Rural charm within Oxford itself
As a result of a sustained programme of investment and its passion for quality, Hawkwell House Hotel is today celebrating record levels of business
Set in the peaceful area of Iffley Village, south of Oxford, Hawkwell House Hotel, with its elegant white exterior and beautiful gardens can probably be best described as an informal country housestyle hotel located on the outskirts of one of England’s most famous cities,” says Tim Spittles, general manager of Hawkwell House Hotel. “Providing a friendly, homely environment for its guests, the hotel strives to make sure each visitor attains a feeling of relaxation and a sense that while staying at the hotel, they are being looking after in the very best possible way. What the hotel offers is a very comfortable, top end, three-star environment supported by a four-star mentality. Our goal is to become the best value independent hotel in Oxford.”
A city renowned as a hub of activity and cultural significance, Oxford brings with it a diverse mix of business opportunities that Hawkwell House Hotel has managed to successfully capitalise on: “Being close to a popular tourist destination visited by people from throughout the UK and abroad, the hotel has built up a strong position in the leisure market,” Tim continues. “During the week the hotel accommodates a lot of corporate guests and also boasts a thriving wedding market, in fact it has doubled the number of weddings hosted in the last two years alone.”
Over the past few years Hawkwell House Hotel has worked diligently to vastly improve its product, to the point where it has successfully increased its room rate and maintain its occupancy levels: “In the last two years, 51 of the 66 bedrooms have undergone a complete refurbishment of their bathrooms and bedrooms, and now the focus has turned to improving the hotels’ public areas in such a way that they retain their comfortable atmosphere. The sheer amount of work that has gone into bringing the hotel up-to-date is such that when you walk through the door today, the surroundings are almost totally unrecognisable to what they were in 2009,” Tim enthuses.
This programme of investment, while it has proven successful, came at a time of severe economic hardship, an unavoidable fact that Tim reveals created not only challenges, but also strengthened the collective desire to see the hotel succeed: “Obviously at the time when the new management came in, the country was in the grip of a recession. Despite the tough economic climate, the hotel’s shareholders never once failed to back the management team, in part thanks to strong early results, and this has continued through the years of investment that followed.
“As the product offered by the hotel has improved, so too has the belief that Hawkwell House Hotel is more than capable of building on its successes and can continue providing a level of service that ultimately leads to an improved market share. Improving standards is a big driver for the hotel and as such, the management team has worked to establish a number of benchmarks that both it and the staff aim to better at all times. This approach has already begun to pay off with customer feedback ratings for the hotel having risen dramatically in a short amount of time.”
Positive customer feedback has also translated into record figures for the hotel: “The last two years for the hotel have been defined by an increase in not only turnover, but profitability as well,” Tim highlights. “June 2011 was a record month for the hotel in terms of visitor numbers, a feat which was then bettered in July, while August saw a 15 per cent increase in visitors making it the best in the hotels’ history. This growth can, in part, be put down to the hotels’ increased marketing activity in the last 12 months, a move that has resulted in more people discovering the hotel for the first time and seeing what it has to offer.”
Hawkwell House Hotel’s desire to improve and be the best also extends to its cuisine and the dishes offered through its different dining concepts: “Since the hotel first opened its doors it has always prided itself on stocking only the freshest food products. In the past six months it has been turning its attention towards increasing the amount of local produce it uses and the number of local suppliers it relies on,” Tim says. “The next step on from this has been the process of rewriting the hotels’ menus, basing them around seasonal products while also giving some provenance to the hotels’ best local producers and suppliers.”
One simple idea
As Tim goes on to state, the rebirth of Hawkwell House Hotel was, and continues to be, driven by one simple idea and that is to be better than its competitors: “Things began at a very basic level, putting in one or two new bathrooms or bedrooms and then increased in scale from there. Where the hotel is now is at a point where it is looking to improve and increase on aspects such as its hosting of weddings. A core objective as well is the creation of a new restaurant on the current one’s existing site, a move that will require a complete refurbishment of the existing facilities.”
While it would be fair to say that before the arrival of the new management team the hotel suffered primarily due to a lack of investment, the future now appears much brighter: “Everything that has occurred, and every decision that has been taken in regards to Hawkwell House Hotel over the last couple of years has been fundamentally designed to give the business a solid financial base from which it can push forward. With its booking figures looking as strong as ever and by constantly being on the hunt for new opportunities, the stability the business requires to take it into the years ahead looks well on its way to being achieved,” Tim concludes.