A senior Barrow councillor has welcomed the decision to re-open the town’s Holiday Inn Express to allow key workers to stay.
Barrow’s newest and biggest hotel opened in December but had to shut in March because of the lockdown.
On 1 June, however, it started welcoming key worker guests after introducing a comprehensive range of COVID-secure measures. Its customers are also benefitting from special discounts in appreciation of the work they are doing during the pandemic.
Former mayor and retired teacher Cllr Hazel Edwards – who has served on Barrow Borough Council for nearly 30 years and in 2019 became the leader of the Conservative group – said: “I am so pleased that the Holiday Inn Express in Barrow-in-Furness has reopened for key workers. It is a great asset to our town, not only because of the excellent facilities, but also because of the exceptional welcome from all staff.
She added: “They have thought carefully about social distancing and provision of facilities, without being obtrusive. It is a safe, bright, central hotel in a town that is the Gateway to the Lakes, where the mountains meet the sea.”
The 127-room Holiday Inn Express in Barrow is part of IHG, one of the world’s leading hotel companies. IHG has introduced a Clean Promise guarantee across all of its properties after developing an enhanced cleaning regime in response to the pandemic.
The hotel team in Barrow has also produced a special video – https://vimeo.com/427869775 – for its guests to watch before they arrive. It covers all aspects of a stay, from check-in – where, for example, key cards are in envelopes ready to just pick up – through self-service meals and check-out.
There are prominent signs throughout the hotel helping customers keep to a social distance. Protective screens have been installed at reception and all members of staff are wearing personal protective equipment. There are also sanitiser stations throughout the building.
Mark Ashall, of Ashall Projects, is the developer and a shareholder of the Holiday Inn Express in Barrow and the Holiday Inn Express in Middlesbrough on Teesside.
“Both towns are bases for large number of key workers – both NHS staff and contractors who, for example, keep power stations running – so we were determined to do all we could to help them by opening safely as soon as possible,” he said.
“In each case we have been the first sizeable hotel in the area to re-open and the support and expertise of IHG has been invaluable. This has been particularly beneficial in Cumbria where, apart from our Holiday Inn Express in Barrow, there are relatively few chain hotels who can call upon such help.”
Mark Winter, the general manager of the Barrow hotel, said more than 40 guests have so far booked to stay.
“It’s obviously a bit different, but we’d already built a reputation for fantastic customer service and that hasn’t changed,” he said. “Our aim is to provide a home from home – and that even includes Netflix and a power shower in each room.”
The hotel’s commercial manager Paul Weild said: “We’re in a prominent position in the town centre and when we opened we set out to be a prominent asset to our community, as well as for the many people who come to Barrow to work. We’re all excited to get back to work to welcome our regular customers and some new ones as well.”
The Holiday Inn Express was built on the site of a former police station in Barrow’s Market Street. It opened on 2 December 2019 and employs 25 people, all recruited from the local area.
Fewer members of staff are needed at the moment but more will be brought back from furlough as demand grows for accommodation.