Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Big Bad Bug

Ahhh bed bugs, horrible aren't they...makes me itchy just thinking about them, and yet they are about and having them is not a reflection on cleanliness or how well sanitised your home is, once they are in, they’re in!
You may have heard in the press a few months ago about a case surrounding two ladies who stayed at a hotel in London and suffered with mass beg bug bites during the night, meaning they had to go to hospital due to the swelling and itching caused from the bites. A horrible experience, and it turns out they weren't alone. The hotel in question has had several such cases with previous customers. Something that would put you off going back until they can confirm the infestation has been dealt with and they are clear of the problem.

The issue with such an infestation is that it's very difficult to get rid of them. You may be exposed to them elsewhere and bring them home with you, to your own beds, and they breed at such an extraordinary rate you will soon experience the unpleasant problems in your own home.
They are a notoriously complex problem to deal with and experience is essential to get rid of them in a safe, efficient and rapid way.  Everywhere in the world is experiencing an increase in bed bug infestation currently, so should you have come across such an issue, chances are you won’t be the only one.

You will find that places with a high turnover of visitors tend to be the most affected like hotels, motels, B&B's, Hostels, dormitories and prisons to name a few.  According to research, bed bugs tend to be picked up mainly through travelling.  Large infestations are found on aircraft, ships, trains, buses and offices and they normally travel with you on your clothing, cases etc. Travelling with you to your next destination. 

A common misconception is that bedbugs are a result of unclean surroundings like a guest room that hasn’t been serviced properly but you’ll find cases in hotels everywhere, from 1 to 5 stars and even those with the highest scores for their cleanliness.  They thrive on movement and activity, so in a busy hotel that regularly has guests checking in and out it’s very likely that they will eventually be subjected to this sort of infestation.
We had a case at our sister hotel in Canterbury some time ago. 

The BEST WESTERN Abbots Barton Hotel has always had very high scores for cleanliness and our housekeeping manager there is a very competent lady that has been with us for many years now.  She treats the place with a lot of pride as if it were her home.  When she found out about the bugs she was devastated and almost in tears thinking that she had failed on cleanliness in some way.  Whilst it had nothing to do with her or her team, I think that the reaction was testament to just how seriously she takes her role.  Luckily the hotel caught it pretty early on and called in their pest control company who used a pesticide bomb in the infected guest room, closing it off for days to ensure that nobody went in.  Without movement the bugs couldn’t spread or live so they were soon in the clear again, albeit at the expense of having the room out of order for a number of nights at a very busy hotel. 

Rentokil reported the number of bedbug call outs had gone up by 24% in December last year. There is even a sniffer dog that has been trained to find the critters and hotels in Britain have been using him!

So what are the tell-tale signs? Look out for blood spots/smears on bed sheets and in the seams of furniture and upholstery.  How do you avoid them? Don't allow clutter to build up where you sleep and don't take in second hand beds or mattresses.  Wash bedding in a hot wash, bedbugs can't survive these.

What if I have them? Call a pest control service straight away!  Don't fear though, they may well bite, you might suffer with itching but they cannot pass disease.

Night night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite....

Monday, 31 October 2011

Hotels that go bump in the night!

It's Halloween!!! So....what ghost stories have we got for you?!  

Well we know we have a ghost at our hotel, we haven't tried very hard to discover very much about him but he is definitely there.  He walks the stair case from the cellar to the first floor and appears late in the evening.  Often when the night porter is on his rounds.  
Now being such a large old building, it should be of no surprise that we have a ghost.  Many staff members have different stories about their encounters with him.  He doesn't cause trouble, he simply paces up and down the stair case and corridors, occasionally appearing at reception.  

Some guests that have held an event in the room next door to the staircase in question have come in to show us their photos. They have all been believers and shown much excitement about so called Orbs being present in their pictures. (This doesn't happen to everyone, just some I hasten to add.)  

So what do we make of all this??  Well we think the ghost might have been a long serving member of staff many years ago.  He seems very careful not to disturb the guests, only the staff on duty.  In fact no guests have ever reported a paranormal experience, just the house keepers and night porters.  

Our Duty Manager Kumar had his first encounter about 8 years ago....  

It was a winters evening, wind and rain pelted Folkestone's sea front. Kumar was three hours into his shift.  At around 1.30am having done his rounds of the building he got himself a hot drink from the kitchen and made his way back to reception. Sitting on the sofa in the bay window he took a moment to rest and enjoy his drink when he felt someone sit next to him. Opening his eyes there was nobody there, however someone (or should I say something) started blowing in his ear.  There was no draft from the windows and there was no breeze hitting any other part of his body, just his ear.  Jumping up and switching on all the lights Kumar moved back behind the desk and remained there for the rest of the evening listening to the creaking of the floor boards and with the distinct impression that he wasn't alone.

Even now, the night porters tell us of similar experiences and the sound of someone pacing the corridors, and once even a shadow of an object in the shape of a man was caught on camera walking up and down the stairs. 

A housekeeper who used to work for us also experienced some strange goings on.  She was a live in member of staff and it happened that her room was below the suite in the hotel. On one particular night she was woken from the loud noises coming from above, the sounds of furniture being dragged around, doors being slammed and heavy footsteps stomping across the floor.  She rang reception to find out if the guests in the room above were ok, but it was reported back the suit was empty away.  The noises got louder and so they decided to investigate, however when they opened the door, the noises stopped and there was no sign of the room being disturbed.....  

What we don't know is if the two disturbances could all be tied in by one paranormal entity, if we have a couple that are harmless but occasionally like to remind us they are there or if indeed there are some perfectly reasonable explanations.

Of course being Halloween....We are expecting a sighting or two over the next few days....Wish the night porter luck!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

War of the Rosettes

Now its no surprise that everyone, when given the chance loves to go out to dinner, whether it be to your local Indian restaurant or to a top rated restaurant like the Fat Duck owned by Hesten Blumenthal.  It does of course depend on what kind of occasion, how much you can afford and what you like to eat when you do venture out.

If you like to splash out occasionally, restaurants with rosettes tend to be the ones people head towards, but do you really understand how they work, how they are awarded and how much work the restaurants have to put in to gain them?

The rosette system has been established for a long time and recognises successful cooking at different levels across the UK. When an inspector visits the hotel or restaurant it is their chance to get a snap shot whereby the entire meal, including ancillary items (when served) is assessed.  Around 10% of restaurants nationwide are of a standard worthy of one rosette and above.  This is indeed a massive achievement, and something not to be underestimated.
Restaurants with one or two rosettes gain these through achieving standards that stand out in their local area.  Good quality ingredients are selected, food is prepared with care, understanding and great precision should be apparent in the cooking process.

Restaurants with three and four rosettes are gained when all of the above is finely tuned, seasoning and the judgement of flavour combinations will be consistently excellent.  They also combine appreciation of culinary traditions with a passionate desire to explore and improve. These virtues are then supported by intuitive service and a well chosen wine list.

A five star rating is extremely rare, and is the pinnacle, where cooking compares with the best in the world. These restaurants have set standards which others aspire to, yet very few achieve.

So now you understand how they work, all that's left is to try a few when the occasion arises! If though you aren't too worried about the awards, there are still so many restaurants out there waiting to be discovered. A lot of them can be found hidden in hotels and down side streets. Don't ever be afraid to book a table and give them a go. You will be surprised and what you find!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

'Tis the season to be jolly....

So we all know Christmas happens in December and tradition shows some homes and businesses put their decorations up on the 1st, and others two weeks before the big day. Any talk of Christmas before this point seems to get a touchy response.

Most people you mention the “C” word to before December will give you a role of the eyes followed by some kind of comment along the lines of “Oh no, not yet, please, it's far to early!” as if Christmas coming is a bad thing.

Now I'm quite an excitable person and the one thing that can never come round too soon is Christmas. It's a great time of year, catching up with family, friends, eating loads of tasty food, drinking lots of good drinks and watching people unwrap gifts. I love that bit the best, in fact we have competitions to see who's wrapped gifts look the best at our house!

So why the negative response when talking about it in August? More than likely it's because everyone dreads the last minute rush to do everything, and knows it would be ideal to get it done sooner, but time is short and people are busy. This however is exactly why planing in advance for the season is key. You need to know how much you have to spend on gifts, food and nights out, on staff parties and other festive activities. This helps spread the cost out over a few months instead of having all that expense coming out of one pay packet. You can bet your life however that if you're starting to think about it in October/November, us businesses have been thinking about it a whole lot longer. This is so we have everything ready for you when the time comes for the usual rush.

Businesses have to plan in advance, we have no choice. Supermarkets have to get their orders in for decorations, festive foods, etc. Printers have to print cards, wrapping paper, etc to ensure it's ready to be sent out to all who need it.

Hotels are much the same, we have prices and entertainment organised and booked by March. We have the head chefs working on Christmas menus in the Spring, and we have the information approved and sent to the printers as early as May/June! I will start talking about it at networking events in August and September....The websites will have the information on around the same time.

Why you ask? Well it's simple, if we don't start to get you thinking about it, when you eventually do come to think about booking your Christmas party in early November, the key dates will already be taken. Chances are your first choice of Friday or Saturday nights will be full. Big firms book their parties a year in advance, to ensure they get the date they want and sometimes by doing this they get a better deal, and you can be sure, they will get the key dates if they can.

Christmas is coming, we may have Halloween and Guy Fawkes in between, but the farmers are already feeding up those Turkeys and Geese. The Brussel Sprouts are starting to come into season and the Christmas trees are being watered and pruned to ensure they look great, and are ready for you to take home and decorate.

You can't ignore it so....if you go away for Christmas be it for a four day break, or just for the traditional Christmas lunch, book it sooner rather than later to avoid disappointment. If you are in charge of organising the staff party, get onto it in the next few weeks, and start looking for your venue. Whether it's us or some where else, don't leave it too late, get it booked and enjoy the Christmas period for a change. :)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Girls just wanna have fun....

It is important to us as a hotel that we support a charity every year, and so this year we are supporting Marie Curie Cancer Care.

The charity started back in 1948, the same year the NHS was launched.  Not long before the Hempstead based Marie Curie Hospital was transferred to the NHS, a group of committee members from the hospital decided to preserve the name of Marie Curie in the charitable medical field.  This was the beginning of the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation, a charity dedicated to alleviating suffering from Cancer, today known as Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Following the donation of an engagement ring to help raise funds, the first appeal was launched and brought in £4000.  By 1950 the ongoing appeal had raised a staggering £30,000 and two years later the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation officially became a charity – number 207994

The charity dedicates itself to providing more and better care for its patients and their families through the Marie Curie Nurses and its nine hospices.  It is committed to carrying out the research and innovation required to find out what the best care is and the best way to provide it.  They ensure measures are taken to give people the choice of place for their end of life care through the Marie Curie Delivering Choice Programme.  The Charity is also determined that the needs of the dying remain on the political agenda and will continue to campaign for patients to be able to die in their own home in all four countries of the UK.

A lot has changed since 1948 but their core values have remained constant, putting patients and families first.  You might be lucky and never need their services, but you might know someone who did or will.

We decided we wanted to put on an event to help raise some awareness of what they do and to hopefully raise some money for this great cause.  So....I would like to introduce the Burlington Girls Night.  A fun packed evening with Cosmopolitan cocktails, nibbles, prizes to win and lots to buy including clothes, jewellery, make-up, skin care, handbags, shoes and much more!  All in aid of Marie Curie.

We want you to have fun! Men aren't all fans of clothes shopping with the wives, girlfriends and daughters, so we thought we would arrange the perfect evening for you to enjoy shopping and leave the men at home!

We have met through various channels all those having a stand on the evening. They are people you won't find on the high street. They are independent, one off suppliers and stockists. They take pride in what they offer, and the experiences they want you to have. We all love a bargain, we all love to feel like we have our own personal shopper and this is certainly one place where you will get to have it all!

If you want to get out the house for a couple of hours, shop with your friends and have yourself styled then this is going to be right up your street.  The added bonus is you get to have loads of fun and help Marie Curie Cancer Care at the same time! IT'S FABULOUS!

When? Thursday 29th September 2011
Where? The Burlington Hotel, Earls Avenue, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 2HR
What Time? 7.30pm – 9.30pm

We hope you can make it!

Friday, 2 September 2011

TripAdvisor....Tastes better when taken with a pinch of salt....

There are so many articles, new reports and bad press surrounding TripAdvisor these days. Yet up until 6 months ago a lot of people wouldn’t ever have considered staying at a hotel before reading reviews left on the infamous site. You might find 30 or even 500 reviews left over a period of a couple of years and more. All a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. Still I can quite confidently say that those hotels would have seen many more guests passing through their doors, sleeping in their beds and enjoying their breakfasts and dinners who did not leave a review and had a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

A few months ago hoteliers finally found their voice and have brought and continue to bring to the public and presses attention that actually Trip Advisor has no way of verifying that those people leaving reviews have ever stayed in the hotel they are commenting on at all. In fact the chances are that a good handful have had a disappointing stay, the other handful are competitors who want to do damage to their rivals or just simply vindictive people posting a negative comment purely for their own satisfaction (a disgruntled member of staff perhaps). Needless to say some of the positive reviews may well have been posted by staff members, family members or friends, however the majority will probably be good honest reviews.

The point is people are finally starting to see it for what it is and what hoteliers have always known it to be but have muddled through because nobody seemed to be able to shout loudly enough about it...until recently.

Companies such as Booking.com and Laterooms.com have however got it right. They can and do have the ability to post reviews, as you can only do so if you have stayed in that hotel and booked your stay via the aforementioned websites, this is the proof the stay actually took place and means the reviews are from true customers.

More recently it has just been announced that the ASA has launched a formal investigation into TripAdvisor after receiving a complaint from a company called KwickChex.com. A Bournemouth based company that helps others manage their online reputations. They have been pursuing TripAdvisor since last year over what it claims are numerous misleading, fake and defamatory reviews posted about restaurants, hotels and bed & breakfasts. With the likes of Dragons Den entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne backing the campaign, this is certainly one investigation to keep your eye on!

I think the point I want to make is this. TripAdvisor, love it or hate it has been part of the holiday makers booking process for many years, and yet should never be taken too seriously. We as a nation much prefer to grumble and moan after the occurrence than speak up at the time, this bad feeling then festers and those who don't perhaps want a resolution will complain to Trip Advisor and such like. Those who are serious will contact the hotel and voice their concerns at the time or write a letter once back at home, giving the hotel a serious chance to rectify any fault or make amends, hopefully to the customers satisfaction.

A warning to those who read reviews, remember if the site can not guarantee these reviews are genuine, don't let it effect your own judgement too much.
I hope TripAdvisor can find away of verifying that past and new reviews are genuine. I also hope that since reading this and hearing about it in the press, those of you who have shunned hotels in the past due to a bad Trip Advisor review might reconsider visiting them. We don't bite. We are open to the public. We are here to serve you. Pop in and and see us, ask for a look around, and make up your own mind.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Folkestone Triennial

A lot of people are aware of the Triennial that takes place in Folkestone every three years, the first one being back in 2008, and yet there are a lot who do not.

The Folkestone Triennial is a free exhibition available to view every day from 10.30am until 5pm right up to the 25th September. It is a chance to see new commissions from 19 international artists. The artwork includes sculpture, film, sound works and installations and are located throughout Folkestone's streets, beaches, historic buildings and squares.

The event has been curated by Andrea Schlieker and this year’s theme is “A Million Miles from Home”. Referring to the sense of being between worlds, of displacement, separation, transience and having to find bearings in an unknown elsewhere.

The event brings in a huge amount of interest both locally and from further afield. Being a Hotel located on the Leas in Folkestone, with the walk bringing many visitors right passed our door, we thought we would take a stroll with a guide and see the exhibition for ourselves. To be able to better help those who are staying with us and need to ask questions or indeed just discuss the exhibition with us as they pass through.

We saw so much, that I couldn't possibly tell you about it all in this blog, so I will simply pick out the 4 works that stand out in my memory the most!

Our first stop was the Martello Tower 4. A work by Cristina Iglesias called “Towards the Sound of Wilderness”. This architectural intervention on the ramparts of Martello 4 gives the illusion of an entrance to another world. For me it could almost have been the entrance through to Narnia, just like in the CJ Lewis classic “The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe”. The sculpture allows you to see this historic monument for the first time in years. To get to it....simply negotiate a path cut into the shrubs and trees to a mirrored walk in a structure clad with resin foliage. A window at the end of this passageway opens up a view of the over grown tower and moat with its extraordinary wildlife. Just standing there looking at the view you could be anywhere in the world. The sound of the sea seemed very loud and quite strange as you cannot see it, yet there is something very calming about knowing it is there.

The next stop was to take a look at a clock. Pretty normal on first inspection and I wouldn't have thought any more about it, until I spotted when looking closer it had 2 sides. One, a standard 12 hour clock, the other, a 10 hour clock! There are 10 of these dotted around Folkestone in various locations. They represent a time in history when on the 5th August 1793, the recently formed Republic of France abandoned the Georgian Calendar in favour of an entirely new model, the French Republican Calendar. This became the official calendar of France for 13 years. Each day of the Republican Calendar was made up of 10 hours. Hours were divided into 100 minutes and each minute into 100 seconds. Ruth Ewan, inspired by this has created new clocks, and altered existing ones around the town to display decimal time. It took me a while to get my head around it, and then I spent some more time trying to work it all out and checking they told the right time! I also wondered if a 10 hour clock would mean I would only have to work 6 hour days. Wouldn't it be nice!

We walked further into Folkestone, down into the Town Centre passing various other works and clocks and were taken into Albion House, located above Boots. Smada Dreyfus from Israel has created a piece of art called “School”. As we entered the building and walked up the stairs, we were informed it's very dark inside but to go carefully and find the lessons we would like to join in. The options were History, Citizenship, Geography, Arabic, Bible studies, Biology and Literature. Dark was an understatement, it was pitch black! We couldn't see a thing, only hear talking, and eventually, once finding our way into a classroom, we could see the translation of what we were hearing on a black screen in front of us. A very intense Biology lesson I felt. Due to the darkness you could do nothing else but focus on what you heard and read on the screen, well worth the experience. Certainly to a few of us also a new way of viewing art!

The last stop we went on really does stick in my mind and is perhaps my favourite of all. It is a display by Hew Locke titled “For Those In Peril On The Sea”. An amazing installation that hangs from the ceiling of the oldest building in Folkestone, St Mary & St Eanswythe's Church. Consisting of around 100 model ships, from warships, trawlers, steamers, liners to brigs, rafts and junks that have been collected from around the world as well as made in Lockes' own studio out of cardboard. Such a beautiful church with such a fantastic display, really did take my breath away.

If you have not yet collected your guide and been for a walk to see some of these pieces of art for yourself, do not delay. They won’t all be here forever, and really are something to be seen. Even if you don't count yourself as an art lover, I am sure you will find at least two items that you can connect to. The beauty of art, we all see it in different ways and make our own interpretations.

This is an exhibition where there is definitely something for everyone.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Guest Who Never Checked Out.

We are now going to give you a small insight of an experience we had at the Burlington Hotel with a guest who checked in, and stayed with us for over 12 years. Yes, I really mean 12 years. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

So many people used to ask why he stayed for so long, and there were always several reasons he would respond with, including he was never alone, his food was always cooked for him whatever he wanted (and we mean whatever!) His bedroom was cleaned daily, his washing got done, he was warm, he never spent a Christmas or birthday alone, and we were there to make sure that he was well.

We are not a care home, we are a hotel, and he was very much treated as any hotel guest should be but he became a part of the family, a way of life for staff and a member of the team.

I would arrive at work at 9am and he would be sat in the foyer with his newspaper next to him whilst trying to work out how to make a call on his mobile phone. Guaranteed as he spotted me he would call “Come here, come and see me, I have something to tell you” and he would then proceed to discuss the weather, the news, his game of scrabble the night before etc. This was a daily routine, and on your days of, he would be most disappointed to not see you, or indeed cross you hadn’t been there to see him, especially if you went on annual leave! :o) He would occasionally fall asleep in the lounge on the sofa, he would join our staff parties for Christmas and he would take our General Manager out for dinner. A real character!

It is not however unusual to find a hotel has a permanent guest, just think of the Major in Fawlty Towers (please don't confuse us with Fawltey Towers though!). Anyway why not. It makes sense, if you are able bodied but don’t want to rattle around in a house on your own, or the idea of a care home is unacceptable (as it can be to many people) a hotel is a logical answer.

All our regular customers recognised him, he was happy to talk to everyone and loved to watch from a distance the weddings, parties, anniversaries and various other events that took place over the many years he was there.

He was also a lover of pets, and being a pet friendly hotel, would take great delight in fussing over the various dogs that came in and out and tempting them with doggie treats if they were ever to hand.

We sadly lost our dear old friend a year ago now, and yet he will never be forgotten by the team, the owners or our regulars. A gentleman whos life had so much history and who would always love to tell you all about the things he did, all the people he met and how to run a hotel. (He was a pro at it buy the time he departed!)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Let us take you back to the beginning.....

So here it is, our first Blog, the first of many, and before we go straight into the exciting stories that many a hotel has, we thought it would be nice to give you a little insight into the history of the town we are in and a little history of the hotel to date.

Folkestones history began with groups of Celtics who settled here during the Iron Age through to the early Middle Ages. Romans soon followed and the Jutes (said to be one of the three most powerful Germanic peoples of their time). Soon after, Folkestone became a fishing village (albeit not quite as advanced as other local fishing towns) which lead to its entry as part of the Cinque Ports in the 13th Century and from this benefited by becoming a wealthy trading port. By the start of the Tudor period it had become a town in its own right.

During the 18th Century Folkestone became involved in smuggling and at the beginning of the 1800's the harbour was built, followed in 1843 by the railways. Along with the railways the tourist trade arrived and the two industries contributed to the towns prosperity.

The major landmark in Folkestone, apart from the Harbour is the Leas, the cliffs above the beach. A Martello Tower (No3) stands on the cliff above the Copt Point. Built in 1806 as a defence against Napoleon, it has also been a Coast Guard lookout, a family home, a golf club house and a World War 2 Navel Mine control post. It now houses a visitor centre.

We also have the Folkestone White Horse which is carved on the Cheriton Hill above the Channel Tunnel terminal along with the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which includes part of the town area.

Folkestone is also close to two important Battle of Britain landmarks, including the Kent Battle of Britain Museum, the oldest in the UK.

Hotels large and small started to spring up in Folkestone after the introduction of the railway, a necessity to cater for the tourism that came with it. The Burlington Hotel was one of them and has a long history of accommodating families and travellers over the years. In 1994 the Sangiuseppe family acquired the hotel and over a period of time refurbished and modernised, taking care to keep its character and charm, and provide the modern day guest with everything they could possibly need.
Bringing it right up to date the hotel has undergone more modernising to keep up with the changing times and all 59 bedrooms are beautifully redecorated. Trinity Clinic is the latest addition to the hotel, specialising in helping you focus on detoxification and relaxation methods for cleansing the mind, body and spirit, bringing your whole being to its natural balance so that you can enjoy a healthier more energised lifestyle.

Folkestone is a great place to come, with fabulous eateries, beaches, arts and culture. A high-speed rail link from London to Folkestone and quick and easy access to the continent via the Tunnel or the Port of Dover makes it ideal for a stop over or a weekend break. You will be amazed in the way the town always manages to reinvent itself and still provides something for everyone with the help of local businesses and investors.

Based on all of this.....we hope to see you soon!