About a month ago I visited the lovely new Radisson Blu Edwardian Guildford hotel on the day before it opened. Last week I also met the CEO of Tune Hotels, Mr Mark Lankester, who told me about the budget group’s second cheap London hotel which will shortly open in Liverpool Street.
Despite the fact that each of these hotels operates in different market segments – I was struck by the advantages of being able to construct a new hotel virtually from scratch (or at least being able to convert a modern building), versus the renovation of a legacy hotel in an old building.
I’ll qualify my observations by declaring upfront that I’m not a professional architect, so the following is very much a layman’s view.
- “Blank slate” creativity. This is particularly evident at a luxury hotel like the Radisson Edwardian Guildford, where architect Rabih Hage was asked to develop something buzzy – the antithesis of international chain blandness and a cut above other hotels in Guildford. He chose an Alice in Wonderland and theatrical theme – based on the fact that author Lewis Carroll is buried in the pretty Surrey market town. And you feel the dramatic impact of the standalone library in the lobby and other clever little touches from the very first moment you enter.
- Functional benefits. In the case of Tune Hotels – a budget operator par excellence – the key advantage in its Liverpool Street project was the ability to add around 20% to room size (compared to the first Tune Westminster hotel); whereas, for Radisson Blu Edwardian Guildford, there was the opportunity to custom-design rooms to maximise the space and amenities desired in the optimal shape – instead of having to “shoehorn” features into the existing shell of an old building. For example, the hotel’s twin rooms are proper twin beds of the correct width and not a botch job like at so many other hotels. Both the new Tune and Radisson Blu Edwardian hotels have also been able to incorporate the latest technology, such as state-of-the-art environmental features (as the new-build Rafayel Hotel was able to do in Battersea).
- Ability to cater to a specific local market. Tune Hotel Liverpool Street will be near a major transport hub and expects to capture custom from the 24 hour bus services to Stansted airport. So it was essential to include twin rooms – usually complex to incorporate profitably for a budget hotel. It was able to achieve this by developing a clever floor plan integrating doubles back to back with twins to allow groups to be sensibly accommodated. In the case of Radisson Blu Edwardian Guildford, the new hotel put major investment into its leisure facilities (including one of the most luxurious spas in Surrey) and its two restaurants, to attract the area’s many upwardly-mobile residents who expect the same standard as a central London luxury hotel without trekking into town.
- Feelgood factor. It’s clear that new hotels provide an extra buzz – felt not just by guests but also by staff. It’s no coincidence for example that the top-rated Hiltons on TripAdvisor also happen to be the newest ones. Staff seem to get a spring in their step in a brand new hotel as I found during my visit to the Radisson Blu Edwardian Guildford – a feeling strengthened by the fact that many of them are local people who are proud of the opportunity to welcome visitors to their home town. This kind of attitude almost always results in better service – a factor which even a budget operator like Tune is passionate about.
So there you have it – two new hotels at different ends of the market – both well-placed to benefit from the luxury of building a hotel from scratch.
Photo credits: Tune Hotels, London Hotels Insight photos, Rafayel Hotel, Radisson Blu Edwardian Guildford.