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Meet the Owner – Hotel TerraVina, New Forest, Hampshire

Sarah-Jane Lampe 26 September 2013

Terravina_090408_080Nina Basset, the UK’s youngest ever hotel inspector and owner of Hotel TerraVina give us an insight into her Californian-inspired establishment

Tell me the story of the hotel
After selling Hotel du Vin in 2004 my husband and I had never planned to re-open a hotel. However, after taking some time out we missed the hotel business so much that we decided we had “one more hotel” in us and so we started to plan Hotel TerraVina and actively search for a location and property to renovate. We love California, (the wine regions) and so as we couldn’t easily move there at the time as our son was settled at school, we decided to bring a little taste of California to the New Forest and hence TerraVina was born.

What challenges have you faced since opening?
There have been a few. No less that we opened in August 2007, and not quite a year into it the recession started to take a hold and the economy started to slip – we have never known TerraVina out of the economic gloom.

When we planned the refurbishment of the building we went to the same architect that we had used for Hotel du Vin and a local builder that he had worked with. Sadly the relationship broke down with them both at the end of the project, and we were embroiled in an almost three years running dispute with the builder – it took the shine off opening a new hotel and was very wearing and stressful. Then, of course, there are always the day-to-day niggles of staff and guests that make the business such a challenge at times, and so enjoyable at other times.

Where are you spending the majority of your budget?
Staffing is a huge commitment. For a small hotel we have a fairly large team, many of whom have worked with us since the beginning. We are also constantly re-investing in the fabric of the building, and redecorate the bedrooms with a quick touch up on a monthly basis, updating soft fabrics and furnishings and generally just trying to keep on top of the maintenance. We have a simple style of décor and it needs to be constantly maintained to ensure it looks sharp and fresh.

What are your future plans?
We have just launched ‘The Dining Room at TerraVina’ which is a fine dining restaurant, open Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights as an additional option to the hotel’s main restaurant. We also have planning permission to build an extra five bedrooms and to create a tasting room; there will be a cookery school too. We are currently organising the finances to be able to action this latest project hopefully in the early part of this year.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
For as long as I can remember I was fascinated by the hotel business. When I was a very little girl we used to stay as a family at The Golden Sands Hotel in St Brelades Bay, Jersey, then owned by the Seymour family. We went there so often we became friends with the owners, and were invited to their daughters’ wedding – every time we stayed I was enthralled and would spend time with the housekeeping team and other departments in and around the hotel. As I got older, there were TV shows such as Hotel, set in New York, and of course Fawlty Towers, I was just gripped by the intrigue, glamour and excitement of hotels. Being a hotel inspector was then a goal that I wanted to achieve as I was excited at the thought of travelling around the country staying in super five-star hotels and eating in top restaurants. However, when I became an inspector, I realised the reality was slightly less glamorous, but hugely rewarding, enjoyable and a great learning experience, especially as I was so young when I gained the role. I always felt very privileged to have been an inspector.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Passionate, inspiring, hard working

If you weren’t a hotelier what would you be doing?
Possibly a florist – definitely a career which involved people.

Average room rate: £150
Average food spend per head: £50 ex VAT
Average weekly occupancy: 80%
Staff members: 35