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Owner was 'doomed' from start says leading hotelier

By Herald Express  |  Posted: September 13, 2012

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MARK JENKINS was 'doomed' from the moment he signed the Grosvenor Hotel deal.

That's the view of leading Torquay hotelier Keith Richardson as the demise of Mr Jenkins re-opened the debate on the future of Torbay's holiday industry and where coaching holidays, in particular, fit in.

Mr Richardson, owner of the four-star Grand Hotel on Torquay seafront, said: "I was with Mark Jenkins yesterday.

"As soon as he signed the deal for the Grosvenor, I believe that he was doomed.

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"I just don't see how he could have balanced the books in any way.

"There is plenty of space in Torbay for coaching hotels. The problem is, in a word, management.

"They can be run very successfully. I think having them (coach holidays) here as well is the right balance for my customers.

"We are flying at the moment. We've had a great year. I spent £200,000 on a new computer system to make Torquay the booking centre for all my hotels. It really worked and has created five jobs.

"You come into the Grand at any time at the moment and you'll see how busy it is."

A Lancashire-based tour company is offering five days at the Inglewood this November, including dinner, bed breakfast, return transport from as far away as Liverpool, and two excursions for just £209 per person.

Another tour operator is offering five days on the same basis at The Grosvenor for £169.

Cllr Jeanette Richards, who heads tourism for Torbay Council, said: "I believe there is room for all kinds of accommodation in the Bay.

"As for charges I can't comment.

"When I ran a hotel we were at the higher end and that worked very successfully for us.

"We have room in the Bay for all types of hotels because we want to attract all types of visitors. There should be something for everyone."

Former Torbay mayor Nick Bye claimed: "Generally, there is an oversupply of cheap accommodation in Torquay.

"What we need is accommodation with a higher standard.

"People want value for their money but will pay for high quality accommodation.

"Through strategy and planning the current administration must take it more up market.

"You only have to walk around the town this summer to see the poor state and decline in some of the hotels.

"The tariffs are too low for the hotels to be able to reinvest in their future, and then nature takes its toll".

Carolyn Custerson, chief executive of the English Riviera Tourism Company, said she agreed with the views of both Mr Richardson and Cllr Richards.

She said: "There is room for coaching holidays in Torbay and they are intrinsic to the resort.

"Our Turning The Tide Strategy looked at stopping the decline and turning towards growth.

"The coaching sector is already at near capacity.

"However, I have been horrified at some of the costs with hotels accepting £11 for a night's stay in January.

"The business model I was always taught for that time of the year was to cover your costs in terms of staff, food and lighting and then earn enough for a contribution towards things like your business rates.

"We have seen many success stories this year with hotels doing well during a double recession.

"The Grand Hotel had their best month this summer, The Palace Hotel in Torquay has been doing well, the same goes for Torquay Leisure Hotels.

"Others have been struggling but winning, and not doing it in front of cameras.

"At the end of the day the sale of these hotels in Torquay isn't indicative of the situation at large and there is room for all types of accommodation if they are run well."

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