After finding success at Southwold Pier it’s a Bournes again story at Wells-next-the-Sea
- Credit: Ian Burt
Quirky, quality, small-scale tourism are words that spring to mind when you conjure up a vision of what Stephen and Antonia Bournes achieved during their time as the owners of Southwold Pier.
After they sold up, project complete save for an ambitious hotel development left to the next custodians, Gough Hotels, they brought their same philosophy of what Great British tourism is all about to Wells-next-the-Sea in north Norfolk.
Since buying The Globe Inn from the Holkham estate in June 2013 Mr Bournes has invested £500,000 – 'it's a lot of money for one property but it's investment for the long term' – in breathing new life into a 17th century building.
Mr Bournes said: 'I had been around Southwold for 30 years but always came up to Wells. North Norfolk countryside is spectacular and at Wells there is that breathtaking mile of marshland down to the sea.'
In The Globe's quintessentially English setting of The Buttlands - a green with all the trappings of family fun – he recognised what Norfolk tourism should be all about.
He said: 'This building has a history of interesting entrepreneurs. I loved the simple British architecture that just needed sorting out. It was crying out to be put back the way it should be.'
That first summer there was just time for a lick of paint but in January 2014 The Globe closed for eight weeks for major renovation work.
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'We gutted the front out, turning two separate rooms into one with a parlour area and two snugs, and we refurbished seven bedrooms,' he said.
The next improvement was to move the toilets downstairs away from the restaurant.
He said: 'I saw the architecture downstairs and thought it was wasted as a cellar. The local historical society said the bricks down there pre-dated the 18th century brick tax and were likely to have come from cottages previously on the site.'
The resultant pristine toilets have been entered for a national loo of the year award which Mr Bournes said, while fun, also sent out an important message.
'High standard loos are vitally important for tourism and that was one of things I championed in Southwold,' he said.
'We now have customers saying, 'I love your loos' and telling their friends, 'you have got to go down there'.'
His continuation of improvement work has included extending the restaurant.
Hotel guests will also soon have access to a roof terrace.
The project for next year will be the development of a further 12 bedrooms on the site.
Mr Bournes also firmly believes in investing in his 25 staff, increasing salary levels and buying two houses in Wells for staff accommodation.
Optimistic about the future of domestic tourism, he said: 'Last winter was really good for us - we laid on talks on Monday nights and had 60 to 70 people in here - and our occupancy is going really well.
'We are pushing short breaks in the autumn and and encouraging longer stays as well, with packages for the week.'