Settle in for a five-star experience as BBC Two’s new documentary series The Hotel People goes behind the scenes at Hastings Hotels, a family-run hotel chain across Northern Ireland, where staff are preparing for a new age of hospitality in a post-lockdown world.
After 18 months of closures and £16million in losses during the pandemic, managers must find new ways to attract guests across their seven high-end hotels, while also dealing with mass staff shortages.
“We will be tested and stretched,” says General Manager James. “But we will smile!”
Here’s everything we need to know about The Hotel People…
The Hotel People release date
The Hotel People is an eight-part series, which airs weekly and begins on BBC2 on Tuesday 23 August at 8pm.
What is The Hotel People about?
The series follows life inside a string of luxury hotels, including the iconic Europa in Belfast, known as the world’s most bombed hotel during The Troubles. Life at the Europa and its sister hotels changed dramatically during the pandemic and, as filming begins, staff are doing their best to adhere to Covid restrictions while devising new ways to pull in visitors.
Plans include a series of exclusive gigs with singer Van Morrison at the Europa, while at the Culloden Estate and Spa in County Down, a Champagne-serving double-decker ‘Bolly Bus’ hopes to create a buzz.
But it’s not all about the guestbook — mass staff shortages mean General Manager James has been left with huge gaps to fill within his hard-working, overstretched teams.
“We’re starting to climb that hill again and need to be as creative as possible,” says James. “But as the restrictions have been lifted, our conference market, corporate and charitable dinners have started to come back, along with our touring markets from Europe and North America.
“However, the biggest hurdle still is recruitment. Between Covid and Brexit, there's a massive shortage of people,” he explains. “But what you’ll see on TV is that while it looks hectic behind the scenes and in a state of complete disarray, as we step out onto that stage, we become totally composed.”
Who will feature in The Hotel People?
General Manager James has worked for the Hastings Hotels Group for 25 years and runs a tight ship. His dedicated team includes Rose (Europa/Culloden Estate and Spa Housekeeping Manager), Kyle (Europa Executive Head Chef), Sam (Culloden Food & Beverage Manager) and Cáelán (Grand Central Observatory Manager) to name a few.
“I moved from the Europa to the Culloden nine months ago, just as we were coming out of lockdown,” Rose tells us post-filming. “I had to build a team essentially from scratch and had to adapt to what kind of staff we were willing to take on, weighing up whether we should employ inexperienced people in a five-star hotel and delve deeper into the training process, which goes on for longer.”
Kyle is constantly battling staff issues in the Europa’s kitchens, too. “Because of Brexit, there have been certain roles that Europeans would have wanted to fill that we just can't get people to do here, so we’re looking at other schemes to get people through the doors and to train them up,” he says. “To fill that void in the interim, we're using agency workers, but it’s costing a fortune.”
Sam sees a steady improvement at the Culloden, however. “The biggest impact of Covid on our restaurants and bars was the whole start/stop of the industry,” he says. “A lot of our team left and went to jobs outside hospitality. But we are slowly rebuilding, and I can see that we’re coming out the other end now with recruitment.”
What else can we expect?
In an attempt to help recoup more than £50million in building costs, the glitzy-new Grand Central Hotel in Belfast comes up with a money-spinning idea - a bespoke tour of the filming locations used in hit drama Line of Duty. Bar manager Cáelán - whose mother, grandfather and great-grandfather have all worked at the hotel group - helps to promote it.
“My whole family has worked in hotels and hospitality,” says Cáelán. “But when I initially went to work in hotels, my family were not happy. They know it’s tough, but they’ve seen how happy I am with my career progression over the years.
“It was a good craic being filmed for this show, but not when you’re running around Belfast dressed as a policeman for our Line of Duty tour,” laughs Cáelán. “That was embarrassing!”
Is there a trailer for The Hotel People?
Not yet, but we will add it to this page if one is released.
Rebecca has more than 20 years' experience in journalism and is now writing about all things telly-related for TV Times, TV&Satellite Week, What’s On TV and whattowatch.com (opens in new tab).
She’s interviewed all sorts of big-name stars, including Al Pacino, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Winona Ryder, Benedict Cumberbatch and more. She’s also been known to step in front of the camera, dressing up as a 1920s flapper to star in ITV’s Mr Selfridge and co-hosting ITV News at Ten with Mark Austin – all in the line of duty!
When she’s not quizzing actors, directors and producers, you’ll find her bingeing US dramas and anything horror/sci-fi/zombie-themed. But her greatest love will always be Game of Thrones… just don’t mention the ending!
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