Award-winning chef and hotelier, Tom Lewis, has been in the hospitality sector for 40 years. His mother purchased Monachyle Mhor (when it was a humble guesthouse) in 1983, and Tom took over the business in 2005, turning it into the luxury boutique hotel that it is today.

His impressive portfolio now consists of the hotel, a roadside motel (Mhor84) with its own retail concept store, a self-catering cottage, and the popular Mhor Bread bakery in Callander.

Christmas and New Year is a hugely important time of year for the Mhor Estate, which recently benefitted from a £1.7M investment from expert hospitality lenders, The Cumberland Building Society.

Tom said: “From a revenue perspective, of course, the festive period is incredibly important. But, for me personally, it is important as it’s the time of year that we get to really go all out and give our guests a memorable experience.”

For guests opting to spend their Christmas with Tom and his team at Monachyle Mhor, they can expect a Christmas Eve candlelit courtyard carol service, a wine & whisky safari on the magnificent Monachyle Glen, and sumptuous food and drink served up by Tom himself.

“To be able to go away for Christmas and have everything done for you, having the perfect amount of food so that you feel decadent but not too full, being able to go on a Boxing Day walk in the beautiful Scottish countryside… it’s an amazing thing that we are able to offer to our guests here at Mhor.”

It’s no secret that the hospitality industry has faced trying times over the past few years. Concerning the key domestic visitor market, a recent survey from the Scottish Tourism Alliance reported decreased volumes of visitors from Scotland (-16%) and other parts of the UK (-20%).

Speaking on this trend, Tom said: “It’s a tricky one as we all know that the amount of disposable income people have has dramatically decreased over the past few years due to the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. For hospitality businesses, it’s about creating an offer that is so attractive that they choose to spend their money with you.

“Ask yourself, “What can guests get here that they can’t get anywhere else?” and focus on that. For us, it is all about experiences. We allocate budget to festive decorations, but we don’t go overboard making the hotel super Christmas-y. We’d rather spend in areas which give our guests the most memorable experience, like investing in our staff to ensure they’re providing the best possible service, and in our food and drink offerings.”

Discussing extra measures undertaken prior to the festive season, Tom placed an emphasis on keeping in touch with your bank or building society from the get-go. He said: “You should discuss any plans for the festive period with financial partners to ensure that proper support is in place, and they can also help guide and offer counsel on what measures to take to prepare.

“Being able to pick up the phone to my relationship manager at The Cumberland whenever I need advice or to sound something out is invaluable.”

Tom also discussed the importance of perfecting your social media advertising strategy.

He explained: “We’ve amped up our social media advertising spend this year to try to generate bookings for Christmas. We’ve seen in previous years that we never fill up until the last minute, or that people book super early and then cancel, so we wanted to get our social media adverts working as hard as they could to keep a steady flow of bookings.

“The key to it is making sure that they are set up right so that they are tracking click-throughs, so that you can monitor return.”

Tom’s observations on last-minute bookings were also echoed in the STA Autumn Industry Survey, with many respondents reporting that consumers are postponing trip booking decisions, meaning these shortened lead times are adding to uncertainty for business owners.

For businesses like Monachyle Mhor which is in a remote and rural location, passing footfall is few and far between. That’s why upselling to existing guests is incredibly important when it comes to Christmas, says Tom.

“Put a lot of time and effort into training your front-of-house team to be expert salespeople. Make sure that they are fully versed in what you’ve got planned for the Christmas period so that they can upsell it to guests face-to-face or over the phone.

Speaking on repeat custom, Tom says: “Offer anyone who spent Christmas or Hogmanay with you in previous years first dibs on booking to come back this year. The personal invitation will always be appreciated and, even if they don’t take you up on it this year, they very well may do next year!”

For more information on Monachyle Mhor’s Christmas & New Year offerings, please visit: https://monachylemhor.net/mhor-events/

For more information about the Cumberland Building Society and its specialised lending services, please visit https://www.cumberland.co.uk/business