Lots of Best Western hotels are family owned, and it’s not unusual to see more than one generation taking the reins on all kinds of jobs at many of our properties, from the smallest to the largest. Not many can say they’ve been under the same management for 110 years!
The sunny seaside town of Eastbourne really grew into its own in the late Victorian period, when the current town was constructed almost from scratch out of a collection of seaside villages by a wealthy aristocrat. More famous as a seaside fortress against the French, the new town of Eastbourne thrived on tourists brought by the railways from London to enjoy the health benefits of the fresh sea air, and it soon developed a new reputation as a fashionable haunt after a Royal visit cemented its status.
And watching this unfold, almost since the first days of its re-birth, was the Robinson family who bought the hotel in 1912. It’s now an imposing sight on the Eastbourne seafront, with a grand Palladian frontage typical of Victorian seafront hotels, but its story is one of slow and patient expansion from humble beginnings. Starting with a modest 36 rooms, four generations of Lewises have bought up the hotels next door one after another until the present hotel of 102 bedrooms was created, the local landmark that exists today.
In fact, for most of it, the daughter of the original owners was there to personally oversee it – sadly passing last year aged 102 having served as a director since 1929. It’s this deep connection to the local area which General Manager Michael Stevenson thinks makes the hotel such an iconic destination.
“When a guest books with us, it is great to feel that Eastbourne is their place of choice to have a break/holiday, as there has so much to offer, all of which is right on our doorstep, and I can see that when people have come here for the first time. They are really pleasantly surprised by the location and beauty of the area.
“The wider community really benefit from more people taking their holidays in Eastbourne as it brings business to restaurants, attractions and more which boosts the local economy and gives the town opportunity to invest and improve.
“We always ensure that, if we have regular guests that we know have special birthdays or anniversaries, that we make them feel special with a card and gift in their room on arrival. We have one guest who has been coming for 80 years and we have given him a free week at the hotel for his loyalty!”
And it’s not just the owners who have been supporting the hotel for a long time, there are plenty of staff who are long servers as well, passing on the Lansdowne ethos from one generation of staff to the next.
“We have many longstanding members of staff such as our Senior Sous chef Ben, who has been with us 30 years and Paula, who started off as a waitress and is now our Accounts Manager!
I love the fact that we are family owned for 110 years this year and that the hotel has such a great family feel to it as all the staff and management are such a fantastic team!”
But the long-standing relationships at the Lansdowne don’t stop within its walls, and reach out into the wider community as well. From furniture to English wine, the hotel supports local suppliers of all sorts and spends vital money in the local economy as the hospitality industry recovers ina post-Pandemic world.
“We work with many local suppliers – we have used our upholsterers for over 50 years, our curtain makers for at least 10, our furniture suppliers for 20 plus years. We have local art on our walls and much of the food we buy is locally sourced. We have many vineyards in the area which are a great place to visit plus a local walking wine tour company who we also link with and hold wine tasting events at the hotel”