Five-star hotel plan hits buffers as it’s ‘not viable’

Jacqui Edward and Suzette Gough at last year's Christmas Sessions beer festival Picture: Habibur Rahman

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DREAMS of a five-star hotel for Portsmouth have been put on hold, after a report found that the city does not have the infrastructure needed to support it.

City council leader Donna Jones commissioned a consultant to look at the possibility of bringing a hotel up to standard in light of investment brought in from the America’s Cup.

CLC project manager Neil Boyce, left, with the Marriott Hotel 's sales and marketing director Martin Waters Picture: Sarah Standing (160813-2425)

CLC project manager Neil Boyce, left, with the Marriott Hotel 's sales and marketing director Martin Waters Picture: Sarah Standing (160813-2425)

But she said the report found that factors such as room size, the lack of conference facilities in the city, and issues around parking and staff numbers, make it not commercially viable for a large five-star to open.

This news comes as millions of pounds are being spent on the Portsmouth Marriott Hotel in North Harbour to make it ‘the best’ in Portsmouth.

The hotel is four star, and has won awards for being the best Marriott in Europe. A major refurbishment is under way, costing between £5m and £7m.

Work has started on the outside, on cladding and windows, before rooms and meeting rooms will be upgraded.

Director of sales and marketing Martin Waters said: ‘As a Marriott we never go for five stars. We are a Marriott and we are built on dependable quality and we want to build around that.’

He said the upgrade would improve the hotel and turn it into ‘the best hotel in Portsmouth’ although he said that the city is lacking the infrastructure needed to support a five star.

‘To be a five star we would have to charge higher rates,’ he said. ‘There is a demand that comes with events such as the America’s Cup but there is no way that we could do that year round with the clientele who come to Portsmouth.

‘The ideal thing would be if the city invested in a large conference venue, somewhere that could house 500 plus people. That is what is needed to bring the demand to sustain a five-star hotel.

‘There are a number of four star hotels and budget ones that do very well in Portsmouth, but the infrastructure needed to support a five-star hotel would be huge, such as secure parking and large rooms. It is not sustainable.’

Cllr Jones said Mr Waters was correct.

She said: ‘The problem is there are probably only a few cities in the UK that could sustain a five-star hotel.

‘The ratio of staff to bedrooms needed is higher than a four star and that means the cost of running a five star is higher and rooms are charged at between £475 and £600 per night. The hotel would need to have an occupation rate of 60 per cent of the year to make it profitable.’

She said she wanted to make sure that if Ben Ainslie Racing wins the America’s Cup, the city can host the likes of Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

Cllr Jones said she had not given up on the plan entirely and that she would be looking to encourage an existing hotel to upgrade one floor.

‘It is a crying shame that we are missing out on these opportunities,’ she said.

‘What we need is a good four star with one floor that could be five-star quality, which will mean that the hotel could operate as a four star throughout the year but could flex up when needed and get in the extra staff.’

She said that she was encouraged to see refurbishment work at hotels such as the Holiday Inn, in Farlington, and work start to build the new Village Urban Resort at North Harbour.

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said that Portsmouth had a lot to offer.

She said: ‘Portsmouth is a world-class waterfront city with a lot to offer international and domestic visitors alike.

‘In 2014 hospitality and tourism contributed £153m to Portsmouth’s economy in terms of GVA, and the industry accounts for more than 11 per cent of Portsmouth’s total employment.’

She said that although there are no five star hotels in Portsmouth, there are some without the formal rating – such as The Spitbank Fort.

In Southampton, work is under way to build a £36m five-star complex. The 85-bedroom Southampton Harbour Hotel and Spa is at Ocean Village and will be the city’s first five-star hotel since the Grand Harbour Hotel was downgraded in 2009, and is due to open in June 2017.

Chewton Glen, a five-star 70-bed country hotel in the New Forest, was voted number one on the Hoteliers’ Hotels Top 100 list this year. Lime Wood in Lyndhurst was sixth, Lainston House, in Winchester was 66th and The Pig in Brockenhurst was 90th.

AA sets strict criteria for its rating scheme

FIVE star hotels must meet strict criteria of exceptional levels of proactive service and customer care.

There are a wide variety of rating schemes used by different organisations around the world. In the UK, the schemes in operation are those operated by the AA and the national tourist boards: Visit England, Visit Wales, the Scottish Tourist Board and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

The AA criteria says that hotels must have (in addition to four star requirements): excellent staffing levels with well-structured and dedicated teams; exceptional levels of proactive service and customer care; all areas of operation meeting five-star level for cleanliness, maintenance, hospitality and for physical facilities and delivery of services.

The hotel must be open seven days a week all year and have enhanced services such as valet parking, escort to bedrooms, proactive table service in bar and lounges, and at breakfast, a concierge service, 24-hour reception and room service, plus full afternoon tea.

It must have one restaurant, open to residents and non-residents seven days a week and 80 per cent of bedrooms must have en suite bathrooms with a bath and a thermostatically-controlled shower.

It must also provide a choice of environments in public areas of sufficient relevant size to provide generous personal space as well as facilities such as secondary dining, leisure, business centre, spa. It also needs at least one permanent luxury suite comprising of three separate rooms.