Building for the future
Offering luxury suites, extensive conference facilities and a newly built spa, the Hotel de France is the perfect destination for business or pleasure
The Hotel de France is a luxurious four-star hotel on the doorstep of the vibrant Jersey town of St Helier. The building was originally constructed in 1866 and has been used as a monastery and the base for occupying German soldiers during wartime. Reverting to a hotel in 1953 the Parker family took control in 1971 and still own it today, with Robert Parker the current owner. There has been significant investment in the hotel recently, costing £15m; multiple rooms have been developed or updated, new meeting and media rooms have been added, and a health spa complex built. Met with acclaim from both customers and the media, Hotel de France is keen to grow in both the short-stay and conference markets.
Speaking of the spa complex, marketing and sales director, John Vibert makes the point that opting for an emphasis on health rather than purely pampering has set the hotel apart, saying: “We’ve gone down the line of a wellness spa as opposed to pure pamper, it has gained us a lot of mainstream media interest. It was listed in the top 20 spas in the country by British Airways, and we’ve got people queuing up to review the facilities.”
There can be no doubt that it makes for impressive reading. Hot and cold plunge pools, hydrotherapy pools, a large jet pool and a sauna are complemented by a state-of-the-art gymnasium with a weights room. “We are the leading hotel in Jersey with these types of facilities. It is a massive advantage because when a company is looking for a location for a conference, we tick all the boxes,” John adds.
On that tick list there will usually be the desire for a quality choice and standard of food, an area where the hotel is also strong. The jewel in its culinary crown is the a la carte restaurant, The Gallery. Open to both guests and the public, it offers gourmet dining in elegant surroundings where a range of international dishes can be enjoyed in front of an open fire or on the roof terrace. It was awarded the ‘Menu de Terroir’ by the Genuine Jersey Products Association in July in recognition of its high quality service and produce and commitment to local, fresh ingredients. The Gallery is supported by the Atrium bar, which offers a less formal dining experience, Café Aroma, where the emphasis is on healthy eating and The Orangery, which serves a breakfast buffet. There are plans to extend the business further with a themed a la carte restaurant, using local produce, in the planning stages.
Outlining some of the hotel’s other developments and strengths, John says: “We’ve also built a further 18 new rooms with balconies and five more master suites. One of the keys to the success of the hotel is its flexibility. We are able to host a conference for anything up to 700 people. We are also in a great location; we have fantastic golf courses, idyllic beaches and the town all within walking distance. We expect that the short stay market will be boosted by a new Easyjet service to Jersey that will see an extra 190,000 people visit the island a year, which is very good news for us.
“The future for us is, first and foremost, to take advantage of the growing short-stay market as it has the biggest growth potential. The importance of tourism to the island has finally been recognised especially in the last two years by the government. That hasn’t been the case in the past; there is now the opportunity to develop the marketing further. Jersey is a great product in itself, it is only 35 minutes away from London and is a beautiful place,” John emphasises.
The conference market is also an area that John has high hopes for. “We are looking for significant growth in the next two to three years, and the conference market will play a large part in that. We see it as a great opportunity as many companies are not keen to be seen travelling massive distances. Jersey is the perfect solution for that as they will still be able to get on a plane, leave the UK, and come to a place with fantastic facilities with the ability to host large conferences,” John states.
With such a strong focus on meeting the needs of the customer, the need for knowledgeable and reliable staff is paramount. Fortunately the Hotel de France is a place where there is strong focus on the individuals who make it more than just another hotel. “Our staff is top of this hotel’s criteria, we all have to pull in the same direction. We work as a team and we make decisions as a team. Many of our employees have been with us for a long time and this gives the customers a lot of confidence. People who come back frequently get the sense that nothing they require is too much trouble,” John comments.
The recent developments and the further growth that is expected in the next few years mean that the hotel and its patrons can look forward to a bright future. Not that John takes anything in the industry for granted: “We are always improving, you can’t relax.” The same can’t be said when enjoying the Hotel de France’s facilities, it’s practically encouraged.