Everyone has a different idea of the perfect Christmas getaway… Find out how Abel Heywood, a boutique hotel in Manchester, provides a fabulous Christmas break for city visitors.
Some people escape overseas (COVID permitting…)
Some people escape to the country. Others might enjoy the hustle and bustle of different cities.
So how do you, as a hospitality provider, capitalise on your urban surroundings and entice potential guests to spend Christmas with you in the city?
Abel Heywood is a 15 bedroom boutique hotel in Manchester’s city centre. General Manager, Alex Allan, and his team are no strangers to using the seasonal events planned throughout the city to their advantage.
“We’re in the fortunate position where we don’t really need to host events because we’re kind of smack bang in the city centre,” said Alex.
“We’ll always have feature nights on the big weekends in December, where we’ll have live music on or themed quizzes with cocktails and food which always get booked up.
“But with Christmas, we try not to do something just for the sake of doing it. There’s always events and things going on in the city anyway, so you don’t want to overwhelm your guests.”
If your business is located in a city, it’s important to know what events are taking place over Christmas so that you can point your guests in the right direction.
“City businesses are fortunate because they don’t really need to host events as there’s lots going on in the city centre.”
Use the events that are already happening to your advantage.
“It’s always better to take part and support the events rather than trying to usurp them,” said Alex.
“For example, Manchester has a massive Christmas market every year, but you get all these other places in Manchester trying to do their own mini Christmas markets as well.
“And I always think, why try and beat something that’s already done for you?
“So we essentially tap into and target that crowd, rather than creating more hassle for ourselves and creating our own crowd.”
Although your guests might be staying with you over Christmas, it doesn’t mean you have to push it in their faces.
“At the end of the day, your guests booked to stay with you,” said Alex.
“They might go out and enjoy the Christmas markets, but that doesn’t mean they want to come back and have more Christmas stuff thrown at them.”
Alex and the team at Abel Heywood use the city wide events to entice customers and add value to their guests’ experience, but within the business itself, they stick to what they know.
He said: “So many people come here with no plans whatsoever and maybe even more so at Christmas.
“Obviously there’s loads of music events, markets, museums and everything else you’d find in a city, but it’s our job to point them in towards the events rather than going all out with our own events.
“The fun is in exploring the city and Christmas is the perfect time for that. Manchester is very much a winter city.”
Abel Heywood has the advantage of multiple income streams.
“The fun is in exploring the city. So make the most of the events.”
Not only do they have the guest rooms, but there is also a pub and restaurant.
“We try to do things that are complementary to the venue,” said Alex, “rather than something that’s totally out of character.”
He added: “We’re very good at what we do. We serve great food and great drinks. We do a few booked events and what not, but whatever we do, we just focus on getting it right, which is extremely important at Christmas.”
Over the Christmas period, the Abel Heywood add little touches to make sure the guests enjoy a touch of holiday spirit.
“We decorate the doors of each room with little laurel wreaths,” said Alex.
“We also leave Christmas chocolates in the room, but we try not to leave drinks for them in the rooms because we try and get them in the bar.”
He added: “Our upstairs gin bar has a lot of greenery already, so we just add to that to make it more festive. We put trees and garlands all over the place so it’s quite nice.”
Aside from the festive decorations in the bar, it’s always a good idea to add some seasonal drinks to your menus over the festive period.
Alex said: “We do a pumpkin spice espresso martini which is on the menu from Halloween right through the Christmas period because it’s a nice seasonal drink with a wintery feel.
“We also do hot mulled cider and signature gin serves with local or spiced gins. They always go down really well.”
Surprisingly, as one of the smallest hotels in the city, Abel Heywood doesn’t have any full time hotel staff.
However, when business picks up for the winter season, Alex makes sure there’s one member of the team who is devoted to bookings and guest relations.
“People always want to ask more questions when booking for the Christmas season,” said Alex, “even more so now that we’ve been through a pandemic.”
He added: “My advice to a city based hospitality business would be to get someone wholly focussed on bookings and answering questions over Christmas rather than everybody doing a little bit of everything.
“Put one person in charge of filling the diary and dealing with questions and requests. Everyone is panicking now that they can’t get their Christmas holiday abroad so you need someone who is ready to deal with that onslaught.
“Having someone in Christmas mode from October onwards is the best way to stay ahead of everything.”
It’s important to be prepared for the festive season and Alex it’s the little things that make all the difference.
“Sometimes it’s nice to offer a room upgrade if guests are staying for special occasions, but you should always treat your direct bookings better,” explained Alex.
“I know I shouldn’t say that, but they’ve made the effort to book with you directly and I think they deserve the extra effort you put in as a thank you.”
He added: “There’s some really great little hospitality businesses up and down the country and it’s bloody hard work, but you learn and then before you know it, you’re really good at it.”
Alex’s Top Tips for the festive season
- Don’t put decorations up too early (Wait until you start serving your Christmas menu)
- Add seasonal, festive drinks to the menu
- Inform your guests of what events are taking place in the city during their stay
- Don’t overwhelm your guests with Christmas. Let them enjoy it in the city at their own pace
- Appoint a member of your team to focus on Christmas bookings and enquiries