Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisis

If Llandudno is considered the Queen of Welsh resorts then its crown is the famous sweep of Victorian era hotels that curve along the North Shore seafront. But that crown is currently missing a few gems with seven of its landmark promenade hotels currently not due to reopen once lockdown comes to an end. Prior to the crisis the Esplanade and Ambassador had already closed after falling into administration.

Llandudno's famous seafront

Since then Queens, Llandudno Bay, and Belmont, which were trading in administration before Covid hit, have announced they will not reopen - while Bay Marine and Bay County also need new operators after the collapse of the Specialist Leisure Group

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The good news is that the Ambassador has now been bought by Mostyn Estates.

Revamp work is taking place and its long term prospects are now secure.

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisAmbassador Hotel in Llandudno

But for the others - which make up a significant chunk of the famous row of hotels - the future is more uncertain.

The hotels:

Queens, Llandudno Bay, and Belmont.

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisQueens Hotel in Llandudno

  These three are worth considering together and had formed part of Gavin Woodhouse's collection of sites under his Northern Powerhouse Development group. 

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Insolvency and restructuring experts Duff & Phelps were appointed to take over the sites in a court order last July, with serious concerns over the investment model behind the venture. They continued to run the Llandudno sites in administration and they were placed on the market last autumn.

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisLlandudno Bay Hotel

But as the crisis hit this spring the 83 bedroom Queens Hotel announced it was to close "permanently".

Now the 27-bedroom Belmont Hotel and 61 bedroom Llandudno Bay site have also posted on social media that they had permanently closed with all future bookings cancelled. Prospects: They remain up for sale and Edward Hiller, chief executive at Mostyn Estates believes there are no shortage of potential buyers once the legal issues behind the ownership structure are dealt with

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisBelmont Hotel in Llandudno

Esplanade Esplanade had been run by Safehands Holidays Limited who bought the hotel in 2014 and converted the building into a holiday venue for people with disabilities and their carers.

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisEsplanade Hotel in Llandudno

But the company was placed into voluntary liquidation last year and the 40 bedroom hotel closed.

Prospects: Commercial agent Avison Young has placed the 40 bedroom hotel up for sale. Spring would have been the ideal time to secure a sale as the hotels enter the golden period of the season but Covid-19 meant this was no normal year. There are hopes that once lockdown is eased and some sort of normality returns that a sale can be secured.

Bay County/Bay Marine

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisCounty Hotel in Llandudno

  These sites were trading when the UK went into lockdown. They were operated by the owner of bus giant Shearings - the Specialist Leisure Group - but the group went into administration in May - stating the hotels would not reopen.

While they were part of the same operating group they were owned by different parties according to Land Registry. Bay Marine is owned by Jewel Hotels Trustee I Ltd based in Jersey.

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisBay Marine Hotel in Llandudno

The County is owned by Alan Flynn and Barbara Flynn, care of North Ainley Halliwell, Oldham. North Wales Live was unable to contact either party.

Prospects: Not currently on the market and prospects of sales or new operators coming in will depend on how the market bounces back in the coming months.

Is there a crisis in Llandudno and what help does the town need?

The landowner:

Edward Hiller, chief executive at Mostyn Estates said that the issues facing many of the hotels pre-date the crisis and are not directly related to the performance of Llandudno as a resort. Mr Hiller added: "It is inevitable that the current situation will impact on transactions and immediate reopening. Even some of the well established hotels are weighing up justification for opening In July, given current measures being asked of them.

The uncertainty over timings offered by Welsh Government has only heightened the issues.

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisEdward Hiller, managing director of Mostyn Estates

"Therefore the two hotels that can directly attribute their closure to the pandemic are those which were part of SLG Ltd (Marine/County). This business focused on the coaching trade for predominantly older visitors. The consequence, whilst unfortunate, was not altogether surprising, given that few will be climbing aboard a coach any time soon.

"Will all these hotels change hands and re-open at some point. Of course they will, but they may miss the 2020 summer season. New owners are likely to bring new investment and ideas, so the short term cost may be outweighed by the longer term benefits."

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On extra support from government, he added: "It is not the role of the public sector to prop up already failing business, but to support those with good prospects.

"Much grant aid has been wasted across North Wales in the past. They need to be very careful with any support, not to fall into the same cycle. "From a business perspective, one can often be more nimble by not refocusing in order to tick grant application boxes.

If both sides begin to learn more from past experiences, we could as a region, come out of this situation with a positive legacy."

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisLlandudno's famous bay packed with seafront hotels

On the future, he added: "There are not many places in Europe that have a target audience of circa 15 million (and growing) within a two hour drive time, attractive scenery, cultural identity, and historical built environment. There are some elements around the food offer, quality of accommodation that can be improved upon, but some other regions can often only dream of such a combination of attributes. "The true economic and ecological cost of cheap flights to Europe and further afield, will in time be understood.

As a consequence, I see the price of foreign travel and associated requirements, becoming an heavy burden on customers, who may increasingly look to alternatives." He added that this confidence had seen Mostyn Estates invest in the Ambassador. The Tourism chief:

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisJim Jones

 

Jim Jones, the chief executive of North Wales Tourism, said: "There's no disguising the fact that the effects of COVID-19 will be felt long after the lockdown has been lifted. "The next few months are going to be tough for our tourism and hospitality sector. We're not out of the woods by a long way, but encouragingly we have recently experienced a noticeable increase in traffic to our GoNorthWales website and we've taken a lot of phone enquiries.

"There has been particular interest in Llandudno, and rightly so, as it's known throughout the country as the Queen of Welsh Resorts.

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"It's not that long ago when the town was ranked as one of the Top 10 destinations to visit in the UK and there will undoubtedly be pent up demand as people look to reschedule their holidays and focus their attention on the domestic market. "There are a number of serious challenges facing Llandudno, including the closure of some major  hotels in the town. "I believe there is a special case for support led by the private sector and bringing together Mostyn Estates, the Welsh Government, the chamber of trade, hospitality association, Llandudno Town Council, and Conwy County Council.  They need to collectively and proactively promote inward investment opportunities, centred around the hotel sector, whilst encouraging as many opportunities to get visitors in all year round.

"I have every confidence that this wonderful resort will bounce back and buyers will be found for the hotels that have closed, enabling Llandudno to once again become a jewel in the crown of the tourism industry in North Wales."

The hotelier:

Nathan Cousins, Group Sales and Marketing, St George's Hotel, which is reopening on July 13, said: "It's such a shame that so may hotels in Llandudno are struggling to re-open after the lockdown, no hotel has been protected as both private and company owned hotels are closing. "One of the things that made Llandudno so unique was having such a variety of hotels and hospitality businesses in the town. "I just hope that the region will be able to return to as close to normal as possible and as many hotels are able to re-establish themselves again as quickly as possible."

The politician:

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisJanet Finch-Saunders AM

 

Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders said: "North Wales Tourism have warned that 10,000 jobs will be lost in the tourist sector here in North Wales even if the sector had been able to open at the start of this month.  Their prediction is starting to be proven as the Welsh Government has failed to provide adequate support.

"Our iconic North Shore hotels have been badly let down. Some have missed out on grant support because their rateable value was just over GBP51,000, and I know from casework that the offers of financial support through the Economic Resilience Fund have been shockingly low in some instances.  

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"The Welsh Government have known that there was a serious risk of business collapse and job losses here in Llandudno because I wrote raising alarm two months ago, and have highlighted that 40.9% of jobs here are in the shutdown sector. "Unfortunately, the Minister for Economy, Transport, and North Wales has not acted on my proposal that a strategy be put together to help Llandudno and Conwy County. 

"However, I am pursuing further assistance, such as an improved programme of financial support, market and seaside town funds, and the creation of Business Rate-Free Zones where all businesses would be free from paying businesses rates for up to three years."

The Welsh Government:

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Our GBP90m Transforming Towns programme is vital in supporting our town centres through initiatives such as repurposing empty properties and investing in green infrastructure. "Business across Wales are benefiting from our GBP500m Economic Resilience Fund and our Coastal Towns and Communities Fund will provide a much needed and timely boost to our coastal towns. "We are working closely with stakeholders to identify emerging issues and prioritise further actions to support town centres in the short term whilst also looking for opportunities to secure their long term futures."

The Local Authority:

Llandudno's famous sweep of seafront hotels under threat as six sites face uncertain futures amid Covid crisisSam Rowlands

 

Cllr Sam Rowlands, Leader Conwy County Borough Council, said: "Conwy County Borough Council has invested a lot of resource into promoting the destination, and working with our private sector partners, helping to gain an international and UK-wide reputation for Conwy County as a tourism destination.

"The last County-wide tourism figures showed that Conwy attracted 9.38 million visitors, making it a key tourism destination for Wales.

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"Llandudno in particular is a buoyant town and is blessed with good quality accommodation, food and drink, attractions and its natural resources of beaches and mountains. "We firmly believe that our visitors will be back in their usual numbers. We have recently done a visitor survey, and the feedback from visitors is that they wish to stay in accommodation in the resort.

"We believe that there is interest in the hotels from potential buyers, and we would look to support any organisation who acquired any of the hotels as best we can.

We have a strong relationship with the tourism and hospitality sector and work closely with them to help grow the sector in Conwy County."

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