Q. ETV: How has Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons faired through the Covid-19 challenge?
A. Jeanette Williams: It has been an incredible challenge for us all. During lock down we kept a continuity team in place who kept our guests and staff updated and ensured the house and garden were well maintained. Whilst the team was very few in numbers, particular attention was given to the organic vegetable gardens to ensure that when we did reopen we had a surplus of fresh organic produce for the later summer menu. With the suddenness of lockdown, we made takeaway meals and shared fresh produce with a local charity supporting the elderly in the neighbouring villages who were unable to buy provisions. We re-opened Le Manoir mid-July and remain operating with just 24 of our 32 guest bedrooms and 60% of our restaurant tables to ensure the safety of guests and staff alike. We are incredibly grateful to be in a very privileged position where many of our guests have been keen to return. In addition, we have welcomed many new guests who have chosen to have a UK staycation with us whilst being unable to holiday overseas. Throughout the summer and autumn months our guests have particularly enjoyed the seclusion and privacy of our hidden gardens and the countryside that surrounds us. Many of the Le Manoir suites have their own private terraces where our guests can enjoy drinks or afternoon tea in a home from home. We have all adapted how we work to help us reach new levels of excellence – both in health and hygiene, and in those areas that underpin our exceptional service offering. Our stringent and enhanced protocols continue to keep our staff and guests safe and remain a priority.
Q. ETV: How do you see business for Q4 and Christmas and what can you do to keep occupancy levels high?
A. Jeanette:We have seen an increase in bookings with a shorter lead time. As we move into the festive season this year, we will miss hosting our annual carol concert events – one of the highlights of Le Manoir’s annual calendar. However, we have many wonderful experiences to offer our guests, above and beyond a cozy winter gastronomic break. Guests can see displays of birds of prey take to the skies above the gardens and try bird handling. There is nowhere better to pick up seasonal cookery tips than a day in The Raymond Blanc Cookery School. Our florist is hosting Christmas wreath making courses. There is plenty to explore in Oxfordshire for those who wish to do more than simply snuggle up in front of an open fire in one of Le Manoir’s cozy lounges.
Q. ETV: How are you looking to increase MICE business at your venue?
A. Jeanette:Our new virtual courses are becoming incredibly popular – particularly with the MICE market, who are currently limited with what experiences they have to offer. Sessions are planned and booked so that guests can cook with the cookery school team guiding them step by step in their own homes, whilst joined together with a zoom call. It’s great fun to see who are the masterchef’s and who can’t stand the heat! And we are having a great time organising these virtual events.
Q. ETV: What have you personally taken away from this year?
A. Jeanette:This year has been such a learning curve and I personally have taken away ‘not to take anything for granted’ we never know what is around the corner and all we can do is, do our best and be supportive of each other.