One of the UK travel industry ‘heavyweights’, Peter de Savary is probably best known for his ‘thoughtful’ and personal approach to hospitality across a portfolio of stylish properties. The hotelier, 76, works alongside his wife, Lana de Savary, who is responsible for the hotels’ chic interior-design ethos, with both presiding over a collection of boutique outposts across the UK and beyond.
Cary Arms & Spa, in Devon, for instance, is a seaside ‘inn’ with New England-vibes. Overlooking Babbacombe Bay, rooms have a smart, nautical design with ocean views stretching across the English Riviera. While the glass-fronted spa taps into the surroundings with its choice of marine-based Thalgo treatments.
Also offering a twist on a typical seaside stay is The Beachcroft Hotel, in Felpham, West Sussex. For an authentic ‘barefoot’ experience, book one of the beach hut suites, which have bijoux interiors and direct access to the shoreline.
The Bradley, in Cheltenham, on the other hand, has a different vibe. An elegant Regency townhouse, it’s the place to visit for a refined night away, soaking up the history of the property. Antique furniture – from the de Savary family’s own collection – is mixed with period details (huge sash windows and marble fireplaces), while individually-styled rooms bring subtle personality.
Found in the Surrey Hills, The Merry Harriers is a 16th century inn offering gastro-pub cuisine and llama trekking, among other unique experiences. With its cosy shepherd huts and garden rooms it brings a quirky touch to the de Savary collection. In addition, there’s a Welsh hotel – The Parkway set in seven acres of gardens and – in the Caribbean – the Mount Cinnamon Resort in Grenada offers guests a boutique experience under the Grenadian sun.
All properties are linked by the fact that there is a strong focus throughout on gastronomy, and this comes to the fore at The Eastbury Hotel in Sherborne, Dorset. This 26-room property has been carved out of a Georgian townhouse and has a homely appeal. One of its highlights is its Seasons restaurant, where guests can enjoy an imaginative tasting menu, showcasing local produce, as well modern Dorset dishes, all created by head chef Matthew Street.
The feel at The Eastbury is like stepping into a countryside, period home. Bedrooms are fashioned on a traditional English aesthetic, while a series of lounges offer quiet spaces to read, or a place to enjoy an aperitif. The traditional games room, meanwhile, is just the place for after-supper pool. Outside, a walled garden – dotted with iron and bronze sculptures, an outsized chess board and winding paths – is an idyllic place to soak up the sun on a fine, summer’s day.
Here, there’s also an outdoor glass Pod room, for celebratory afternoon teas or romantic meals, and, tucked away in a hidden corner is the Woodland Spa. Built from local stone, the semi-circular structure has a sedum and moss roof and is warmed inside by a rustic log-burning stove. Two treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room give plenty of opportunities to kick-back and relax.
For those after a private experience, The Eastbury Cottage, found next door to the hotel, is a 17th-century house, with three-bedrooms, and oozing historic character. Inglenook fireplaces, attic rooms and its own country garden mean guests can hunker down and enjoy time alone, while being able to tap into all the facilities at the hotel. It’s suitably on-trend for the current yearning for space and seclusion.
Known for his hands-on-approach, Peter de Savary visits each hotel every few weeks, and spends time nurturing his team (mostly locals), with a focus on teaching the essence of exceptional service and creating a home-from-home atmosphere. Here, for Forbes, he discusses being a hotelier in these extraordinary times.
How severe has the pandemic affected your business?
Extremely severe. As bad as you can imagine.
What new measures have you undertaken to reopen and tempt people out to stay with you again?
Ahead of re-opening in July, we put many safety steps in place. Following a COVID-19 risk assessment, we received the Visit England ‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard, in line with respective Government and public health guidance. Further to implementing these safety measures across all of our hotels, we focused primarily on the fact that we offer a wide selection of self-contained accommodation with their own entrances opening onto gardens or beaches.
Guests can stay in a collection of cottages, beach huts, garden rooms, suites and shepherds huts, and most of these offer self-catering options. Furthermore, we’ve continued to invest in our marketing to help promote our different properties and the great locations they’re in, in turn, helping to attract people to wonderful parts of the country that they, perhaps, wouldn’t have explored before.
With over 45-years-experience as a hotelier, what is your view on the current situation? Are you hopeful for the travel industry?
My current view is that it is now, and for the foreseeable future, and is, sadly, disastrous for the travel and hospitality industry. However, we don’t know when the effects of the virus will disappear – the sooner the better! – and then we will see a boom in the travel and tourism industry.
What do you think the future of travel looks like? Are there positives for the UK industry, for instance?
As long as there’s a virus restricting foreign travel, an increasing number of people will enjoy wonderful holidays in the UK. I believe they will see how satisfactory that is, and I would expect a reduction in foreign holidays at the end of the pandemic and a sustainable increase in British holidays. This may well prove to be a welcome silver lining.
What is your favourite property out of your portfolio and why?
I don’t have a favourite because my resorts are all totally different from each other in so many ways. It depends upon my particular mood at the time, as to which type of experience I want, and that determines which of the properties I spend time at.
When we can travel freely again, where will you be heading to and why?
I will be travelling to the United States purely for business reasons and the only foreign holiday that I will take is to Mallorca where I keep a boat. Otherwise, I shall continue to enjoy all that is wonderfully on offer in the UK.
The Eastbury has a unique, timeless feel – what would you say is its special charm?
The Eastbury feels like a lovely private home with exceptional food and the most delightful, private walled garden, with lots of birds, and a real sense of being in the countryside.
Can you recommend any must-dos for guests staying at The Eastbury?
I would highly recommend our boutique Woodland Spa, which can also be booked exclusively by guests. They must also experience our seven-course tasting menu with paired wines in Seasons Restaurant, which has been awarded two AA Rosettes, and of course, enjoy one of the many walks in the glorious Dorset countryside.
With your wealth of experience as a hotelier, how do you keep your hotel offerings feeling fresh and relevant to today’s market?
I visit my hotels approximately every two weeks and I speak to as many guests as possible for any comments they might have – which is so important for any business. I have eyes like a hawk and have great attention to detail, which helps us to continually stay on top of our game, and ensures our properties and our very friendly staff are as guests would like to find them.
What’s next for you?
I’m sure there’s something! But the excitement and anticipation of not knowing what and when it will happen is one of the best advantages of being an entrepreneur!