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The Caterer

Club and country

20 October 2005
Club and country

When Lawrence Huggler decided to market his new hotel he knew he would also have to market the whole island of Jersey.

The Club Hotel and Spa is a contemporary, stylish affair. When one recent visitor over on business from London saw its Michelin-starred restaurant, Bohemia, he told Huggler, with surprise, that it was "just like being in the City".

Although he couldn't have hoped for a better reaction, the surprise registered was symptomatic of the obstacles that Huggler has to overcome.

"People see the website [www.theclubjersey.com] and say they love the look of the hotel, but not the island," he says. "I need to make people realise that Jersey is not what it was 15 years ago; that it is wealthy - and chic."

Jersey, of course, still has lots of older, conservative people, but it also has the next generation who are influencing the atmosphere in the way they spend their cash.

To this end, Huggler has just put the finishing touches to the hotel's new magazine. The 80page publication will feature lifestyle articles about the island and will be sent to those on the mailing list and to travel agents and mainland magazines which specialise in Jersey.

The magazine will help to build the hotel's reputation on the island. With one eye on the well-heeled leisure market as well as corporate clients, selected advertisers in the magazine will be given copies to give to customers. One men's clothes shop will give away a copy of the magazine with every suit sold, for instance.

"It's about working in partnerships," says Huggler, who cleverly offered the hotel to be used as the venue for the launch of the local enterprise awards. "After they all saw the place, I hope we'll be nominated," he laughs.

Partnerships worked well for the first party held at the hotel. By inviting a local French food and wine company, French Import, and jewellers Hettich to share the event and invite their clients he instantly added 300 names to his mailing list.

"We had £2m-worth of jewellery here, while all the Champagne was paid for," says Huggler. "It was a great success."

He is setting up an e-newsletter listing deals and packages to be sent out to the mailing list once a month or possibly every two months - "any more often and you just annoy people".

Deals include the Gourmet Getaway at £249 for two people to stay for one night, eating at Bohemia, or for £399 upgrading the same package with half a day each spent in the spa. For short breaks from the mainland the hotel is offering two nights with one dinner at Bohemia and a whole day of spa treatments for each person for £749.

Huggler is also trying to push individual spa packages. In the run-up to Christmas he is confident that he can sell these as presents - and has already had some success helping friends stuck for gift ideas for their mothers.

His experience with Bohemia - after assuming that people would jump at the chance to eat there - made him realise that people won't alter their habits overnight. "Although there is a younger crowd on the island now, it takes a lot to get other people to change where they have always gone to eat."

The new contacts also mean that he can concentrate on building business clients now that the summer has ended. Huggler is, therefore, currently negotiating corporate rates with several local firms. He eventually sees a 50:50 balance between business and leisure customers.

Local agency Orchid has been employed to do the hotel's PR. "As I said, we need to change the perception of Jersey, so that means getting journalists over from the mainland," he explains. "We have success already with a couple of magazines sending people over, but because of the long lead times before they print we haven't seen anything yet."

Is he confident? "Well, the feedback has been good. It wasn't what they imagined it to be," he says. "You take a risk, but getting articles in the press is so important to a hotel. I can't wait to see the quotations and get them on the website."

The story so far

The Club Hotel & Spa was opened to the public on 21 August by Lawrence Huggler. His family already owned the site's freehold through their St Helier printing business, but it still took £7m to get the project off the ground. This included the fine-dining restaurant, Bohemia, which earlier this year (it opened in 2003) won its first Michelin star. Looking ahead, Huggler hopes the hotel will record a gross operating profit of between £750,000 and £850,000.

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