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The Caterer

Group Hotel of the Year

06 July 2004
Group Hotel of the Year

Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa

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Leeds is not the location that instantly springs to mind when talk turns to the Group Hotel of the Year Catey. But the winner of this year's award, Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa, proves that if you have a fantastic offering the location can become a secondary consideration. The 123-bedroom hotel on a Leeds business park, only minutes from the M1 motorway and six miles from the city centre, is aimed at the business traveller during the week and the leisure guest at the weekend. It is based loosely on the style of a French château and was conceived after Ian Harkness, managing director of Shire Hotels to which ThorpePark belongs, visited the Mirande hotel in Avignon, France. At £18m, ThorpePark is the company's biggest investment to date in a new-build hotel. It also broke the mould style-wise, going away from the traditional style of the other hotels in the group to be much more contemporary. There's an imposing lobby with a log fire, a thick carpet and original artwork throughout. Rooms are big, with brown, cream and beige decor and lots of natural wood. The conference market dominates Thorpe Park's business make-up and there are 14 rooms all with natural light and a bright trendy conference café where delegates can ‘graze'. The main conference room is kitted out with the latest equipment and for relaxing after the conference there is a 13-metre pool, a whirlpool, sauna, monsoon shower, and steam room with fibre-optic lights. But ThorpePark is not just about fabulous facilities. It's also a friendly place. While 50% of managers have come from other Shire hotels, many of the 100 staff are raw recruits, chosen for flair and personality rather than technical skills, which they are taught. It was Thorpe Park's overall offering and its attention to detail that impressed the judges of this award. "They didn't have to do it that well, but they have gone the extra mile and made the effort," said Simon Rhatigan. "You wouldn't think that a hotel in a location like this should be so successful. But it works really well," added Simon Johnson. Others clearly agree. The hotel's spa was voted one of the 100 best spas in the UK in the Harpers & Queen Spa Guide published at the start of this year. It has a grade-two dining award from the RAC and an AA rosette, which it gained within the first year of opening.
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