Club Hotel & Spa: No sinking feelings now

22 June 2006
Club Hotel & Spa: No sinking feelings now

Since we published last month's report from the Club & Spa, owner Lawrence Huggler has been inundated by offers from bathroom companies offering to alter the height of Robin Hutson's… er… or at least alter the height of Lawrence Huggler's sinks.

Hutson was visiting the Club Hotel & Spa at Caterer's request, after Huggler said that the Hotel du Vin founder was the industry figure he'd most like to meet. Hutson was full of advice and compliments but was slightly concerned about how low the sinks were - explaining that there was a general rule relating to a part of the male anatomy which dictated how high sinks should be.

"We always receive catalogues and letters from product companies, but we've had so many referring to Robin's comments," says Huggler. "Perhaps I should have said to Robin that it all depends on how big that part of your body is!"

Huggler was, though, very pleased with how the visit went and reiterated his pleasure on hearing that Hutson had been planning a Hotel du Vin for Jersey, until the sale of the brand halted any more expansion. "I know now we weren't as nuts as people thought," he says.

Not that Huggler hadn't worked that out already. As we say goodbye to the Club Hotel & Spa as one of our adopted businesses, and as Huggler approaches the end of his first year of trading, he can be very pleased with what the hotel has achieved. "Yes, I'm very proud of the team and everything they've done," he says. "The challenge now is to take it forward."

So how has it performed? Huggler says he purposely planned two budgets, one realistic and one pessimistic. Fortunately, the revenue that has been achieved has surpassed both. And what about meeting the third budget, the optimistic one? "Well, that only exists in my head," he says. "I think it's dangerous, in business, to let yourself think along those lines too much. But it's up there."

Huggler always said that he expected the hotel to make a profit of about £800,000 in its first full financial year, from this April to next. So far, he says that target should easily be met. Similarly, occupancy levels are exceeding his forecast of 70%, at about 78% in April, 75% in May and pushing past 80% for June.

Although July is also looking healthy, he's slightly concerned about August, because he's not sure how the hotel will appeal to the family holiday market. "We are very child-friendly," he says, "but we're not ideally suited for the beach." That said, he says that Jersey people don't leave the island in great numbers, so he imagines there will still be plenty of business for Bohemia and the spa.

What has really pleased Huggler, however, is the achieved room rate. "The suites have just been selling incredibly well," he says. In fact, Huggler says he would perhaps think about making four or five extra suites. However, he has no plans to knock down walls yet. "The hotel is not yet one year old," he says. "You need to let it bed down for at least three years."

Not that he doesn't already have other plans. He is already on the lookout for other properties, on the island and perhaps also on the mainland. Any new hotel would not be a second Club hotel, although it would be aimed at the top end of the market. "If we did one on the island," he says, "it wouldn't have a spa and a Bohemia-style restaurant."

He believes the competition would be good. "I've always said that Jersey needs more hotels," he says. "Anyway, if anyone wants to build another luxury hotel, it would only be because they thought the market could support it." In fact, he urges people to invest in improving the island's product offer. "Imagine if Jersey had three Michelin-starred restaurants," he says. "It would be great."

Huggler is certain that Jersey is edging away from its rather staid image of coach parties and knotted hankies. The Club's phenomenal success has been proof of that.

We wish Huggler good luck and hope he can work his magic elsewhere. And don't worry about the height of those sinks…

The story so far
The Club Hotel & Spa was opened on 21 August last year. Lawrence Huggler's family owned the site freehold through their St Helier printing business, but he still needed £7m start-up money. The fine-dining restaurant Bohemia opened in 2003 and won a Michelin star last year.

Looking forward, Huggler hopes the hotel will record a gross operating profit of between £750,000 and £850,000.

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