Melia chooses Manchester to get the party started

Elizabeth Mistry By Elizabeth Mistry
Uploaded 29 March 2015

Exclusive : Boutique Hotel News takes a sneak peak inside INNSIDE by Melia.

Melia is betting big on Manchester. In May the Spanish hotel group will open the doors to its first UK property outside London. 

Almost 30 years on from its 20th century heyday as a powerhouse of pop music and cultural innovation, Melia chief executive Gabriel Escarrer Jaume has chosen the city which also powered the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, to debut the group's new four-star, lifestyle-business crossover 'boutique' brand, INNSIDE.

Manchester, the capital of England's north-west region is currently undergoing a transformational change with several multi-billion pound development projects on the go - including a number of hotels which will challenge the current hospitality offering which has tended, with a few exceptions, to be very traditional in scope.

It is no coincidence that Escarrer has picked the city as the site of the first of four confirmed INNSIDE properties in the UK (the others being Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle upon Tyne, with more planned).

Melia acquired INNSIDE - which already had several sites, mostly in the home country of its previous Germany owners in its previous incarnation - and set about tweaking it to broaden the group's offer to the millennial traveller.

Pre-opening general manager Adam Munday, who caught Melia's attention for his success in bringing IHG's Indigo brand to the UK market in Newcastle (managed by Sanguine Hospitality for Interstate Hotels and Resorts) has been tasked with making the Manchester property a destination in its own right. 

And with the hotel literally on the doorstep of the new Home arts centre (currently under construction alongside INNSIDE and which, when finished will house a centre for contemporary art, two theatre companies and a five- screen concert hall) Munday is in no doubt that the facility will be a huge draw for guests, many of whom he hopes will be performers attracted by the convenience of what he hopes will be the "in house hotel".

Local firm Reid Architects won the tender to design the Manchester hotel and the interiors, offering Melia a complete turnkey hotel in a prime location: on Plot 1 at the centrally-located First Street North, a new build site on formerly derelict land next to the city centre. Reid is also drawing up the plans for the Newcastle property.

First Street North is just minutes away from the city's main conference and events venue, Manchester Central and the main retail streets as well as within easy reach of three major rail hubs linking to London and Liverpool and Manchester airport.  An efficient public tram service serves the city as well as linking to all the major outer districts

Still officially designated a hard hat site, the first viewing offered to a hospitality publication revealed a design that places emphasis on clean lines, plenty of natural light and informality.

The ground floor - which is open plan running the length of the building - features a double-height entrance lobby which morphs into a seated lounge area which in turn becomes the main food and beverage outlet, Food on First, which will, says Munday, offer "all day grazing".

"Our food concept will be Mediterranean Spanish with no formality. Food for a social mood is our buzzline and we we want to see guests and visitors of all ages in here from breakfast till late," says Munday.

Most of the 208 rooms will be on floors two to 10 with a corner gym, fitness suite and wellness centre featuring steam and sauna cabins on the second floor. The gym, which will be free to guests, will be available 24-hours a day with self access via room keycards.

"We've also had quite a lot of interest from local businesses in gym membership," says Munday who experimented with leisure facilities at Indigo and realised the potential extra revenue stream they can offer "if managed properly".

"We are looking at how we can balance the daytime requirements with guests' needs which are usually at the start and end of the day."

Boutique Hotel News was shown the mock up room which was decorated in pleasing muted purple and grey accented with an attractive mural depicting a local scene at the head of the bed. It is a subtle touch but succeeds in lifting the room from comfortable to interesting, instilling a sense of place.

"Each INNSIDE is reflective of the neighbourhood," explained Munday who said the doorless bathroom, common in Melia's European properties but less well known in the UK market, would appeal to the target demographic.

"it will be interesting to see how the UK market responds," concedes Munday who thinks the atmosphere will be "more like a studio or long stay apartment than a standard hotel room".

All the standard rooms feature the same beds, bathrooms with generous sinks (larger than one usually sees in similar properties), power showers and in-house INNSIDE branded, paraben-free personal care amenities.

There will be eight 'lifestyle' one- bed suites, which will be on floors nine and 10 and which will, in addition to a larger footprint, have a number of extra treats including complimentary soft drinks in the in-room mini bar.

In a bold move that demonstrates Melia's commitment to inclusivity, there will also be nine rooms suitable for guests with disabilities.  Two will have low level baths and seven will offer roll in or wet room style bathrooms and they will be strategically located near designated evacuation points.

Munday is proud that Melia is "leading the way" and cites his determination to recruit a team that will be "ambassadors for the hotel" as one of the key indicators of the company's aspirations for property.

"We take environmental issues very seriously - as does Melia - and I know that the more and more guests do too.  We have a requirement that our suppliers have processes in place as our corporate clients, and I believe our leisure guests will increasingly demand this.  It was certainly a discussion point during recruitment."

With the city riding high following a government cash injection of almost £100million, Melia, along with at least half a dozen other boutique/ lifestyle openings slated for this year (including Eclectic's King Street Townhouse and Bespoke's Hotel Gotham, due next month)
has come in at just the right time.

Figures from Hot Stats this week detailed a rise in occupancy and goppar in the city which, according to Sir Richard Leese, the formidable leader of Manchester's council - and enthusiastic supporter of Melia's decision to invest, "needs more hotel rooms" to compliment the 6,500 beds currently on offer across the price spectrum.

"We especially welcome an increase in the number of four and five properties," Leese told Boutique Hotel News adding: "Quite regularly there isn't a hotel room to be had in the city centre."

2015 looks set to be the year that may change.

INNSIDE Manchester opens May 2015.  Rooms from £99.00

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