Chris Eigelaar of the Belfry on hosting guests through lockdown and his expectations for a staycation boom

19 March 2021 by
Chris Eigelaar of the Belfry on hosting guests through lockdown and his expectations for a staycation boom

The newly promoted resort general manager at the Belfry Hotel & Resort in Sutton Coldfield, North Warwickshire, talks to Katherine Price about hosting business guests during lockdown, virtual events and the expected staycation boom later this year.

Congratulations on your new role – what plans do you have for the business?

Our main focus is recovery. We want to get back to the position we were in 2019, which was a very successful year for us – our aim is to bounce back to this as soon as possible.

We will continue to adapt to whatever is thrown at us, like we did in 2020 with the launch of services such as Belfry Studio and Belfry Live, and enhanced safety measures to ensure guests can feel safe.

What was the thinking behind the decision to keep the resort open through lockdown?

We are remaining open during lockdown to support essential business travel and meetings as well as key workers. We're fortunate that the sheer size of our resort means we can offer plenty of space for safe distancing for anyone who stays with us.

We are also mindful of ensuring we retain and motivate the Belfry team as much as possible during these times. This has allowed us to adapt as a team and meet the ever-changing requirements of our industry.

Have you had much take-up of your business day-let package?

Our business day-let package has proved very popular with local small businesses with employees who do not have the space to work from home. Large businesses have also been hiring out suites to offer their employees a change of scenery.

The package allows workers to spend the day in a spacious superior bedroom, with a desk overlooking our golf courses, so they can work comfortably in their own private and safe environment with no distractions. During their visit, they will also receive a light lunch created by our chefs.

How about your Belfry Live and Belfry Studio packages?

We've seen a strong demand for our Belfry Live and Belfry Studio, our new professional virtual meetings and events set-ups, which is fantastic. We have already hosted award ceremonies including miaList 2020 and Women in Security, and we are continuing to see a high demand for both packages throughout 2021. The hybrid set-ups allow businesses to reach clients all over the world; while the number of attendees is restricted at physical meetings and events, our hybrid options allow companies to extend their event reach without any geographical restrictions.

Will you be focusing on the business market rather than attracting leisure guests this year?

As well as our 319 bedrooms and suites, the Belfry offers several restaurants and bars, events and meetings spaces, a leisure club and the Belfry Spa and three golf courses. Due to the resort offering so many different outlets, we have a strong base of both corporate and leisure guests, so we will be focusing on both markets.

We are seeing an increased interest in both leisure and corporate enquiries for Q2 2021, which shows the confidence and positivity in both markets, as our guests and clients are keen to visit us again and return to normality.

Due to this increased interest, we expect to see a strong demand for staycations this year, with a shift of guests taking more mid-week stays, as once lockdown eases many will have annual leave to use.

Before the second lockdown we saw that our guests were looking for a sense of escape. As travelling and dining out has become more of a luxury rather than a regular treat, our guests want to indulge in longer, more luxurious breaks. Our new staycation package allows guests to discover every part of the resort, for a relaxing yet exciting staycation.

As travelling and dining out has become more of a luxury rather than a regular treat, our guests want to indulge in longer, more luxurious breaks

How are you looking after your staff during this time?

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the stakeholders in the business, which include the owners of the Belfry, the teams across the resort, the suppliers, and our guests. It is important we communicate, stay engaged and support each other.

We are very focused on our team members – engaging with them and ensuring we continue to communicate regularly.

We have a virtual platform we use to ensure we connect with and support everyone daily. We also have a catch-up arranged this month with the whole Belfry team via the Belfry Live platform, which we are really looking forward to. It's been a while since the whole team has been altogether in one place – even if it has to be virtually.

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