Michael Stott has worked at the Whittlebury Hall Hotel & Spa, a four-star deluxe property and award-winning spa in rural Northamptonshire, UK, since 2009. He has spent over 25 years in the travel industry, and has previously held the positions of General Manager of Direct Sales at Bmi British Midland, and Head of Sales at Centre Parcs UK, amongst others. We caught up with him during our recent stay at Whittlebury Hall.
LM: Please give me an overview to the hotel, its history, and its main facilities.
MS: Independently owned, Whittlebury Hall was opened in 1999 as a Hotel, Spa and Management Training Centre. It has some truly impressive features such as 212 bedrooms, four restaurants, one of which holds 2AA Rosettes for gourmet excellence, and The Day Spa, one of the largest Spas in the country. There is a leisure club in the hotel, which includes a 19-metre pool, whirlpool spa, bubble jet, steam room, sauna, aerobic studio, and gymnasium. We also have 55 training and meeting rooms, alongside two conference and banqueting facilities – the Brooklands and Grand Prix Suites, which provide the ideal backdrops for car and product launches, exhibitions, and corporate hospitality.
LM: What are the key skills in managing a property of this size and calibre?
MS: I think they are leadership, a personal touch, to believe in your team, and most important of all, to listen to your customers.
LM: How many staff do you currently employ?
MS: We currently have 322 staff.
LM: How do you ensure that your clients have the most luxurious experience at Whittlebury Hall?
MS: This is achieved through various means. These include managing the hotel according to AA 4-star standards, conducting mystery shopper experiences, the training and development of personnel, purchasing high quality products, and investing in both the product and people for the future.
LM: Who are your main competitors in the local area?
MS: Our main competitors are Staverton Park in Daventry, Horwood House near Milton Keynes, Highgate House in Northampton, and Champneys Springs in Leicestershire.
LM: Who are your main customers?
MS: In terms of corporate visitors, these are mainly local and national businesses, conference or event organisers, agencies, and HR and Management Development executives who use training venues for professional development. Leisure customers are primarily local and regional consumers, but our primary (core) target market are those aged between 25 and 55 years of age who live within an hour’s drive of the hotel. There are also those who use our leisure facilities to get fit, to rejuvenate in The Day Spa, or come simply to enjoy one of our Tribute Nights.
LM: What proportion of your guests is business and leisure?
MS: It is a 50-50 split.
LM: Are there any particular countries where your property is proving popular?
MS: 98% of our business comes from the UK, so this is our most important market.
LM: When are your peak times?
MS: We are busy all year round, but our peak times are generally in March, September, October and November.
LM: Do events at the nearby Silverstone circuit represent a large revenue stream for the hotel?
MS: They are important and also support the venue as a destination. The British Formula 1 Grand Prix, as well as the Moto GP and World Superbike races, are some of the biggest revenue streams.
LM: How do you see the UK’s hotel industry performing in 2013?
MS: I think that the industry will continue to grow slowly in-line with the economy. Businesses will fuel any growth in our sector as leisure/disposable income remains flat with inflation eating into consumer pockets. We all need a little ‘me time’ to indulge or treat ourselves, and therefore I am sure that short breaks and spa days will continue to grow.
LM: What were your most successful initiatives/offers in 2012?
MS: These were our new packages including The Day Spa ‘Top To Toe Day’ and Spa Break packages such as our Escape & Spa Stay, in addition to the new treatments from our partner product houses of Clarins, Elemis and ESPA.
LM: Did the hype surrounding the London 2012 Olympics help your occupancy rate during the recent Games?
MS: The Games helped to increase our occupancy rate indirectly through our ‘Going for Gold’ corporate offer campaign. The popularity of The Day Spa Bronze, Silver and Gold Celebration packages grew by association.
LM: You have been nominated as a finalist of the finalist in The Best Large Hotel/Venue of the Year category at this year’s UK Event Awards. What was Whittlebury Hall primarily acknowledged for to reach this stage?
MS: Being a large venue and exceeding expectations!
LM: Thank you for your time Michael and for the very enjoyable visit to your property.
For more information please visit : www.whittleburyhall.co.uk