The concept of staycations has obviously been sweeping the nation this year, with the UK’s hotels trying to make the most of domestic demand while they can, including one palatial pad in Bath usually known more for its conferences and events
Imagine the excitement of being the new custodian of a hotel, enjoying a festive season there, and then within months, seeing it shuttered as the world grinds to a halt.
This is how it must have felt for Russell Lines, who arrived as general manager at beautiful Bailbrook House Hotel in Bath in November, only to have to close it down a few months later as the virus started to take the world hostage, and with it, the entire hospitality sector.
An experienced hotelier – including 10 years spent among the Hand Picked Hotels family, of which this property is a member – he had to spend several months pretty much on his own at Bailbrook during its early closure, keeping an eye on it for security reasons.
As time rolled on, a small team came back to start maintenance and manicure projects – meaning the hotel is looking in tip top shape now of course – and then came the preparations to ready the hotel for reopening in July.
Lines meets me enthusiastically, but of course hands-free, in the hotel’s lobby – both of us wearing masks, given official government guidelines had changed just before my stay in August to stipulate they must be worn by staff and guests when in public spaces in hotels.
He tells me that the hotel has also of course done everything else it should under Hand Picked’s company-wide In Safe Hands initiative – an enhanced set of stringent health, safety and security measures – from ensuring hand sanitiser dispensers at the door, to taking temperature checks of guests. There’s a little rope barrier to ensure a one-way entry system in the lobby, screens at reception, and also a one-way flow to guest rooms and restaurants and lounges, along with the signage on distancing that’s now such a familiar feature of our daily lives.
These may be essential, but the measures do remove a touch of the luxury feeling you might usually expect a place like this to exude, but it’s clear Hand Picked has done all it can to be guest-ready and to strike the right balance between caution and care. And don’t you worry – I still found plenty to luxuriate in; this was my first work hotel trip since March, and it felt great to be back in the routine.