The Hotel Inspector Revisits

Five’s documentary series examining failing British hotels revisits one of the establishments that featured in an earlier episode. This week’s show sees the cameras return to Bournemouth to visit Vincent and Lidy Van Nuyk, the Dutch owners of the 14-bedroom Safari hotel. When hotelier Ruth Watson first met them, Vincent and Lidy were deep in debt and in danger of losing their business.

Vincent and Lidy took on the Safari after 13 years spent running a restaurant in Ireland took their toll on Vincent’s health. However, their hopes of a quiet life were dashed: the hotel failed to turn a profit and the pair were driven to the brink of bankruptcy. The lack of money was reflected in the shabbiness of the hotel, which was in dire need of renovation. “We feel defeated,” sighed Lidy. “We want to improve, but we have no cash for it.” To save money, Lidy and Vincent carried out all the work themselves – including cleaning the 14 bedrooms and doing all the cooking – and were forced to live in one room. Overwhelmed, they had no idea how to pull themselves out of this hole and needed someone to show them how to improve things.

When Ruth first visited the Safari to assess the situation, she immediately noticed the “dubious” signage – including an unfriendly ‘No Jobs’ sign in the front window. Things did not get much better inside, as Ruth clocked the hallway’s eyewatering colour scheme. “I see yellow and red décor and I know I’m in for something vile,” she shuddered, before moving into the chaotic safarithemed lounge and bar. “It’s just junk!” she gasped, taking in the vast array of jungle-themed bric-a-brac. “I just find it so depressing.”

When Ruth met Vincent and Lidy, she pulled no punches. “There’s no way of me saying this without it sounding offensive,” she stated, baldly. “I hate this.” Reeling slightly from the criticism, Vincent showed his new guest to his best room for the night – but she had nothing good to say about that either.

Ruth immediately noticed a stain on one of the towels, crumbling décor, unpleasant bedding, a “pitiful” bathroom and a mirror “you wouldn’t steal from a skip”. The other bedrooms did not fare much better. “Look at this shower!” shrieked Ruth after spotting a skirting board installed, bafflingly, halfway up the cubicle wall. Eventually she came to the difficult conclusion that she could not stay the night – but returned for breakfast, which she deemed one of the hotel’s stronger points.

Ruth told Vincent and Lidy that the hotel’s books made for “woeful reading”, and explained that the only way to resolve their “Catch-22” situation was to make radical changes. She suggested transforming the lounge into a chic, all-day breakfast café, which would provide much-needed revenue to be ploughed back into the hotel. “The future’s looking beautiful,” declared an optimistic Vincent after accepting Ruth’s suggestions.

Despite the enormity of the task, the refit began quickly. A team of professional cleaners gave the hotel a much-needed once-over; the bedrooms were transformed; and the lounge was reborn as a cool, modern café with tasteful safari touches. However, when the day of the café’s opening arrived, Ruth fretted that Vincent was not going to be ready. “They’re not going to get their act together,” she worried.

Now, the Hotel Inspector returns to Bournemouth to catch up with Vincent and Liddy. In the months that have passed since Ruth’s visit, have the owners managed to conquer their financial problems in order to complete the Safari’s much-needed renovation? Has the new café proved to be a success? And does Vincent still believe the future is beautiful?

Five’s documentary series examining failing British hotels takes another look at one of the establishments that featured in an earlier episode.

Following on from Ruth Watson’s first visit, this week’s show sees the cameras return to Mark and Heidi’s large Victorian hotel in Eastbourne. When Ruth first met Mark and Heidi Cowderoy, they had owned the Weyanoke – a beautiful, 33- bedroom Victorian hotel situated on the Eastbourne seafront – for three years, having bought it after a short stint running a small B&B. In the past, the hotel had catered mainly for coach parties of pensioners paying as little as £20 for a room, but this business was quickly dying out.

Heidi and Mark decided to refurbish the hotel to take it upmarket, but their spending meant that they had failed to make any profit since the beginning of their venture. Since buying the hotel, the couple had spent in excess of £1million on what Mark called a “Victorian money pit”.

Upon arrival at the Weyanoke, the first thing that struck Ruth was the beauty of the building: “Architecturally, this is just sublime,” she remarked. However, she also noticed the hotel’s outdated image and its confusing, North Americansounding name. Once inside, she was shown to one of the refurbished rooms: “Blow me down,” she said. “It’s a delight!” But the pristine interior of this room was in stark contrast to everything Ruth encountered downstairs, prompting her to conclude that the hotel had a split personality.

The next morning, Ruth sampled the hotel’s breakfast – an essential part of the stay. “This is a slightly pitiful-looking breakfast,” she observed, but added that it would be satisfactory for a guest paying just £20 for a room. She then headed to the bar to speak to Mark about the business. Here, she discovered what may be the hotel’s main problem: while Mark knew how much money was coming in, only Heidi had control of the money spent on the refurbishment – and she was spending income that the hotel simply did not have.

After 24 hours of observation, Ruth sat Mark and Heidi down to reveal her findings. Firstly, she tackled the hotel’s dual identity, suggesting that the business could not continue to run in two different directions, with contrasting tariffs for clients at opposite ends of the spectrum. She then stressed the need for rebranding, starting with a new name for the hotel. Finally, Ruth addressed Heidi’s wanton spending and recommended that the couple communicate properly about financial matters.

Mark and Heidi took Ruth’s advice on board and got to work, though Heidi seemed dubious about her mentor’s methods: “It was a little like being back at home,” she remarked. Mark was keen to develop a coherent business plan, but it seemed that Heidi was unable to take the financial situation seriously. Still eager to take the hotel upmarket, she pushed ahead with the refurbishment, and her spending again went over budget.

On Ruth’s return to the hotel, she brought with her two business proposals. The first projected that the hotel would make an annual loss of £1,000 if the couple were to stick to the coach parties; the second dealt solely with a higher-paying clientele and foresaw a net annual profit of £60,000. With such a stark illustration of their financial future, Mark and Heidi chose the second plan and began a complete rebranding of the hotel.

After canvassing local opinion, ‘East Beach’ was chosen as the new name for the hotel, but this was only the beginning of the transformation. Now, the Hotel Inspector returns to Eastbourne to catch up with Mark and Heidi. In the months that have passed since Ruth’s visit, have the owners gained the business nous they needed to make a success of their establishment? Has the hotel been successfully redesigned? And has Heidi managed to curb her spending?

Five’s documentary series examining failing hotels in the UK takes another look at one of the establishments that featured in an earlier episode.

Following on from the first visit of hotelier and author Ruth Watson, this week’s show sees the cameras return to the Haven in Great Yarmouth to see if owners Elly and Rob have completed their hotel’s much-needed redesign.

When Ruth first visited the nine-bedroom Haven Hotel in Great Yarmouth, her mission was to rescue the fortunes of owners Elly Koopman and Rob Farrow. The couple bought the hotel a mere four months before they called on Ruth for help, after realising that they were out of their depth and desperately needed classes in running a hotel.

Upon arrival at the Haven, Ruth made the acquaintance of Elly and Rob, and learned that while the couple were keen and ambitious, there was one major stumbling block: they knew nothing of the business. Elly was determined that the Haven should be the first guesthouse in Yarmouth with a five-star rating, but Ruth was anxious that she manage her expectations and aim for a more rational three or four stars. The initial inspection was not all bad news – Ruth felt that the work the pair had already done was heading in the right direction, but warned that the couple would need to speed up the improvements if they were to last the season.

Elly and Rob’s first lesson in being good hoteliers started with a fact-finding mission to a nearby fivestar guesthouse. Despite the vast differences between the two buildings and their respective situations, however, Elly stuck to her guns and refused to lower her goal of achieving five stars. Ruth then hit upon another plan to show the couple how far they would have to go by taking them to her own hotel, the Crown and Castle in Orford. Here, head chef Max set about teaching Elly and Rob how to make a quality breakfast. Ruth then set the pair a hotelier’s exam to test them on the finer points of the business.

With Easter fast approaching, Ruth wanted Rob and Elly to complete the Haven’s much-needed refurbishments before the crucial holiday period. To this end, Ruth arranged for her team from the Crown and Castle to makeover the Haven’s oldfashioned lounge and bar – but things did not go as smoothly as planned. The mounting tension between Ruth and her charges came to a head when a busy Rob and Elly were asked to test out their breakfast skills on Ruth’s team.

But, despite the disagreements, Rob and Elly finally completed the work on the Haven and waited anxiously for Ruth’s return to show it off. What they did not realise, however, was that they still faced two more major hurdles. Firstly, Ruth sent four ‘mystery shoppers’ to the Haven to put the facilities and hospitality to the test. These special guests highlighted a few teething problems but, on the whole, their visit went well. Then, Ruth arranged for a real hotel inspector to stay the night and award the Haven a star-rating based on his experiences.

Now, the Hotel Inspector returns to Great Yarmouth to catch up with Elly and Rob. In the months that have passed since Ruth’s visit, have the owners gained the business nous they needed to make a success of their establishment? Has the hotel been successfully redesigned? And has the Haven managed to win the five stars for which Elly was so desperate?

Five’s documentary series examining failing hotels in the UK takes another look at one of the establishments that featured in an earlier episode.

Following on from the first visit of hotelier and author Ruth Watson, this week’s show sees the cameras return to the Grand Hotel on the East Sussex coast to see if owner Peter Mann has made the changes necessary to save his establishment from ruin.

When Ruth first visited the 17-room Grand Hotel on the Hastings seafront, it was rapidly losing business to the newer budget hotels elsewhere in the town. Owner Peter Mann, who had been running the hotel for 18 years, was keen to reverse his fortunes, but was wary of Ruth’s infamous no-nonsense approach even before her arrival. “If she’s going to come here a cross between Darth Vader, Genghis Khan and Gordon Ramsay,” he warned, “then that’s not going to work at all!”

Unfortunately for Peter, his worst fears were confirmed when he met Ruth, who was deeply unimpressed by the hotel from the outset. “It’s anything but grand,” she grumbled as she laid eyes on the listless and jaded frontage, complete with peeling paintwork, rusting pipes and dead plants in the windows. The reception area was bizarrely situated up a flight of stairs and, inexplicably, guests were required to ring two bells simultaneously to get Peter’s attention. The lounge area was dominated by tatty paisley sofas, and the bedrooms were spartan, incongruous and grubby. Peter’s reaction to Ruth’s early comments was one of hostility: “I think she’s cold – she uses bad language,” he said. “I don’t like the lady at all.”

After what she described as “an uncomfortable night’s sleep” on a tired mattress, Ruth made her way to the dining room – where she was to experience another shock. The room was stuffed with ornaments, toys and curios from Peter’s travels around the world. Cuddly monkeys jostled for space with Buddhist carvings and china dolls, and there was not a surface visible anywhere in the room. “There is some truly hideous rubbish down here,” said Ruth. “It’s really quite freaky.”

With a monumental task ahead of her, Ruth started by sending Peter off to a local budget hotel to see how the service and amenities compared with the Grand. She then gave him a checklist of things to do to improve the hotel, including clearing the clutter from the dining room, buying matching towels for the bedrooms and, most importantly, redecorating the hotel’s frontage. After his initial misgivings, Peter slowly warmed to Ruth and began to value her advice: “We need to put the ‘grand’ back into the Grand Hotel, as Ruth puts it,” he said.

Ruth then inspired Peter to retain the hotel’s character by transforming the dining room into a quasi-museum of Hastings. To celebrate the Grand’s new look, the pair decided to throw a relaunch party and invite the town’s mayor. But before the party could begin, Peter had a great deal of work to do to make the venue ready.

Now that the party has finished and the Grand’s moment in the spotlight is over, the Hotel Inspector returns to Hastings to see how the business is faring. Has Peter finally embraced the need for change? Will the hotel’s interior be free from touristy tat? And will Peter have managed to put the ‘grand’ back into his establishment?

Five’s documentary series examining failing hotels in the UK returns to take another look at some of the establishments that featured in earlier programmes. Following on from the first visit of hotelier and author Ruth Watson, this week’s show sees the cameras return to Greenwich in South London to see how actor-hotelier Robert Gray has changed his three-bedroom B&B.

Actor Robert Gray turned his home into St Alfeges B&B five years ago to maintain the cashflow between acting jobs. A former antiques dealer, he filled his house with unusual art and objects and decorated with flair and personality – but he was the first to admit that the ‘shabby-chic’ look was starting to just look shabby. “I think we need a facelift,” he confessed before Ruth’s first visit.

Robert called in Ruth to assess his hotel and come up with a plan to keep it performing to a full house. Upon arrival, however, Ruth was not impressed by the B&B’s exterior – a lack of signage caused much confusion, and massively overgrown bushes made it hard to even get to the front door.

Ruth finally managed to get inside and have a chat with Robert about the B&B’s problems. The first issue she raised was Robert’s website, which described the hotel as a “cheap, gay B&B in central London”. “If ever there was a more tacky message than that, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find it!” said Ruth, adding that his description may alienate straight guests and give the wrong message. Ruth approved of the bedrooms’ décor, but expressed concern that only one had an ensuite bathroom. Inside the en suite was an unpleasant surprise: an awful smell emanating from the shower. “Something has died in there!” she exclaimed. “That is just evil!”

Despite these issues, Ruth saw that St Alfeges had a lot of potential and set about helping Robert to remedy the problems. He agreed to add a discreet sign in keeping with the building’s character, and tidy up his “madcap garden”. He also resolved to revamp the B&B’s marketing by changing the website and applying to be included in a prestigious guidebook – ‘Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay’. Inclusion in this guide to idiosyncratic and individual places would bring in more guests who would appreciate the hotel’s unusual charms. Ruth also suggested that Robert offer guided tours of Greenwich as an additional service – which would utilise his acting skills and his knowledge of the area.

As far as the bathroom situation went, Ruth had a dramatic suggestion: knock the tiny bedroom and its neighbour into one, which would give Robert two large en-suite rooms and allow him to charge more. But when she returned a few weeks later, she was unimpressed to discover that Robert had decided to install a tiny en suite in the smallest room. “Oh Rob, come on…” she pleaded. “This is silly.”

A few days later, St Alfeges was a hive of activity: Alastair Sawday himself was soon to visit to see if Robert’s B&B was good enough for inclusion in his guidebook. A new sign had been painted; the garden was much tidier; and work was going ahead on the new en suite. Robert fully expected another battle with Ruth about the tiny room: “I can’t wait!” he said, grimly. However, when Ruth saw the finished product she was forced to grudgingly admit that it looked good. Some months after Ruth’s first visit, the Hotel Inspector returns to Robert’s establishment to see what changes he has made to his business. Is the place still in need of a facelift? Has Robert won a coveted place in Alastair Sawday’s guidebook? And has he managed to master the art of promoting his hotel online?

Five’s documentary series examining failing hotels in the UK returns to take another look at some of the establishments that featured in earlier programmes. Following on from the first visit of hotelier and author Ruth Watson, this week’s show sees the cameras return to Langtry Manor in Bournemouth to see if the staff have managed to turn around the hotel’s fortunes.

In this week’s instalment, the hotel inspector heads back to Langtry Manor, a three-star hotel in the resort town of Bournemouth. Originally built by King Edward VII for his mistress, actress Lillie Langtry, it was bought by Pamela Howard more than 30 years ago and has been run as a hotel by she and her family ever since.

When Ruth first visited the hotel two years ago, her initial impressions were mixed: “It’s a really fine Edwardian house, but I don’t know why they’ve painted the bricks,” she said. Things soon got worse when she inspected one of the hotel’s 27 bedrooms. “Oh dear!” she cried. “It’s like some elderly lady decorated it in the late 50s!” When shown to the Lillie Langtry Suite, one of Langtry Manor’s most prestigious offerings, Ruth made no attempt to disguise her disgust at the avocado corner bath that greeted her. “Oh, for God’s sake! Why do people ruin beautiful houses with this rubbish?” she asked. Then, after road-testing a room for the night, Ruth’s bad impression of the place was cemented. “There were rattling noises at 6.20 in the morning, and the bathroom is so crap it’s untrue,” was her conclusion.

The restaurant was next on Ruth’s agenda and, again, it was a mixed picture. The “hugely generous helping” at breakfast got the thumbs-up, but an over-complicated and unseasonal dinner was less impressive. The dated table settings did not improve the overall experience. “I loathe these burgundy napkins,” said Ruth. “They just look rather Trusthouse Forte, 1982.”

Although many of these issues were straightforward, Ruth soon identified some more serious underlying problems. The main issue concerned the fact that owner Pamela Howard wanted to be involved in the day-to-day running of the hotel, despite having supposedly retired and left her daughter Tara at the helm. Tara, meanwhile, did not have enough confidence to run things her own way – leading to ongoing conflicts about all manner of issues, including room decor and hotel maintenance. Arguments between the two were commonplace, meaning that important issues such as high staff costs went ignored. Although Ruth warned them that they needed to cut back, Pamela and Tara found it hard to consider the prospect of making any of their 30 staff redundant, creating the need to make savings elsewhere.

One of the most important changes Ruth insisted upon was that the women establish their roles more clearly and schedule in a structured meeting once a month. Also, in order to give the pair some food for thought, Ruth sent them off to Winchester to have lunch at the Hotel du Vin, a hotel that manages to combine period charm with modern service and comforts. Pamela and Tara agreed that there were touches at the Hotel du Vin that could be carried through to their own business – including the restaurant’s simple, wellexecuted food. But could they stop squabbling long enough to put any new ideas into practice?

Over two years after Ruth’s first visit, the Hotel Inspector returns to Langtry Manor to see what changes the Howards have made to their business. Is the decor still firmly rooted in the 50s? Has the chef managed to develop a lesscomplicated dinner menu? And have mother and daughter managed to put aside their differences in order to create an effective partnership?

Five’s documentary series examining failing hotels
in the UK returns to take another look at some of
the establishments that featured in earlier
programmes. Following on from the first visit of
hotelier and author Ruth Watson, this week’s
show sees the cameras return to Langtry Manor
in Bournemouth to see if the staff have managed
to turn around the hotel’s fortunes.
In this week’s instalment, the hotel inspector
heads back to Langtry Manor, a three-star hotel in
the resort town of Bournemouth. Originally built by
King Edward VII for his mistress, actress Lillie
Langtry, it was bought by Pamela Howard more
than 30 years ago and has been run as a hotel by
she and her family ever since.
When Ruth first visited the hotel two years ago,
her initial impressions were mixed: “It’s a really fine
Edwardian house, but I don’t know why they’ve
painted the bricks,” she said. Things soon got
worse when she inspected one of the hotel’s 27
bedrooms. “Oh dear!” she cried. “It’s like some
elderly lady decorated it in the late 50s!” When
shown to the Lillie Langtry Suite, one of Langtry
Manor’s most prestigious offerings, Ruth made no
attempt to disguise her disgust at the avocado
corner bath that greeted her. “Oh, for God’s sake!
Why do people ruin beautiful houses with this
rubbish?” she asked. Then, after road-testing a
room for the night, Ruth’s bad impression of the
place was cemented. “There were rattling noises
at 6.20 in the morning, and the bathroom is so
crap it’s untrue,” was her conclusion.
The restaurant was next on Ruth’s agenda and,
again, it was a mixed picture. The “hugely
generous helping” at breakfast got the thumbs-up,
but an over-complicated and unseasonal dinner
was less impressive. The dated table settings did
not improve the overall experience. “I loathe these
burgundy napkins,” said Ruth. “They just look
rather Trusthouse Forte, 1982.”
Although many of these issues were
straightforward, Ruth soon identified some more
serious underlying problems. The main issue
concerned the fact that owner Pamela Howard
wanted to be involved in the day-to-day running of
the hotel, despite having supposedly retired and
left her daughter Tara at the helm. Tara, meanwhile,
did not have enough confidence to run things her
own way – leading to ongoing conflicts about all
manner of issues, including room décor and hotel
maintenance. Arguments between the two were
commonplace, meaning that important issues
such as high staff costs went ignored.
Although Ruth warned them that they needed
to cut back, Pamela and Tara found it hard to
consider the prospect of making any of their 30
staff redundant, creating the need to make
savings elsewhere.
One of the most important changes Ruth
insisted upon was that the women establish their
roles more clearly and schedule in a structured
meeting once a month. Also, in order to give the
pair some food for thought, Ruth sent them off to
Winchester to have lunch at the Hotel du Vin, a
hotel that manages to combine period charm
with modern service and comforts. Pamela and
Tara agreed that there were touches at the Hotel
du Vin that could be carried through to their own
business – including the restaurant’s simple, wellexecuted
food. But could they stop squabbling
long enough to put any new ideas into practice?
Over two years after Ruth’s first visit, the Hotel
Inspector returns to Langtry Manor to see what
changes the Howards have made to their
business. Is the décor still firmly rooted in the
50s? Has the chef managed to develop a lesscomplicated
dinner menu? And have mother and
daughter managed to put aside their differences
in order to create an effective partnership?

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