The Hotelier Edit: Wayne Davis of Astor Court Hotel
The Independent Hotel Show team pay a visit to the award-winning Astor Court Hotel, just a stone's throw from Oxford Street in London, to learn more about the hotel's recently completed refurbishment project.
While General Manager Wayne may have joined the property after the start of its five-year guest room refurbishment project, he's incredibly passionate about the end results. Light, bright and airy, and with a few signature furniture pieces, the renovated rooms have been a hit with guests who arrive from all over the world to sample the delights of the capital.
The 52-room hotel, marking its 62nd birthday this year (with a big celebration to make up for a lockdown 60th!) has won ten hotel travel awards in the last three years, plus most recently winning the Hotels and Guesthouses category of London in Bloom for 2022 with a Silver Gilt award.
"We just wanted to bring it up to a really modern standard, and now that it's complete we'll be continuing the high level of maintenance and support and the great work that the housekeeping team have been doing," says Davis. "We're a solid three-star hotel and I'd argue that the rooms are four star in terms of look and feel. As long as we welcome everybody as if it's their own home then we're going to be on the right track. It's been lovely having the international travellers coming in and enjoying the experience."
"The welcome return of international travel was a game changer for us: we have people coming here from all over the world, particularly north and west European settings like Germany, Italy, France and the Scandinavian market. I think this year particularly we're noticing that now events are coming back on track again we're seeing lots of guests arrive for those magnificent summertime concerts. In this hotel we've been nothing less than 93% occupancy since March 2022, and it feels sad to think about those months of single-digit occupancy. It's a lovely feeling to see the bustle in the lobby and hear what everyone is getting up to and it's incredibly diverse.
"I always send out a 'week ahead' document every Friday to keep our team informed on what's coming up, the Christmas lights turning on and so-forth. Footfall in the West End has only recovered to 83% of what it was in 2019 which staggers me because it feels incredibly busy! We've been pleased to increase our number of triple and quad rooms here, so we're also popular with young families and hen nights and people attending football matches."
When it comes to staffing challenges, Astor Court Hotel works with temp agencies to find team members to join the full time employees, many of whom have been at the hotel for years.
"We have a very simple proposition in a way because we're a limited service hotel and only offer bed & breakfast, so it's largely reception and housekeepers that we need. We've been working with two agencies for many years and we have a very good relationship with them. We like to keep our full time head count up to a good number. Pre-Covid we had 14 full time members of staff and currently we're at seven and trying to recruit more permanent people. We've been in touch with the universities but a lot of the five-star hotels tend to recruit the hospitality graduates. What every General Manager wants is repeat customers and people coming back and our team are a hugely important part of that."
Sustainability, unsurprisingly, is a huge topic for Davis and the Astor Court team.
"We've reached out to a company called Greengage and we're working with a waste management company that sorts out recycling and general waste, our coffee pods used recycled aluminium and the coffee dregs go to composting in Cambridgeshire. We want to be a carbon-free entity by 2028, ahead of the 2030 deadline. Of course we're not always getting it right: single-use plastics like chilled water are being taken over by reusable wherever possible and where we have those weaknesses we are trying to turn them back in our favour into strengths."
When it comes to technology, Davis find immense value in being able to communicate with global booking platforms with regards to last minute room bookings.
"We have 18 partners around the world for B2B and B2C business (Expedia, booking.com etc. and we have agents in Israel which is a key market for us) and the way that we can update all of that technology is very simple," he explains. "I can be sitting at home on the sofa watching telly and I can see which rooms are left to sell at any given time and have a 'same day lose it' rate. We really pride ourselves on filling the hotel so having that technology available to send out those messages to our partners is really something. Technology is moving all the time so we really need to stay on our toes. The creativity and innovation is so important and we need to embrace that."
Finally, reflecting on his visit to Independent Hotel Show 2022, Davis says: "I have been fortunate to attend the Independent Hotel Show for a number of years to meet friends and industry colleagues both old and new, attend a number of seminars and the prestigious awards ceremony with lashings of beautiful English sparkling wine to enjoy. Year after year there are new inventive ideas and business supplier presentations at the wide array of stands. I never come away without bringing new technology, creative guest supplies and amenities to my independent hotel for our valued guests to enjoy as part of their Astor Court Hotel experience.
"Bravo to all the organisers, welcome team, security, waiting staff, cloakroom attendants who put on a great show year after year and thank you for this annual industry “Jewel in the Crown” event."
Independent Hotel Show 2023 will take place on 16-17 October 2023 at Olympia London.