Burgh Island Hotel’s Vlad Krupa, Director of Guest Relations, and Lilly Krupa, Head of Sales, speak to Modern Hospitality about the lessons they have learned during a decade of working in UK hospitality.
Vlad arrived on Burgh Island more than 13 years ago, closely followed by his sister Lilly and mother Marta (who heads the hotel’s housekeeping operations). Fast-forward to today and they say that working on Burgh Island is a lot like being part of a family. Here’s what they had to say about post-COVID hospitality success.
Burgh Island cannot help but be a family. Frequently cut off from the mainland at high tide (and accessible only by vintage sea tractor!), the island’s unique location helps both staff and guests to become very close. This spirit runs through everything we do, and the ethos has paid dividends in terms of our relationship with our guests.
Our passion comes from the people who come to Burgh Island because guests are the lifeblood of what we do – all the more so at Burgh Island, where we have many couples who come every year. Not only this, they also express their excitement about seeing us personally, emailing and calling us to say they just cannot wait to return. Indeed, some do not even wait until their next stay, instead inviting us to visit the theatre with them in London!
With relationships like this, it is no wonder that we are so often referred to as the “Burgh family”. It is a label we wear with pride.
This familial feel is also important for staffing, which as we know is under unprecedented scrutiny in the hospitality sector at the moment. UK hospitality has experienced extreme staff shortages, with vacancies in the sector up 12.1% to 102,000 from April to June 2021. However, at Burgh Island, we take to heart the importance of prioritising our people, making them feel valued. That, as well as the offer of residential space on the island, is why we have been so successful at retaining staff.
Recruiting new colleagues has its own challenges, but ones which are no match for our strong team ethic! To be the right person for the job, it’s important to be a good communicator, which can be daunting for junior colleagues when they first join. That’s why it’s so valuable to have experienced members of the team who can lead by example, not just lending a hand with tasks but also showing them the fun which comes with working in hospitality.
Indeed, the challenges and the fun almost always go hand-in-hand.
Unsurprisingly, after 14 months, three lockdowns, and countless hours indoors, demand for holiday breaks has reached incredible heights. In fact, staycations this summer saw demand grow by more than 200% for some firms compared to the same period in 2020.
When Burgh Island’s doors reopened last May, a huge influx of new and returning guests descended on the hotel, desperate to do away with the lockdown blues. While some establishments might find themselves overwhelmed at such a time, we relished being back doing what we love most.
Matching this demand is not without its challenges, but these challenges are what make working in hospitality so dynamic, so exciting. So, whether we are hosting mystery evenings, ballroom dancing, or a pirate’s feast, there is always something to enjoy about the process of pulling off a successful event, not to mention the revelry of the guests!
Staying in the game
As the hospitality sector continues to evolve, it is vital for businesses to keep abreast of its changes. This is the key to longevity in the industry.
Businesses need to change people’s perceptions of working in hospitality, which can be a career and a passion rather than “just a job”. Professional development opportunities are plentiful in fields from food safety to eco-hospitality. You can even attend “wine college” to give your CV an extra flavour which will impress employers.
The best jobs are those that have these development opportunities built-in, catering to both personal and professional goals, recognising staff as people rather than just workers. At Burgh Island, for instance, our ecology drive includes energy awareness training for all staff. In addition, mental health care is a standard component of our staff first aid training, so that everyone is well-equipped to look after themselves and each other in a holistic way.
Start as you mean to go on
Post-pandemic challenges, not to mention years of experience beforehand, has taught us a great deal about how to survive and thrive as a hospitality business. Perhaps most important, working as a team is an absolute must if you hope to meet the high standards of the modern patron. Furthermore, supporting staff, embracing change, and cultivating strong relationships with guests also form part of the blueprint for success.