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Better business – Bath Spa hotel

13 May 2011
Better business – Bath Spa hotel

The Bath Spa hotel had its best ever year in 2010. Gemma Rowbotham talks to general manager Martin Clubbe to find out the secret of its success.

Need to know The Bath Spa hotel was built in 1835 as a private house for General Augustus Andrews. First opened as a hotel in 1912, it was taken over by the admiralty during the war, used as a boys' school and then a nurses' home until 1990 when hotelier Rocco Forte spent about £30m restoring it to a hotel.

Five years ago Macdonald hotels spent a further £20m revamping it, developing the spa and converting the staff accommodation facilities into 21 private butler-service suites in a separate building called the Imperial Suites.

Target audience The hotel mostly appeals to people looking for a city break. General manager Martin Clubbe (pictured) explains: "We work with the city and the city works with us. We're not a country house hotel where people come to stay for the weekend and don't leave the front door - we encourage people to visit the Roman baths and the museums, enjoy the Georgian architecture and go to the Theatre Royale."

In addition to this the hotel's spa attracts around 600 people a week. "Although people don't really come just to use the spa, it has really improved our weekday business," he says.

How do you stand out/why do your customers choose you? The Bath Spa is the largest hotel in Bath. "Although we are surrounded by beautiful, five-star country house hotels like London Park, and a couple of boutique hotels like the Priory and the Royal Crescent, we are the only large five-star hotel within the city.

"Nowadays a lot of people are choosing where they want to stay by location. If people are visiting they will almost draw a circle around the radius of where they want to go and do a search. I think we stand out well because Bath is a city that people want to visit and the hotel is located within it. But the Bath spa also has an excellent reputation and has done ever since it re-opened in 1990."

Future growth? The Bath Spa had its best year ever in 2010 and increased room sales by nearly half a million - up 11 .5% on the previous year. Clubbe wants to reach the same targets this year.

"We focus very much on the midweek market and do a lot of yield management. We spend a lot of time analysing the competition, not just in Bath, but in London and around the M25. We look at the peaks, and although we don't hike our prices, we make sure they are available early on.

"We do daily pricing so on a Sunday we are very open and honest that it's the cheapest night of the week, and we've been very successful at building our occupancy on a Sunday night, which is very difficult in the hotel business," he says.

Best business advice? "I couldn't do anything without my team," says Clubbe. "I believe you should personally choose the people you want to work with, energise them and sell them the vision so that you're all working together.

"I was personally involved in the employment of all the new departmental managers and also the front-line staff. There is no favouritism. People are promoted on merit and rewarded, not just financially, but with bottles of wine or weekends away.

"When we set out three years ago, the plan was to build on the investment by Macdonald Hotels, make a return income and be the best five-star hotel outside of London," Clubbe adds.

"We have seen our business, revenue and occupancy grow, our room rates go up and our profits increase. We have improved our AA percentage by 2%. We've won various awards and we are lucky to have won Macdonald Hotel of the Year, which we had never won up until now, which is great - to be the best out of 46 hotels."

Spotlight on the terrace
Early last summer, general manager Martin Clubbe and his team developed the terrace at the front of the hotel. New furniture, flowers, a fish pond and tapas-style menu were introduced.

"Last summer was particularly hot so we ended up giving the terrace a Mediterranean feel," he explains. "It's a fabulous suntrap and we opened it all day so that people could eat at any time. We made it very informal and more like a restaurant in a resort hotel, rather than one at a formal city hotel.

"We ended up doing 100 covers a day without spending a penny on marketing - everything was through word of mouth. It really enhanced the hotel because before then the food spend was declining. A lot of people were not staying in the hotel to eat, they were going into Bath. We have a two AA rosette restaurant but people just weren't looking for formal dining."

martin clubbe's revelations
Favourite hotel Claridge's
What book has inspired youMoments of Truth by Jan Carlzon
Motto Do a hundred simple things 1% better and you will improve everything by 100%
If you weren't a hotelier, what would you have been A sportsman
Which hotelier do you most admire Ramón Pajares and Guiseppe Pecorelli
Describe your business in five words Dynamic, excellent staff, superb management

Facts and stats
Owner Macdonald Hotels
General manager Martin Clubbe
Head chef Giles Stonehouse
Number of staff on the books 170 (139 full-time)
Average weekly occupancy 75%
Number of rooms 129

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