The Grand Jersey, the island's most famous hotel, is halfway through a £10m makeover to take it to five-star deluxe status, following its acquisition by Hilwood Hotels & Resorts in April last year. General manager Kevin McAlpine talks to C&IT about history, innovation and the renovation of an icon.
- What's the history of the hotel?
It dates back to the 1880s and has always been the place to be - if anything took place on the island, it always took place here. It's almost an iconic institution in Jersey and has been well patronised by both society and royalty over the years. The Queen was here in 2005 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, and during the occupation, the Germans set up their base here and used our cellars to hold prisoners.
- Who designed the new look?
Gregor and Arvinder (joint owners of Hilwood Resorts) and myself worked closely with a designer called Mike Trevillion, who we have worked with on other projects. It was a combination of a very contemporary but design-led approach.
- What's the big idea?
The idea behind the redesign is 'where tradition meets innovation'. There's all this tradition and sense of history attached to the hotel and we wanted to keep that and blend it in a natural way with the new look. The innovation part is all about creating a vibrant environment but where people can feel relaxed.
- Who's your target market?
It's probably about 50/50 corporate and leisure, with the core market being high-level, aspirational guests and groups, though we don't want to isolate anyone. C&I business is very important and the finance sector, pharmaceutical and the FTSE 100 companies are the sort of clients we're after. But we also want to open this up and bring in new sectors like media, music and film.
- Which corporates have used the hotel this year?
We were involved in a big pharmaceutical conference earlier this year, and a lot of financial services companies have also used the hotel including HSBC, Jersey Finance, and Standard Chartered.
FIVE OF THE BEST ... INCENTIVE OPTIONS
- Wine tasting
Popular with a number of pharma and finance clients, La Mare Estate Wine Estate adds a competitive edge to wine tasting. Teams are given wines to taste and try and figure out the country, region and grape variety of each. An alternative option is the wine-blending competition, where delegates blend their own, with the best wines judged by the vineyard's experts. The winning blend can be bottled, branded, and delivered to the group's hotel the next morning.
Known locally as Jersey Zoo, the wildlife conservation trust is a great option for groups wanting to incorporate a CSR element into programmes. The zoo specialises in breeding programmes for endangered species and relies on help from corporations. According to Durrell communications manager Caron Glover, activities can be organised to suit any budget and group size, from building bug habitats to cleaning out ponds. In July, Royal Bank of Scotland created 'conservation' art in the form of a giant sculpture.
- Out on the water
As well as all the usual water-sports options, groups can sail to offshore reefs for a barbecue lunch and look at the seals and dolphins, along the way. "On our Sark programme, we take the group out to the island, and they take tractors and horses over to a restaurant, as there are no cars on the island," says, 3D Performance operations director Andrew Thomas.
- Adventure on land
Of course, adventure activities are not just limited to the water, so for those who don't fancy getting wet, there are plenty of ways to get the heart pumping. Pure Adventure's managing director Michael James says: "Blo-karting is probably our most popular option and it's easy to pick up - anyone can give it a go." Agency Archer Young (now AYMTM) incorporated it into a two-day team-building event in Jersey (see case study). Pure Adventure is also opening a new land-based adventure centre next year. Other pursuits include coasteering, beach sports, clay pigeon shooting, abseiling, horse riding and golf.
- Jersey Heritage
For a more sedate option, Jersey has no shortage of heritage sites and museums where delegates can find out more about the island's unique history. Visit some of Jersey Heritage Trust's amazing castles, from Mont Orgueil in the east, to the 18th-century Elizabeth Castle. The venues offer a unique backdrop for events. Another must-see is the Jersey War Tunnels, which provide an insight into what life was like during the German occupation with an interactive exhibition.