hotel different from other competitors in the area?\r\n\r\nThe way I look at it is simple, when you look at many of the other hotels and the type of accommodation that they are providing they are all going for the same market, the middle-aged to upper-end market that are usually quite wealthy, who want to come and have a nice meal in a nice restaurant with some lovely views, but sometimes these lack a bit of atmosphere and personality. Whereas for me, accommodation should be about having fun and enjoying yourself. The staff should be able to communicate with you in a genuine, friendly and real way, and should be there to provide the customer a great experience that\u2019s real and fun. So for me that\u2019s what Cranleigh Boutique does: it makes it fun.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nYou also offer a boutique house concept a short walk away from the hotel, what does this add to the hotel\u2019s offering?\r\n\r\nWe are developing four new suites at the moment that will be opening soon, and they are located in another building in the village, a few hundred yards away from the Cranleigh, and they are super high-tech and super-luxurious cool suites. We\u2019re taking it to another level with these suites. The technology in these rooms is simple, it is so cleverly done, you literally just press a button and everything works. The thought process behind this was \u2018how do I take this space and make it different and unusual for a hotel suite\u2019. You will be able to control anything in the room with an iPad, there will be a cinema screen that will drop down, the black blinds will drop over the windows, the room will take about five to 10 seconds to turn all the different lights on in the room. We have lights in all sorts of really cool hidden places and they will fade in and out and hum, so the lighting will be an experience on its own and not like what we expect in a normal hotel room.\r\n\r\nYou recently won the \u2018Best use of Facebook\u2019 award, amassing 100,000 likes, and beating off competition from Aldi, Evian and VisitEngland. How useful is social media for an independent hotel and what advice would you give?\r\n\r\nWe can\u2019t hide away from it, it is probably the most powerful medium we\u2019ve got now. The use of social media is absolutely paramount to any successful business. If they do not master their own marketing, they are focusing on the wrong thing within their business.\r\n\r\nYou have also recently offered \u2018The Ultimate Prize\u2019 competition with entrants winning free nights at the hotel. How important are competitions for promoting your hotel? \r\n\r\nI came up with that idea nearly two years ago now, I knew that if I could reach enough people through social media then we would have bookings on the back end of it. To do this it was a case of giving complimentary accommodation away so people could experience it, then we could get their feedback and get that on Facebook and do all the usual stuff you do to promote your business. Giving stuff away was important, it costs me very little to give a hotel room away but the perceived value to the customer is much higher, so it is a very cheap way of marketing your products.\r\n\r\nWhat are your future plans for the hotel?\r\n\r\nI have four years of building projects now, and I have two other projects in the pipelines, so once we finish the new suites I have planning permission to build another 15-bedroom hotel in the centre of Bowness which will have a very high-end cocktail bar and place to eat, which is set in a phenomenal location with views over the lake.