From near disaster to the golden days of British tourism, life has seldom been dull for the Hotel Bristol. We reflect on a remarkable past and present while looking forward to a fantastic future.
Looking at the friendly, well-lit reception of the Bristol in 2017, you might never imagine the many highs, lows and upheavals of one of Cornwall’s best-loved hotels. However, the very start of the Young family’s tenure sounds like a silver screen drama: “It began on a stormy night in March 1927.” The charming old postcards and happy holidaymakers paint a picture of contentment and success while wartime shortages and the ravages of three separate recessions provide another side to the story.
It is fair to say that the 1920s and ‘30s seem a world away from today’s tourism. The season was from May to September only and foreign visitors were virtually unheard of in Cornwall, as was the en-suite bathroom! However, English seaside resorts were booming and Hotel Bristol was already gaining quite a reputation. Indeed, it became the talk of Newquay as rival hotel guests watched in envy as Hotel Bristol residents were served afternoon tea on the beach.
The outbreak of WWII nearly spelt curtains for the hotel, but by a stroke of luck Benenden School from Kent approached the Youngs in search of a place to shelter their pupils. This carried the hotel over till the happier 1950s when trade bustled year-round and touring dance bands lit up the evenings. Other than a near disastrous fire in 1973, little slowed business for the next generation.
Tourism boomed and everyone, from aristocrats to the odd, fleeing bank robber, booked a room; Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher, Michael Caine and Eric Clapton have all stayed at the hotel.
The recession of the 1990s was a stiffer test, but Hotel Bristol survived through some clever strategies. One such strategy was becoming a Best Western Hotel, which provided greater stability while retaining independent management. Another big boost were the many Rosemunde Pilcher fans who wanted to see the Cornwall that looked so beautiful on German television. Meanwhile, regeneration and developments such as the Eden Project further boosted Cornwall’s tourism credentials.
Today, Hotel Bristol is still renowned for its warm hospitality, beautiful location and excellent food. Families return year on year, couples get married there and diners still vouch for the restaurant. While the current team might hope for a less wild ride in the coming years, this classic Newquay hotel continues to treat its guests to the best in Cornish hospitality. Indeed, to celebrate 90 great years, the hotel is currently running a special competition on social media with the hashtag #HotelBristolMemories.
Narrowcliff, Newquay TR7 2PQ