It is imperative that action is taken – and urgently – to bring the most iconic building on our glorious Yorkshire coast up to scratch and guarantee its future. With 365 rooms, one for every day of the year, many with astounding views over the South Bay, it should be an absolute beacon for the British seaside.
All it needs is imagination, and a huge injection of cash, of course. I know that I probably spend more time than I should imagining my perfect hotel, but there has never been a better time to mount a rescue bid.
Scarborough, with its long and proud history as one of the UK’s very first seaside resorts, plus an abundance of natural beauty, historic sites including Scarborough Castle (under the careful protection of English Heritage) and modern attractions such as the £14m water park Alpamare, should be at the forefront of this resurgence in domestic tourism. The Grand deserves to be its figurehead, the proud old lady at the prow of the ship.
It’s an absolute dereliction of duty on the part of its owners, Britannia Hotels, to not recognise the wealth of this potential and respond appropriately.
Scarborough Council is reported to be seeking a meeting with the company, because it is so concerned that evident decline – chronicled all too vividly in those lurid Trip Advisor reviews posted by disgruntled guests – will cause severe reputational damage to the town just as it struggles to revive tourism in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. I’d love to be in that meeting.
Voted the UK’s worst hotel chain for the eighth year in a row last December, Britannia Hotels presides over more than 60 hotels across the country; the Grand really should be the jewel in its crown instead of an embarrassment. If the company, which also owns Pontins holiday camps, is not prepared to recognise the important role that the Grand should be playing in the regeneration of Scarborough and the wider Yorkshire coast, it should put the Grade II* listed building up for sale and give someone else the opportunity to realise its potential.
Perhaps Barnsley-born Valeria Sykes, who spent £70m restoring Grantley Hall, near Ripon, to splendour and has just won a coveted five AA Red Stars award, an accolade given to only one other hotel in the UK, the Gilpin Hotel and Lake House in Cumbria, might take a look?
When she bought Grantley Hall in 2016 for an undisclosed sum – it was on the market for £5.95m – the former home of Fletcher Norton, Speaker of the House of Commons and the 1st Baron Grantley was battered. Beautifully designed, it’s now officially recognised as one of the very best hotels in the country.
At the Grand, the clue is in the name. Designed by Hull architect Cuthbert Brodrick and opened in 1867, it’s a huge hotel, undoubtedly, but surely not so huge as to be completely unmanageable.
Sad to say that whilst the Grand is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, it’s just the biggest example of the British attitude towards hospitality. I know, because I’ve stayed in them, that there are plenty of other hotels in Scarborough and elsewhere, not worth the money demanded from guests.
Too many establishments think it’s perfectly acceptable to allow cleaning standards to slip. It’s not necessarily the staff, who typically work punishingly long hours for minimum reward, but the prevailing feeling that anything will do.
When a hotel surprises me with kindness, concern, or just simple straightforward cleanliness, this proves the rule. It is possible, even in the most trying of circumstances, to deliver quality hotel accommodation in the UK.
This race to the bottom from some hotel chains and proprietors needs calling into account. I believe we have a Minister for Tourism, Nigel Huddlestone, MP for Mid-Worcestershire. He should recognise that good hotels are an absolute cornerstone of the industry he champions and seek ways to compel owners to raise standards – or face the consequences.