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10:30 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 11:30 UK

Langtrys Hotel is sunnyside up

David Webb and Julie Sayers

Blackpool has an abundance of hotels and boarding houses up for sale and/or derelict highlighting the by-gone heyday of the seaside town.

With a decline in visitors since the advent of package holidays in the 60s, not many people would embark on a major refurbishment of a local guesthouse.

However, that is exactly what Julie Sayers and David Webb did.

They have spent £200,000 transforming their North Shore Bed & Breakfast into a five star boutique style hotel.

Quite a gamble even though Blackpool is still the UK's most popular seaside resort and attracts ten million visitors a year. A high percentage flocking to the Golden Mile now are day-trippers rather than the tourists of yesteryear who checked in at the resort for at least a week.

"I think it is fantastic what they have done at Langtrys; it shows they have as much faith in Blackpool as the council"


Councillor Maxine Callow

Not only that, the couple upped the stakes by inviting Channel Five's 'Hotel Inspector' to be a house guest during the ambitious project. Few hoteliers remain unscathed by a visit from Alex Polizzi who hails from famous hoteliers, the Forte family.

The couple are originally from Brighton but moved to Blackpool in May 2005 when they bought the Sunnyside Hotel on King Edward Avenue, North Shore. It was rated three stars but they were determined to make it five. "We had a vision then of what we wanted," said David.

David was the manager of a printing company for ten years while Julie was an assistant bursar for a special needs school when the pair decided they wanted to run their own business. He said: "We wanted to work for ourselves and thought a hotel was perfect."

Why Blackpool? "My Nan used to have a boarding house so I spent most of the summer when I was growing up here," explained Julie. "It has the longest season and the price of property is reasonable so it seemed the obvious choice."

Polizzi, though, had reservations about investing such a huge sum into a B&B in the town. She had a look of horror when they revealed the extent of their plans.

The breakfast room

"We don't think Alex thought it was viable to invest all that money in a hotel in Blackpool. We think it is very much on the up; there's so much work being done in the town and improvements being made here," said Julie in reference to Blackpool's multi-million pound regeneration plan to turn it into a world class resort.

Frosty

That look of dismay was reciprocated when the hotel inspector showed off her designs to David and Julie. They were less than impressed with Polizzi's mood boards saying it didn't have the "wow" factor.

It certainly wasn't your typical episode of Hotel Inspector. Usually Polizzi is at the country's worst run and sometimes most unhygienic hotels and guesthouses and tries to resurrect them. The Sunnyside was neither badly run or had any problems on the domestic front; but it did have the obligatory frosty relationship between the hoteliers and Polizzi after they rejected her designs.

The couple's project was probably more suited to Channel 4's 'Grand Designs' which they had originally applied for. At the time the show didn't do commercial properties.

With Polizzi unable to persuade them to lower the budget, work on the master-plan started in January 2009 and took 16 weeks to complete.

The results are impressive. It is contemporary design throughout with trimmings you would only expect from a top hotel - stylish decor, LCDs, en suites with either wet rooms or power showers and guests are provided with a towelling dressing gown. There are also 'Forget me not' boxes in each room with all sorts of goodies from tweezers to an eye mask. One bathroom even boasts a TV which the hotel inspector tried to pull the plug on as an unnecessary expense.

They completely gutted the building and changed everything - even the name.

Julie explained: "We wanted a classier name. Langtrys is associated with top hotels and Michelin stars so more in keeping with the style of the hotel. Sunnyside didn't fit in with the refurbishment and there are other Sunnyside hotels in Blackpool so it prevents any mix ups."

Rubber stamp

The venture has paid off in their pursuit of their five star guest accommodation at least. They were granted Quality in Tourism's five star status much to the couple's relief. "It was make or break. We would've been majorly disappointed if we hadn't got five stars."

Julie added: "We knew we had the quality but we had to get the extra two stars to rubber stamp it."

Polizza was complimentary about the finished article and pleased to see that although they initially gave the thumbs down to her designs they did end up incorporating some of her ideas.

David said: "It's even better than we had envisaged."

One of the rooms

With all the improvements, they have hiked the prices somewhat. Now advertised as a luxury Bed & Breakfast, it has priced most of the Sunnyside guests out of the market. They are not unduly concerned; their intention was always to appeal to the corporate end market and they can always refer people on a lower budget next door to Julie's sister's guesthouse.

Councillor Maxine Callow - who is a cabinet member of the council for Tourism and Regeneration - applauds the transformation especially as it coincides with the regeneration of the resort. "I think it is fantastic what they have done at Langtrys; it shows they have as much faith in Blackpool as the council."

She added:"I wish more people had the courage and finances to follow suit."

So have the £200,000 of improvements boosted business? "It's too early to say but it has been busy since the show. We never expected to get the money back straight away because it is a six year plan," said David.

"Oh, and the en-suite with the TV in the bathroom has already paid for itself: people have booked the room because of it," he added.




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