The details behind the ‘exciting’ £15 million plan to transform Harrogate’s ‘grand old lady’ into a Doubletree by Hilton have been revealed.
Built in the turn of the 20th century the Majestic Hotel on Ripon Road, is as much a part of the heritage of this town as the Royal Hall, Crescent Gardens and the town centre monument.
But the Grand Old Lady’, which has stood the test of time against two World Wars and two significant fires, is about to join forces with one of the biggest names in the global hotel industry.
After purchasing the Majestic in 2016, Newcastle-based leisure leader, the Cairn Group has committed £15 million to ‘sympathetically’ refurbish the hotel to Hilton standards.
Vince Garrington, General Manager of the Birmingham Conference and Events Centre, has been drafted in to make sure the transformation runs smoothly.
Mr Garrington said: “While we are a UK wide company, we’ve got a very local mindset.
“This is the Majestic and it’s always going to be the Majestic, we’re the custodians, Fredericks Hotels started it in 1899 and he opened it in 1900.
“Through those years it’s had different custodians but the Grand Lady of Harrogate is still here, it’s just our turn, and we owe it to the building.
“The only negativity we have received nationally is ‘I hope you do it sympathetically’.
“We feel a little bit hurt when people suggest that we as the Cairn Group wouldn’t be sympathetic to the building.
“We might change the curtains, we might change the carpets and paint it a different colour but it’s still going to be the reading room or drawing room because this is the Grand Old Lady and she deserves that respect from us, and we will just bring her into the next age.”
Within its 33 hotels nationwide, the Cairn Group has a portfolio of ten ‘unbranded’ properties known as the Cairn Collection, which includes the likes of Redworth Hall in County Durham and, until now, also included the Majestic.
Explaining a bit more about the process behind the partnership with Doubletree by Hilton, Mr Garrington said: “When you look a Redworth Hall you wouldn’t put a brand on it, it’s a beautiful country house hotel sitting in the grounds of a 17th century estate, it doesn’t need that brand behind it, it doesn’t add value.
“But here the Majestic is different. The thought process you have to go through is, what is going to be the right thing to do for this business individually.
“You look at the Harrogate market; it’s an event town, it’s a higher-end leisure destination, it’s got its heritage as a spa town and so you know the demographic of people that are going to be attracted here.”
Mr Garrington revealed that the race to partner with the Majestic was whittled down to two major international brands, but could not say which global player had lost out.
He said: “Going through all of that process we were down to two international brands that we felt fitted what we were doing, however the Hilton gives us a little bit extra.”
With the decision final, the hotel is already undergoing renovations, working alongside Hilton’s branding team, to ensure that it ‘ticks all the boxes and complies with the brand standards’ explained Mr Garrington.
The bedroom refurbishments started in March, the reception area is expected to be complete in a few weeks, Christmas party bookings are already being taken for the Carriage suite and it is anticipated the whole project will be complete by next May.
For general manager of the Majestic, Matthew Hole, the exciting investment is an opportunity to put Harrogate on ‘the international stage’.
He said: “From a purely personal level, I’m just really excited that I’ve got the opportunity in my career to have this kind of money put in.
“Most general managers would cry out for having this kind of investment and I’ve worked in many different properties over the years where you’re trying to sell quite an old product at times, so it’s wonderful to have the opportunity and it’s great for the town to have the Hilton brand in the mix, to put Harrogate on the international stage.”
But if you’re questioning how an international market marries up with a close-knit community of strong, independent businesses be assured they’ve covered that too.
Mr Garrington said: “Within the Cairn Hotel Group, owned by the Handa family, every hotel is different.
“Our Champagne Bar and Grill menus will be different to any other. The Piano Lounge will be totally different, and we will look for that local supply, genuinely.
“It’s not this corporate speak about how we want to support the local economy and then forget about it, we will look for that local supply because that’s what we do.”
Finally, sealing their vow to take care of Harrogate’s Grand Old Lady, Mr Garrington added: “As long as we own it, we will look after her and give her back to the people of Harrogate under our stewardship.”
What will the new-look Majestic provide?
* Piano Lounge & Terrace open 7 days a week with live pianist, 100 seats and 50 more on the outdoor terrace
* Private dining room seating 20 guests
* A total of 176 newly refurbished bedrooms including a presidential suite, 16 suites, king deluxe rooms and deluxe rooms
* The Harrogate Spa’ with 6 luxury treatment rooms; 2 manicure and pedicure stations; indoor heated pool, steam room sauna, rasul and experience shower
* State of the art gym with limited gym and spa memberships
* Champagne Bar & Grill seating 170 guests, serving local rare breed meats, local cheeses and charcuteries, with josper charcoal grill and meat ageing cabinet
* 15 state of the art conference and event suites with built in AV equipment
* 4 boardrooms for up to 16 delegates
* 2 flexible suites for up to 30 delegates
* 9 event suites for up to 500 delegates