Nelio Pita is the operations manager at Glenapp Castle in Ballantrae, Ayrshire. He tells Janet Harmer how the hotel's creative initiatives have helped drive business to the remote property and about his plans for 2020
Tell us a little about the style and setting of Glenapp Castle
Glenapp Castle is a 17-bedroom hotel tucked away on the breathtaking Ayrshire coast. The castle comes complete with fairytale turrets and crenellations. It features grand interiors and period furnishings, while the castle's regal suites have four-poster beds.
Last year was a successful one for the hotel, with several awards, including the Hotel Restaurant Team of the Year at the Hotel Cateys. Why is it important for the hotel to enter awards?
Entering awards is great proof of all our hard work and it offers the staff the recognition they deserve; not just from their bosses but from the guests and the industry.
Our guests appreciate that we have won awards; they like to stay in a property that is celebrated, and our returning guests also like to be part of that.
Tell us about some of the creative initiatives you have introduced to drive business
The Hebridean Sea Safari, involving a glamping trip to the Isle of Jura, where two guests are hosted by a boat captain and skipper alongside a senior manager, chef, butler and glamping expert, has been hugely successful.
Other popular activities include helicopter rides around the neighbouring islands, clay pigeon shooting, archery, deer stalking and star gazing. We will soon have a total of 73 experiences for our guests.
What else are you doing to drive business?
We work with the luxury travel agent markets, especially in the US. The launch of the new castle penthouse apartment will involve lots of PR activity. We focus on a digital marketing strategy, constantly analysing our customers' movements and activity.
We also have a number of special winter offers to drive off-season business and work with many international customers looking to hire the castle exclusively for private celebrations.
This month we are also launching an app dedicated to our services for our clients.
Given Glenapp's remote location on the west coast of Scotland, what do you do to attract staff?
Working in a Relais & Châteaux five-star hotel has it benefits – it helps drive international applications for those looking to advance their career at the luxury end of the market. We are also lucky to have a lot of flexible local staff; we offer staff accommodation, and are just about to launch our own hotel apprentice programme. We currently have 57 staff at the hotel.
The castle has undergone a major expansion since the current owners bought the property in 2015. What are the next plans for the hotel?
The hotel is pressing ahead with further expansion, converting the third floor of the castle into a penthouse apartment with four bedrooms and bathrooms, private cinema room, sauna and treatment room, lounge, dining room and kitchen. The apartment provides access to the roof of the castle with 270-degree views of the Firth of Clyde and will come with full butler and chef service.
One of the garden cottages situated on the edge of the walled garden within the estate is being restored and refurbished for guest use. It will have two en suite bedrooms and a lounge-diner with a central wood-burning stove. This will bring Glenapp to a total of 23 bedrooms by summer 2020.
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