CHESTER is on the brink of becoming a hotel hotspot according to a new report.
Incoming luxury hotel ABode and upgrades to the Mill and Queens in the city centre are creating a feelgood factor.
The city centre and suburbs has a healthy balance of five, four-star and budget hotels with an overall provision of 1,575 rooms compared to 2,418 in York and 1,380 in Bath.
When the hotels situated in the city’s districts are added, Chester has 2,408 bedrooms compared to York with 2,839.
A hotel comparison survey carried out by local tourism board Visit Chester and Cheshire reveals that when compared to other heritage cities, Bath, York, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Cambridge, Chester is in a strong position to flourish as a hotel city.
Chester which boasts five star hotel The Grosvenor on Eastgate Street, compares favourably to York, Cambridge Stratford which have no five star hotels but falls behind Bath with three.
Over recent years four Chester hotels have been upgraded to 4 star including the refurbishment of Crowne Plaza but there is scope for more luxury hotels in the county given the rise of business tourism in the UK.
Hotel ABode also provides an opportunity for more investors to develop signature hotels/restaurants within Chester.
ABode Chester will have 80 boutique bedrooms complemented by a 60-cover Michael Caines Restaurant together with a Champagne Bar, Café Bar, Boutique and Vibe Bar.
Michael Caines said: “ABode Chester represents for us a significant step towards realising our aspiration to become one of the UKs leading boutique hotel operators. Our ABode and Michael Caines concepts and brand values are certain to excite everyone in the North West, both future guests as well as potential employees.”
Hoole Hall Hotel are making a massive investment to upgrade to the luxury ‘pampering market.
John Allanson, MD of Hoole Hall Hotel, explained: “What we are looking to do is to make Hoole the gateway to Chester.
“We are making an investment of about £20m in this property with an extensive refurbishment and rebuild project. We want to move our hotel from being a 2/3 star property to the luxury end of the market.
“200 capacity conferencing, a brand new luxury restaurant, 2,500 sq ft spa facility, and a treatment room to name a few of the changes
He added: “We are a big part of the city in terms of bringing people. Chester has to become a destination city that is at least on a par with York and Bath and maybe even Rome in the future. Hoteliers can play a bit part in providing that kind of experience for visitors.”
In terms of provision of cheaper rooms in city centres Chester is third with 182 rooms whilst Oxford tops the budget league with 340 rooms and York has 261.
There may be opportunities for Chester’s two star hotels and larger guest houses to reposition as boutique guest accommodation which is so successful in Bath.
Visit Britain figures reveal the county enjoyed a record year in 2006. Overseas tourists spent £112m in Cheshire in 2006 – 22% more than 2005’s figure of £92 million.
The number of international visitors to the county soared by 15% from 343,000 to 396,000 while foreign tourists’ overnights added up to almost 2.12 million, 17% up on the previous year’s 1.81million.
Jonathan Slater managing director for The Chester Grosvenor has promoted and marketed Chester for 25 years. He believes the city’s hoteliers are poised to reap the rewards of increased investment, the Chester Renaissance project and a sustained uptake in foreign and domestic visitors.
He explained: “I would like to see the city centre prosper in a balanced way, hotels, retail, services all have to see a result from the development of Chester’s local economy.
“There are great opportunities. I do believe we have some really exciting times ahead but it has got to be controlled, well thought through and must benefit everyone.
“This is a small unique city – it’s boutique and we have to be mindful of that when considering future development
“Our strategy has to be targeted, focused in our approach, that’s why Chester Renaissance is pretty fundamental – a great vehicle to move the city forward. There needs to be good private and public sector partnerships and ‘win win’ for everyone.”
The hotel is visited by tourists across the globe, and has an American following coupled with guests from The Far East and Asia.
North West sporting events – Open golf championships, The Champions League, UEFA Cup and Liverpool Capital of Culture have seen a surge in bookings at Chester’s flagship hotel which has 18 Michelin stars.
Mr Slater added: “We are leveraging off Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008 and the big sporting occasions taking place in the North West.”