THE new general manager of Glasgow’s only five-star hotel has credited the support of ‘“local” guests for being able to achieve a 50 per cent occupancy rate through the pandemic while other hotels across Scotland have been forced to close their doors.

The Kimpton Blythswood has been steered through the turbulence of the global health crisis by new manager Gillian Mylles, who took over the top job weeks before the first national lockdown in March, after two years at the firm’s Edinburgh hotel.

While the Blythswood is currently closed under level 4 restrictions, it has continued to host weddings, albeit on a drastically reduced scale, with the sixth in December due to be held today, on Hogmanay.

The service will bear little resemblance to what many would consider a traditional wedding, there will be no champagne reception or first dance and the smiles on the faces of the ten guests will be obscured by masks.

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However Ms Mylles, 35, who is originally from Aberdeen but is now Edinburgh-based, says there was a feeling amongst those who chose to go ahead with weddings, that they wanted to claw back something positive from a difficult year  – for one couple, it was their third attempt to get married after successive cancellations.

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She says the more intimate celebrations may also have had some unexpected benefits, giving couples more space to take in the significance of the occasion and says staff make every effort to ensure couples have a memorable day.

A number of high-profile hotels have opted to remain closed, despite being permitted to stay open in level 3, including Turnberry, Gleneagles and the four-star Auchrannie resort on the Isle of Arran

“We stayed open until this current lockdown, the main reason being because we are so popular within the local community,” said Ms Mylles, adding that a high proportion of guests were from Glasgow itself.

“We were still keeping busy at weekends and still hitting 50% occupancy in level 3. It really was just locals coming in, wanting to escape the four walls of their houses or their children! 

“One of the hotel’s main attractions is the spa itself and we were lucky enough to be able to continue to keep parts of that open.

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“Even with all the restrictions, some of the guest feedback we have had is that it still feels like an enjoyable experience and I think that’s so important. It’s been a really rubbish year for us all and I think they really want a sense of normality.”

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She said bookings for the hotel’s penthouse, which has hosted celebrities including singer Ariane Grande and costs upwards of £2,500 a night, had been “incredibly good” and were boosted by a major Bollywood film, part of which was filmed in Glasgow in the summer months.

“When we first re-opened we had a production staying with us who had taken it for one of their main stars so that took us straight through August. We also had a couple who got engaged (staying) and a couple who got married on December 18.”

While many couples opted to cancel their weddings after the first national lockdown, the hotel manager said bookings had actually picked up towards the end of the year.

“What we noticed in November and December is that some couples just wanted to get married this year, not in the sense of getting it over it with but to ensure they end this year on a high. 

“We have our sixth wedding taking place tomorrow, so despite being closed they can have their ceremony here.

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“We had a couple who got married on December 23 and it was their third attempt at getting married. It’s been nice to be able to turn that around.

“In level 4, we are able to do ceremony only so they can come and get married but unfortunately after that they have to leave the hotel.

“In level 3, it was up to 20 people. It is a fully seated affair, everyone apart from the bride and groom has to wear face coverings but we are allowed to serve alcohol.

“I think a lot of wedding couples forget that it is their big day and they might not necessarily take it all in. 

“Maybe it’s put the focus back onto what a wedding is all about.”

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The hotel manager said it was “unfortunate” that there had been some redundancies earlier this year and does not disclose how many, saying only: “It was extremely bad that it had to happen but it’s in the past now.”

In terms of future plans, she said there will be more of a focus more on the promotion of the spa, capitalising on the growth of the ‘wellness’ industry through the pandemic with some newer therapies added in.

The Blythswood was the first in the UK to launch Cannabidiol (CBD) infused therapeutic treatments while the Hebridean spa range Ishga was inspired by the hotel’s creation of a seaweed bath.

She said: “Midweek bookings are quieter but we are still looking at 20-25% occupancy at weekends.

“It’s unrealistic to be putting a timeframe on it – but we are just looking forward to a more successful 2021.”