Chairman of Hand Picked Hotels talks strategy plans

This October, Crathorne Hall, part of the Hand Picked Hotels collection, reopened to the public after a fire in 2014 that caused extensive damage to the property.

Now a year on, we caught up with chairman and chief executive of Hand Picked Hotels, Julia Hands to find out where the business will go from here.

How much worth of damage was caused by the fire last year?
The fire at Crathorne Hall caused approximately £4m of damage. The fire started in the roof space of the East Wing and thankfully, due to the immense effort of the fire service, did not spread beyond that wing.

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What are the main areas that have been renovated at Crathorne Hall?
The East Wing contained 20 of the hotel’s 37 bedrooms, the kitchen, the function rooms known as The County Suites, and various offices and storage areas. These have all been rebuilt and the County Suites which were the old kitchen of the Hall have been considerably improved in their layout.

After putting two hotels on the market this year and fine-tuning the portfolio, what’s the vision for Hand Picked now?
We have put The Priest House and Seiont Manor on the market this year as they were not core to our Collection. We continue, however, to look for suitable properties to add to the portfolio.

Has the strategy for Hand Picked changed this year, as new consumer trends shape the market?
Our strategy has not fundamentally changed. We continue to offer beautiful country house hotels which have been furnished to provide modern facilities and supreme comfort within historic buildings.

You cut your losses back tremendously this year, how did you do this?
Our results last year were substantially better than the prior year. This was due largely to improved trading conditions with higher room rates and a better business mix but also to the fact that we now have a management contract for a few hotels in addition to our own properties.

What key areas of the business are you driving for next year?
We continue to seek a mixture of business for the hotels. Leisure stays, weddings, spa experiences and the hosting of events are core to our business but so also is food and beverage, as dining is a critical part of the country house experience.



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