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12 Dec 2023

Christmas at... Sopwell House

Christmas at... Sopwell House

The team had the pleasure of visiting Sopwell House, a beautiful Georgian country house hotel nestled in the Hertfordshire countryside and interviewed Rafi Bejerano, the Hotel Director, to find out why Christmas is so special at Sopwell House. The moment you enter the lobby, you are greeted by the scent of gingerbread and a roaring log fire. The Christmas decorations are stunning, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting.


Describe Christmas at Sopwell House

It’s the best time of the year to work here. I always take the choice to work because I get to meet all the guests on the floor instead of being stuck in the office. We have a lot of repeat guests, sometimes more than 50%.

The best thing about Christmas at Sopwell House is the cosy atmosphere. The guests are relaxed because they’ve been eating and drinking so much. They’re generally in a good mood because it’s Christmas, and the staff are too because they get double time and extra tips.

It’s also a very family-friendly environment. The guests talk to each other, and it’s just a warm and friendly vibe. That’s what we try to create with all the little touches we do.

We do a lot of things to make the guests feel at home. We give them stockings on their door when they arrive, and we put chestnuts, mince pies, hot chocolate, and sweets in their rooms for the kids.

Some people have been coming here for multiple generations. They come with their families, and it’s a special time for them to remember their loved ones who are no longer with them.

Christmas is also a great time for the staff. The phones aren’t ringing all day, and the emails aren’t coming through very much. We also do a big Christmas lunch for all the staff just before Christmas where the managers all serve the staff!


Are there any special holiday traditions or activities that guests can only experience at your hotel during Christmas?

One of the biggest changes is that we allow kids in the spa during Christmas. We normally don't allow kids in the spa because it's supposed to be a relaxing place for adults. But we make an exception during Christmas because a lot of families come to stay with us.

We also have a lot more activities for kids during Christmas, such as splash times in the pool. We know that kids can get bored when they're on holiday, so we try to keep them entertained.

Another big difference is that the hotel has a more relaxed atmosphere during Christmas. There are no business conferences or meetings, so it's just families and couples. This makes it a lot more fun for the guests because they can relax and enjoy the holidays.

We also decorate the hotel in great detail for Christmas, which makes it feel even more special. And every year, our in-house pastry chef creates a stunning sweet display in the entrance of the hotel that immediately gets you into the festive spirit. It's a real work of art, and it's always a big hit with the guests.

I think the guests really appreciate all the special things we do for Christmas. They love the kids' activities, the relaxed atmosphere, and the decorations. They also really like the special Christmas menu in the restaurants.


Do you collaborate with any local businesses for the festive season?

We try to collaborate with local businesses as much as possible, especially when it comes to our entertainment and food. For our entertainment, we bring in local musicians and singers to perform during the Christmas season. We also work with a local supplier to bring in all of the Christmas décor.

In addition, we are planning to give our guests local gifts this year. We are still working out the details, but we think it will be a nice touch to show our appreciation for our guests and support local businesses.

How does your hotel approach designing your Christmas décor to wow your guests? Are there any other tips or distinctive decorations or themes that you found particularly successful?

We try to create a traditional Christmas atmosphere with our décor, but we also like to mix it up a bit each year to keep things fresh. We also encourage our staff to get involved in the decorating process, and they often come up with some great ideas.

One of the most successful things we've done is to give each department their own budget for decorations. This has allowed them to be more creative and come up with their own unique ideas. We've also found that it's important to mix up the décor throughout the hotel so that there's something different to see in every area.

One of the most popular decorations is our gingerbread house. We make it fresh every year, and it's always a big hit with the guests. We also have a big Christmas tree in the lobby, and we put up Christmas lights all over the place.

We're always looking for new and creative ways to improve our Christmas décor. We take into account feedback from our guests, and we're always on the lookout for new trends. We also try to stay true to the hotel's Georgian style and avoid anything that's too modern or trendy.


What's your most memorable guest experience during Christmas time?

Besides the bad ones like floods and power cuts during Christmas, I would say my most memorable guest experience is when I was invited by a couple of guests to join them for their Christmas lunch. I know these guests well, and they come to the hotel every year for Christmas.

I was touched that they invited me to join them for lunch, and I ended up spending the whole two or three hours with them. We had a lot of food and drinks, and we talked about everything from current events to our families. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to spend time with these guests and get to know them better. It's always nice to feel like part of the family, and that's what Christmas is all about.

I think this experience is memorable because it was unplanned and genuine. It's not something that happens all the time, but it's what makes Christmas so special. I'm grateful for the guests who make Sopwell House their home for the holidays. They make Christmas feel like a family affair, and I'm always happy to see them.

Are there any sustainability initiatives you've integrated into your Christmas decorations or events?

Yeah, we try to reuse and recycle as much as possible. For example, we get rid of real Christmas trees that die after a few weeks and opte for fake Christmas trees, and we reuse any decorations that are still in good condition. We also have a big storage barn where we store all of our Christmas decorations between Christmases.

To be honest, it's hard to be completely sustainable at a luxury hotel during Christmas. You want to create that magical experience for guests, and sometimes that means using decorations that aren't the most eco-friendly. We're always looking for ways to improve our sustainability practices, but it's a challenge. We're trying to find a balance between creating a memorable experience for our guests and being environmentally responsible.

I think it's important to be transparent with guests about our sustainability efforts. We want them to know that we're doing everything we can to be responsible, but we also want to make sure that they have a wonderful experience at Sopwell House.

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