Peter Brend, one of the leading hoteliers in the south west of England, has died at the age of 61 after "a long battle with his health".
He was one of six directors of the family-run Brend Hotels group which comprises 11 three- and four-AA-star hotels in Devon and Cornwall including the Saunton Sands, Saunton, and Victoria hotel, Sidmouth, in Devon; and the Carlyon Bay, St Austell, and Royal Duchy, Falmouth, in Cornwall. The company was named as the AA Hotel Group of the Year 2015-16.
Brend was born in Barnstable, Devon, as the youngest of five children to entrepreneurs Percy and Florence. He left school at the age of 16 to work as a trainee mechanic in one of his father's garage businesses before joining the Saunton Sands hotel in 1977, which his parents had recently purchased.
Brend later said: "Dad told me exactly what to do. He told me to say hello to the customers, to always check the till and to make sure nothing went out the back door."
And so began a lifelong career in the family hotel company, during which one of the highlights was the launch of the Brend Apprenticeship Academy.
A statement on the company's Facebook page described Brend as "a committed man to family and friends" and "a passionate hotelier".
It continued: "He was also a very special and loyal man to his work colleagues, showing respect, kindness, always on hand with support and generous with his time. Over the years he formed lifelong friendships with guests which has shaped the nature of the company to what it is today."
Brend was renowned for treating his employees as extended family members and as a result was widely respected among the team "a generous, hardworking, understanding and very fair boss".
James Pellow, who has worked at the Royal Duchy hotel for 34 years, remembered meeting him for the first time just three days in to his new job. "I never expected him to know who I was, let alone seek me out," he said. "But he made a point of finding me, introducing himself and saying that if I ever wanted to speak to him, I should just ring."
Shaun Sanders, deputy manager at the Saunton Sands hotel where Brend was based, has similarly fond memories.
"Mr Brend Senior gave me a chance 21 years ago. With his guidance and massive heart, I went from being a young 16-year-old boy to the man I am today. He was not just my boss, he was my role model and it was a genuine pleasure working for such an outstanding, inspirational person."
Also paying tribute was Harry Murray, chairman of Lucknam Park hotel and spa in Colerne, Wiltshire, and 1986 Hotelier of the Year. He said he was "deeply saddened to learn that Peter Brend had passed away. He was a consummate hotelier who engaged with his staff and his guests to deliver exceptional and caring service. A modest and humble gentleman who made an enormous contribution to the hospitality and tourism in the south west. He is a sad loss to our industry and will be missed."
Simon Numphud, managing director of AA Hotel and Hospitality Services, added: "It was an absolute privilege to know Peter. A great hotelier who was totally passionate about his guests, employees and business. His contribution to the south west speaks for itself and I know he will be deeply missed by so many."
Ricci Obertelli, the 1995 Hotelier of the Year who has worked as a consultant for Brend Hotels since 2011, said: "Peter was an outstanding ambassador to our industry and his warm personality will be sorely missed by all."
Brend is survived by his brother John, his sisters June and Patsy, his children, Peter, Michael and Hannah, partner Kirsten and nine grandchildren.