Business booming for Blackpool's Corona hotel despite its virus connotations
Business at a Blackpool hotel is booming despite it sharing its name with the coronavirus, and its owners believe it has actually given them a bookings boost.
The Corona hotel on Clifton Drive in South Shore is gearing up to welcome back holidaymakers on Friday, May 21 and its name association with the global pandemic has played a part in filling up room bookings when lockdown measures are relaxed for hotels on Monday.
The four-star guest house, which is situated near to the Pleasure Beach, has been in business since 1936, and the hotel's current owners, husband duo Paul Ward, 55, and Richard Gregory, 53, are celebrating 20 years as its custodians this year.
Paul, who is also a committee member with hoteliers group StayBlackpool said punters have been actively looking to stay at the hotel due to its namesake with the Covid-19 virus.
He said: "A lot of our customers have actually been very happy to book at the Corona. When we opened in July after the first lockdown it did attract a lot of third party bookings such as booking.com and other travel sites.
"We always asked when the guests arrived 'why did you pick us out of all the other 900 hotels in Blackpool?' and they just said 'how could we not stay at the Corona through the coronavirus?' so in essence it was a very positive outcome and it wasn't negative at all."
Despite the good publicity, Paul said that at the beginning of the pandemic, the association was anything but welcome.
He said: "Initially when the first lockdown started on March 23, we did get a lot of phone calls, actually. I don't know if these people were unhinged or what their problem was, but they were accusing and blaming us for the pandemic.
"Some of them told us that we were going to prison, that we'd be shut down by the government all because of the name of the hotel. They were really quite ridiculous phone calls and they happened for probably the first four weeks of the lockdown and then it died off.
"But I mean we received abusive language and they were telling us that it was all our fault. If you just do a quick Google search of Corona hotel you'll get results in Los Angeles, New York, London, all over the world, so it's not as if we're unique, just unique in Blackpool.
"It was just peoples' stupidity and maybe just them having a bit of fun on the phone to get reaction which they didn't."
However on the plus side for the business, the Corona sign at the front of the hotel has been a talking point and selfie opportunity for passers by.
Richard said: "We have had lots of people post on our Facebook and using the hashtag #CoronaBlackpool with pictures at the front of the hotel and it still happens now some 14 months since it started.
"People are still stopping and looking at the name and it's all in good humour that people are taking selfies with the Corona sign in the background which for us, any kind of business, marketing and advertising is ideal.
"I don't think people now see as a negative, it's a little bit of a laughing subject, possibly because they are in Blackpool through the corona pandemic so of course it is getting good attention attention which we were not going to refuse of course."
Paul, who has been in the tourism and leisure industry for nearly 40 years, said the business has been 'very, very fortunate' to have built up its bookings ahead of opening with lots of repeat customers and families.
He said: "August this year is 20 years since we bought the hotels so we have a lot of regular guests who followed us all the way through any kind of crisis and whatever has happened in the world economy wise our guests have always been supportive and they've always come back with their children.
"Now what we're finding, coming up the 20th anniversary, is children who were seven and eight are now coming back with their children and partners so the business is repeating itself and it's very positive.
"I do Facebook videos on a regular basis and as soon as we announced we would be reopening on May 21, we took £25,000 worth of bookings in that first week, all of them being regular guests.
"That was really, really encouraging so that gave us a good basis and sort of a benchmark of how busy the summer would be so it's very positive for us."
Paul said hundreds of thousands of people are 'all itching for a holiday' and a lot of them are planning to do that within the UK, so he expects Blackpool to take advantage of that
He said: "There's has been lot of anticipation, excitement, maybe some hesitation from some of the older hoteliers who might have been shielding but now that we've been vaccinated and most of the population have, I think that's the selling point for our regular guests.
"Overall, I think there's a lot of excitement and I think positive feelings about the summer which will be very beneficial to Blackpool because speaking to a lot of our regular guests, some of whom go places like Florida, Cuba and on cruises, a lot of them are going to only holiday in the UK this year and not bother with international travel.
"I think Blackpool's is buzzing and waiting quite excitedly to let people back in again in the hospitality industry. We're supposed to look after and serve people and that's something we've missed - the interaction."
During the lockdown periods when the hotel has been closed, Richard and Paul have been refurbishing the hotel and 20 of the bedrooms have been painted and decorated ahead of reopening.
Richard, who was brought up in resort hotels from the age of eight, added: "There are new beds coming in, new televisions, new carpets, so all the jobs that we would do normally we haven't held back, regardless of the pandemic. We've actually still invested and taken the opportunity of last year mainly when it was quiet for all those months of doing all the jobs that would normally get done in the winter months when we were quieter.
"We've prepared ourselves for a big opening and looking forward to building our relationship with our guests. That is key to our success where we've got a good product which we believe.
"Between us we've got about 90 years of experience in the hospitality industry on cruise ships and in private service working in France, London and Australia, so we just brought all those skills and worked the hotel to that standard.
"It's a four star bed and breakfast and we don't pretend to be anything else but the guests know they get more than your average B&B. We put everything into this and it's been our life and it's our passion."