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A sure sign of how well a city is doing can be gleaned from the simple fact of how the hotel sector is performing in the location.
And Manchester certainly fits into the ”booming” category both in terms of city and accommodation, with new hotels springing up seemingly every week.
One of the latest additions is the four star Macdonald Manchester Hotel situated right slap bang next door to Piccadilly Railway station. In fact so slap bang, it took the taxi driver who I hailed just to point behind him and say, ”Well it”s just there.” But don”t be put off by its rail location. I agree, sometimes hotels near train stations can be iffy at best, set in areas you wouldn”t particularly want to stroll round at night, but this one is different.
Mcdonald, Manchester Hotel
Formerly the BT building, the 338-room property has recently undergone a ”33m transformation and given its position next to one of the North-West”s busiest rail hubs and just 10min from Manchester Airport, is already seeing healthy business.
Indeed the night I stayed there, it was 100% chocka block, with Manchester United due to play Arsenal the next day and the FINA World Swimming Championships taking place in the city centre MEN Arena. This is a city that lives and breathes sport, playing host to events of global importance such as the upcoming UEFA Cup Final between Glasgow Rangers and Zenit St Petersburg that will see tens of thousands of fans ” perhaps even more from Scotland ” descend on the city.
I travelled up to Manchester using Virgin Train”s 13:35 Euston service, which despite being 19min late ” the implementation of the West Coast Main Line works can”t come soon enough ” had all the hallmarks of the company”s usual excellence.
Just think back a few years ago and it”s easy to see that Virgin has genuinely improved what used to be a fairly standard offering from previous operators. And if you are lucky enough to travel in first class ” it”s pampering all the way up to Manchester with complimentary tea and coffee and a full meal service. However, check the dates ” the there are no hot meals available at weekends or lounge access.
It”s a sophisticated way to travel and door to door, really gives the airlines a run for their money. Next year will be even better.
So what”s the Manchester Macdonald like? Well, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The exterior of the property is fairly functional, echoing its former existence, and the reception area fairly routine, but it is the rooms that are really top quality.
I had a standard room (rates start at ”85 rising to ”250 at peak) but its size was of extremely generous proportions with a large ” phenomenally comfortable ” double bed and huge panoramic windows on two sides giving decent views of the city.
A large, en-suite bathroom complemented the main area, while a good plasma television, free high-speed broadband internet access and iPod docking station are also available.
For the business traveller or those wishing to organise meetings and events, there are rooms to cater from two to 300 people, all equipped with screen-to-laptop systems and projectors. In fact while I was being shown around the many business meeting options, several groups of interested parties were also having tours ” clearly word has already spread that the Macdonald is somewhere to do business.
Of all 48 Macdonald properties in the UK, the Manchester hotel is the company”s only city-centre venue and even outside peak spikes such as United playing at home or similar enormous sporting events such as the World Swimming Championships, occupancy rates are running at between 70% and 80%.
It”s a fair question to ask what makes Macdonald different? Well, as is the case with so many sectors where there is healthy competition, it is the staff that sets the Macdonald apart. Nothing is too much trouble, doors are always held open for guests and the addition of a spa has provoked great local interest.
The spa opened for guests and locals alike in February and is a key strategic plank of Macdonald”s UK plans as it looks to build on similar ventures in its Portal Hotel, Gold and Spa in Tarporley, Cheshire and the ”3m facility at the Old England Hotel in Windermere in the Lake District.
The Manchester spa offers all the usual luxury: a manicure room, St Tropez spray tanning, Decleor treatments, aroma steam room, heated mosaic relaxers and a fitness room.
For those travellers who are peckish, as well as 24h in-room dining there is a first-floor restaurant that although I didn”t have the time to sample its evening fare, provides an extremely generous breakfast ” just check whether it is included in your room rate.
Given the Macdonald”s location, it seems logical that it will be used by those wishing a quick long-distance entry point into Manchester by train, but it”s not so far from the city centre either, with local tram services from Piccadilly.
This is a city that”s going places ” arch-rivals Liverpool may have something to say about that from a football and cultural perspective ” but Manchester ” and its hotels are on the up.
Macdonald Manchester Hotel,London Road,Manchester,M1 2PGTel: 0844 879 9088
How to Get There:” Rail: Manchester Piccadilly Station, 1 min. ” Air: Manchester Airport, 10 mins.www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk/manchester
Virgin Trainswww.virgintrains.co.ukTel: 08457 222 333