30 years ago, English country house hotels – which had grown in popularity and number in the 1980s – were not the most welcoming when it came to children.
These were adults’ only hotels and, as couples began to have families, it became all too apparent to them that their children were not welcome and were somewhat of an inconvenience.
It was a trip to Ballymaloe House, near Cork, that first opened the eyes of Luxury Family Hotels founder Nigel Chapman to the possibility that a hotel could offer great food and a stylish relaxed atmosphere, as well as a natural welcoming attitude to families with their children. This was a continental approach not available in the UK at the time.
Finding this rare gem of a place was a bit of a coup for Nigel and his wife Heather, and they subsequently returned to Ballymaloe, first on their own, and then with their children.
Looking for a career change (Nigel was senior partner of a London firm of accountants at the time) he decided to move into the hotel business, seeing a clear gap in the market. In 1988, he sold the family home in London and spent his life savings on a 20,000 square foot Grade 2* Jacobean manor house, Woolley Grange, located near Bath, and within a year turned it in to what was the UK’s first luxury family hotel.
The Chapman family lived in the hotel with their three young children and the hotel crèche – the Woolley Bears Den – welcomed guests’ children as well as the Chapman children. From day one, Woolley Grange resolved to look after both the needs of grown-ups wishing to relax as well as their children. And it’s a formula that has worked…
Fast forward 30 years, Luxury Family Hotels now boasts an impressive collection of unique and picturesque properties including Fowey Hall in Cornwall, New Park Manor in the New Forest, The Ickworth in Suffolk and Moonfleet Manor on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast – with over 400 staff on hand to look after its guests, ranging from groups of friends with their offspring to three generations of the same families, all looking to enjoy a break away with the very important little people in their lives.
Over the last three decades, Luxury Family Hotels has rarely advertised, instead relying on guest word-of-mouth and securing valuable recommendations following a stay in one of its properties. It has also gathered a clutch of important endorsements and multiple awards year after year. As a result, Luxury Family Hotels has developed an enviable reputation as the pioneers in luxury family holidays in the UK.
Nigel Chapman commented: “It’s pretty much gone full circle as many of the current guests who first came to Woolley Grange as children, are now bringing their own children along with grandma and granddad to enjoy quality family time and to create life-long memories.”
This trend of multi-generational holidays continues to remain popular. New research recently released by Minteli revealed that 77 per cent of young parents aged 16-34 say they are interested in taking multi-generational holidays, wanting to spend quality couple time together and get help with their brood while they are away, with England the most considered destination when it comes to multi-generational travel (60 per cent).
INSPIRING TODAY’S FAMILIES
Marking its 30th birthday is an important milestone for Luxury Family Hotels and its senior management team, all of whom are parents themselves. As well as the celebrations that will happen throughout the year, Luxury Family Hotels commissioned independent research specialists Kantar and brand and design consultancy dn&co to take a closer look at the needs of modern families and their expectations of what a luxury experience means today.
This was the most in-depth research study by the brand in the last decade and will inform how Luxury Family Hotels will present itself to its guests – both digitally, experientially and physically in its hotel offering – and ensure that the brand stays relevant to today’s ever-changing demographics.
The qualitative research, which involved a series of eight focus groups with past, present and prospective future guests, was conducted in London, Bristol and Brighton during the summer of 2018 and findings included:
- ‘Luxury’ takes on a new meaning with the addition of children. It becomes less physical and more experiential: i.e. not what a baby listening service is, but what it means for the family.
- Re-learning ‘how to holiday’ with children is a scary prospect! The shift is so sudden, and no-one teaches you how to do it. Understanding the role of the hotel in facilitating this transition is pivotal and carries huge opportunity – this is the new definition of luxury.
- Today’s families value celebrating the time families spend together and the places that facilitate that connection – places where family memories are created.
- However, memories are not always made from ‘doing’ – having the time to just ‘be’ with your family is crucial.
- As consumers continue to move away from traditional ideas of luxury, brands have to adapt by being ever more mindful of their customers’ desire to share an experience, create a memory, connect with each other, unwind and enjoy themselves – in a much faster time frame.
- Consistent standards must be upheld, but individual hotels should maintain individuality under the Luxury Family Hotels portfolio – homogenisation is not appealing.
LUXURY FAMILY HOTELS: FROM RESEARCH TO REALITY
Informed by the research findings, Luxury Family Hotels worked with dn&co to define the Luxury Family Hotels’ brand vision for its guests. Adrian Burley, Group Marketing Director for Luxury Family Hotels, comments:
“We wanted the design to have cross-generational appeal. Crucially, the hotels’ identities needed to appeal to children as well as to their parents (or grandparents who are often the ones paying for the holiday!). So, dn&co drew inspiration from the natural world and folklore surrounding each location – horses gallop along the frieze at The Ickworth; the wool trade was once the backbone of the economy around Woolley Grange; New Park Manor was historically King Charles II’s deer hunting lodge. The history of each area is filled with stories we wanted to bring out. Animal mascots are a rich seam for luxury brands — they have a universal appeal and can talk to a sophisticated audience when used discreetly but can become more playful and irreverent for a younger audience too.”
“A luxury experience isn’t just about good service or beautiful surroundings. It’s about time well spent with those who matter most. As Luxury Family Hotels turns 30, the new brand captures our ethos and helps us bring our story to new audiences, in meaningful, compelling ways.”
Joy Nazzari, founder of dn&co, says:
“Luxury Family Hotels is unique in the world of hospitality, offering modern families an opportunity to enjoy what they value most – the time they spend together. The new brand breaks with the conventions around ‘family holidays’ to position the hotels as a luxury experience not just for children, but also for parents.”
A new Luxury Family Hotels website has launched to coincide with the brand rollout and this can be found here: luxuryfamilyhotels.co.uk. This will be supported by a wider brand roll-out, encompassing the following:
- The individual hotel brands now have more character, incorporating an animal icon or ‘mascot’ that are unique to the surroundings and location of each of the hotels. The mascots aim to inspire every member of the family, adding a touch of sophistication for adults while being approachable and playful for children.
- The new brand also uses photography to convey the experience of a luxury family hotel where a stay goes beyond the hotel room. Using natural light whenever possible, the photography captures the hotels’ unique British landscapes, emphasizing the ‘moments’ that families can experience and the memories they share when they are there.
LUXURY FAMILY HOTEL ANNOUNCES NEW INVESTMENT
As part of the new brand rollout, Luxury Family Hotels is announcing the first phase of new investment in to the hotels. This winter will see a multi-million pound investment at Fowey Hall in Cornwall, with planned works focusing on a comprehensive refurbishment of the hotel’s bedrooms and facilities. Further significant investment for the other hotels in the collection will follow in 2020.
The new brand launches this May to celebrate Luxury Family Hotels’ 30th anniversary. As well as the new websites, guests will also see the new brand in the hotels as new signage and printed collateral is introduced throughout.