Balbirnie - the benchmark of good service?

Published: 5 May 2015 09:30

Special Report: Maximising the opportunities in Tourism & Hospitality

BALBIRNIE House Hotel has been attracting guests from around the world for 25 years.

Its location is almost equidistant between Edinburgh and St Andrews – making it a prime location for golf enthusiasts visiting The Open.

But what else, other than its locality, makes Balbirnie a hotel of choice for international visitors who descend on Fife to see their golfing greats tee off at The Old Course?

It’s not the Grade A-listed Georgian mansion’s visual appeal or its setting within 400 acres of beautiful parkland – pretty though it is. It’s not its Scottish heritage, which dates back to 1777. And it’s not its status as one of the country’s finest small luxury hotels.

No, but the answer is simple. Its raison d’etre is service. And good service, I can guarantee, is the reason for its success in attracting visitors the world over.

The importance of excellent customer service can never be underestimated or over exaggerated. And Balbirnie is a great example. Nothing is too much trouble. In fact, going above and beyond is mandatory for the hotel’s 110 staff.

Although managing director Nicholas Russell doesn’t deny that location has its part to play.

“The location of businesses in Fife has afforded them a considerable advantage,” he says.

“And the opportunities to capitalise on that are there in abundance.

“Fife is ideal really – given that The Open is frequently here and the Kingdom’s proximity to Edinburgh and Glasgow means that people attending major events and seeking somewhere different and, to all intents and purposes ‘away from it all’ can stay here.

“Money in this day and age is also a key consideration and you undoubtedly get more bang for your buck than you would in either Edinburgh or Glasgow.”

Russell’s passion for the place is evident in the official Balbirnie House Twitter feed, which pretty much documents the hotel’s day-to-day happenings.

No doubt this passion is something which filters down to his staff, for whom Balbirnie’s guests’ wishes are their command.

In fact, Balbirnie has grown to become a major employer in Fife and the diversity of its workforce is plain to see.

Waiting staff of all nationalities grace The Orangery, the hotel’s main dining room, as in the bar and Bistro.

Thanks, in part, to this staff collective and its reputation for quality service, Balbirnie has accumulated an impressive portfolio of special events held in its surroundings.

The privately-owned hotel provides a picturesque backdrop to some 170 large weddings a year, with tens of thousands of annual visitors from around the globe attending its special events.

Such credentials have even prompted Tricia Marwick, presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, to describe Balbirnie as “a jewel in the crown of tourism in Fife”.

“We are widely recognised as one of the country’s finest small luxury hotels – combining understated luxury with superb service and outstanding value,” says Russell.

“Balbirnie now has a jaw-dropping accumulated history of special events which have taken place here.

“We are particularly focussed on offering truly wonderful and accessible packaged pricing, with really great value, although a significant proportion of our clients also who have an unrestricted budget.

“Additionally, in the last 12 months, we have done more than we have ever done, to remain ahead of the curve.

“Many companies are aware that Balbirnie has it all for an away-day from the office, formal conference or staff dinner-dance, but by far the biggest success is its weddings, with more than three large weddings taking place every week.

“And this success has been reflected at the Scottish Hotel Awards, in which Balbirnie has just been voted Scotland¹s top wedding venue for the ninth time in 11 years.

“As part of this year's judging process, the judges themselves repeated a prior suggestion that Balbirnie House is Scotland's most iconic wedding venue.

“We were so very humbled to receive that comment, and the accumulated awards would now suggest that view is correct.”

And the secret to Balbirnie’s success?

“Fine food, lovely surroundings and, above all, a real sense of friendly Scottish hospitality combine to create quite a unique setting for today’s house guests to enjoy,” says Russell.

“The tourism market in Fife – at well over £300 million – is considerable and we feel we are well placed to accommodate guests from anywhere in the world.”

“Over recent years we've struck a really great balance between on-going innovation and classic design introductions, with great, personal and friendly modern service, and quite outstanding food and beverage offerings.”

Like I said, it’s all down to the service.

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