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The Big Interview with Giles Fuchs

JodyP 23 September 2019
The Big Interview with Giles Fuchs

Tell us the story of the hotel
Burgh Island Hotel was originally built in 1929 by Archie Nettlefold, the son of a wealthy industrialist who manufactured screws. Living in London, Archie decided that he needed a nice holiday home where he could entertain his friends with exclusive parties, so he bought the island and went on to build the house. After his friends started to visit for ‘months at a time’, he decided to charge them for the privilege. Tony Porter rescued the building from dereliction in 1986 and invested in restoring it to a functioning hotel business. It was later sold to Deborah Clark and Tony Orchard in 2001. Then in April 2018 I became the latest owner of the magical Burgh Island.

What challenges have you faced since opening?
The Art Deco design of the building is still very much at the heart of the hotel today, so one of the main focuses was always going to be retaining that timeless 1930’s glamour while delivering new standards of modern contemporary luxury. This required an incredible amount of work, including sourcing the appropriate fabrics and wiring process. Of course, being stationed on an island comes with its own challenges. At Burgh Island, we are cut off from the mainland twice a day, so it can be difficult to complete basic tasks such as receiving deliveries or removing waste. Furthermore, we have to be aware of the sea water corroding the vehicles we use to transport guests to and from the hotel. Staffing was also a significant issue when we first took on the hotel, and since taking over we have increased the number of employees by at least 100%. Due to the hotel’s location, it was tricky finding new staff and ensuring their accommodation due to the limited space on the island itself.

Where are you spending the majority of your budget?
A substantial proportion of our budget has gone towards to the major refurbishment of the hotel which has seen a complete  renovation of the gardens and public reception rooms, including The Ballroom and Palm Court Bar, as well the new Nettlefold restaurant which opened in May 2019. The second largest part of our budget goes towards our staff, who play such an essential role in delivering a unique experience for our guests. Ensuring we look after our staff and provide them with opportunities to develop their skills and career is a key priority. As a result, when the hotel first opened we offered our staff a week of quality training at the prestigious Mosimann’s Club located at the heart of London Belgravia which is headed up by the legendary chef Anton Mosimann.

What are your future plans?
Burgh Island was once known as the best hotel west of The Ritz, so that is where we are setting our sights. The refurbishment is almost complete with just a handful of bedrooms still to be given a new lease of life. In 2020, we will also be building a spa facility, as well as additional entertainment and leisure facilities to join the island’s tennis court, heliport and ‘Mermaid pool’. We are also pursuing a partnership with Bigbury golf course on the mainland to offer our guests the chance for a round of golf during their stay too.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
I wanted to pursue a whole range of career paths as a youngster. Initially, I wanted to be a farmer because I loved animals and at one point I even considered being a policeman. However, I always had an entrepreneurial streak and I knew I wanted to be working with people. My parents were actively involved in shaping the serviced office sector in the UK, so the property sector was a natural first step!

How would you describe yourself?
Driven, charismatic, intuitive and a person with integrity. However, recently someone did describe me as ‘honourable’ which I hope translates in the work that we do.

If you weren’t a hotelier, what would you be doing?
I’m lucky that I already get to pursue many other exciting careers that interest me. As well as being the owner of Burgh Island, I run a diverse portfolio of other businesses including Office Space in Town, which is a collection of boutique luxury serviced offices in London, Cardiff, Northampton and Edinburgh. I have also launched a drinks business based on the Gunners cocktail, which is seeing an exciting period of growth and is being stocked in some of the UK’s leading golf and private members clubs. As an entrepreneur I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities.