In the 12 months since Construction Industry News last caught up with QHotels’ Director of Property, Philip King, the company has been pushing further ahead with an exciting expansion of its estate following the successful completion of a refinancing exercise at the beginning of 2014.
“Finalising the refinancing process has provided strong foundations on which to drive the business forward and in November we were in a position to add six additional resort hotels to the QHotels portfolio, which formed part of the former De Vere Hotels group,” explains Mr King.
These latest acquisitions included the prestigious five-star Cameron House on Loch Lomond, Belton Woods in Grantham, Slaley Hall in Northumberland, Oulton Hall in Leeds, Mottram Hall in Cheshire, which is a favourite haunt of footballers that live in the area, and Dunston Hall just outside of Norwich.
“We have already embedded these latest hotels into our branding,” adds Mr King. “They’re all golf resort hotels so it’s a complimentary and significant addition to our existing estate. The website has been integrated and all the De Vere branding has been removed so the sites are already operating as QHotels.
“The addition of the six new hotels was relatively straightforward, although it perhaps took a little bit longer than we’d anticipated. There was a considerable amount of due diligence that was required to be carried out so it was a very thorough process.”
Although the latest hotel additions have been another landmark in QHotels’ development as a company, it has also been focused on the needs and requirements of its existing portfolio. “We’ve always been committed to maintaining our existing hotels even through the most difficult trading periods,” says Mr King. “We have seen some tough years recently but 2013 saw growth and this is a trend that continued into and throughout 2014 with occupancy rates continuing to rise. To capitalise on this upward trend further we’ve undertaken refurbishment work to a number of areas of the estate including the refurbishment of a number of the bedrooms.
“We’ve also been planning for 2015 and we’ve commenced a really fantastic scheme at The Midland hotel in Manchester involving the complete redevelopment of the health club into a beautiful and relaxing spa. We appointed a very experienced and professional team of experts in their field to deliver this significant investment of £1.5m. It entails the complete redevelopment of the basement and existing health club facilities to provide eight treatment rooms plus a Rasul Steam room and sauna. In addition there will be an innovative relaxation space, refurbished relaxation room area and a new state-of-the-art gymnasium, as well as a new food and beverage service. It will be a total transformation and we’re very excited about the development. Completion is due in June 2015.
“Many of our hotels have spa facilities but we’re being a little more ambitious with The Midland hotel as rather than just seeing it as part of the hotel we’ve instead developed it into a destination spa available to day spa visitors as well as residents, targeting the local Manchester market. We’ve therefore endeavoured to incorporate a truly luxury feel to the spa. It’s a very similar offer to the property that we acquired in Scotland, Cameron House, which has a high quality spa facility. It’s possible that once The Midland hotel spa is completed we’ll seek to apply many elements of the offer at other hotels in our estate and enhance the existing facilities they already have.”
The main contractor on The Midland hotel spa development is HC Contractors Limited, which despite being based in Kent actually has an office in Manchester just across the road from the hotel. “We’ve never worked with them before but they have extensive prior experience of the hotel sector so they come with superb credentials,” says Mr King. “In fact, they have previously worked on the De Vere estate including carrying out developments on some of the very same hotels that we’ve just added to our collection. They come highly recommended.”
In addition to the general renovations that are taking place to some of its estate, QHotels has also continued to make progress on driving through further sustainable improvements, particularly with its intention of investing in further biomass plants into its property portfolio. It currently has a fourth biomass plant being installed at Tankersley Manor and proposals are being prepared for a further hotel to have biomass fitted.
Also from a sustainability point of view, QHotels has an agreement with Tesla motor vehicles that will see it installing electrical vehicle charge points for its electrical vehicle range. It has also recently completed an installation at The Park Royal in Warrington. “It has an excellent position within the centre of the country near the M6/M56 and will be very useful for people travelling out of London through to Scotland. We’re also just about to complete an installation at Norton Park and we’ve started work on Tankersley Manor. If these work successfully, and there seems to be every indication they’re being used quite heavily, we’ll look to roll-out the facility at other hotels across the group.
“The spa development at The Midland and the further integration of the six new former De Vere hotels will be the main focus in the short term. Looking at the rest of 2015, there’s a certain amount of catch up to be done following the difficult period of trading we’ve been through, and the company has a significant investment plan that will include bedrooms being refurbished to the highest quality.”
An emphasis on maintaining standards has been reflected in the positive customer feedback that QHotels receives from visitors across its estate. “We subscribe to ServiceVISION, who provide us with in-depth customer feedback. We track their findings very closely and monitor what our customers are telling us in order to take their views onboard and respond to them as best we can.”
This customer-led approach has obviously been working well for QHotels, as the numerous awards it has won testifies to, including The Midland hotel being named Hotel of the Year in the 2014 Catey Awards. This latest award adds to the company’s other recent successes including securing AA Hotel Group of the Year and being named the Which? Recommended Hotel for the second year running. In addition to the investment that has been continually made in the estate, Mr King is quick to recognise the contribution of the company’s workforce to the ongoing consistency it has been able to deliver. “Our ongoing success and the latest award, which we’re extremely proud of because it’s such a prestigious accolade, is genuinely down to the staff in the hotels as they regularly go that extra mile to really look after our customers. With the repeat business we enjoy it’s clearly evident that customers are returning again and again because they appreciate the level of service and consistency we’re able to provide.”
With a busy 2015 scheduled Mr King has clear goals that he’s hoping QHotels will achieve over the next 12 months. “Within the next year we’ll have successfully opened The Spa at The Midland hotel and we’ll have completed the refurbishment of a substantial number of our bedrooms, whilst a sizeable number of other public areas will also have been invested in. It’s certainly set to be a busy year from a CapEx point of view.
“On the acquisition front we’re always open to new opportunities, although at this stage I wouldn’t say it’s a massive part of our plans in the short term. There may be some additional properties purchased but I imagine it will be fairly limited and certainly won’t be as significant as the six we’ve just added to our existing portfolio. Consolidating these hotels further into our branding ethos is the prime objective at the moment as we look to get them operating as we’d like. This will be another of our key focus areas moving forward in 2015.”
With the market continuing to recover QHotels looks well set to make the most of the returning confidence as it maintains the development of its ever-strengthening estate.