‘It is a privilege to work here’: Meet the General Manager at the Queens Hotel

Cheltenham is full of incredible businesses with passionate people and teams behind them who love what they do – just like Erol Uray at the Queens Hotel.

The teams and individuals behind Cheltenham's businesses are just one of the reasons the town is such a happy place.
The teams and individuals behind Cheltenham's businesses are just one of the reasons the town is such a happy place.

There are a whole host of incredible businesses in Cheltenham, with everything from restaurants and pubs to shops and hotels, which are run by people that make them a truly wonderful place to be.

SoGlos has teamed up with Visit Cheltenham, which has launched its ‘Find your Happy Place’ campaign, to discover why Cheltenham is such a happy place and to meet some of the owners and leaders behind these incredible businesses.

You can also become involved in the campaign by taking to social media and sharing your happy place using the hashtag #HappyPlaceCheltenham and tagging Visit Cheltenham. Why not explore the hashtag to find some happy place inspiration?

Tell us about yourself

I have been in Cheltenham close to three years, and I have been working in hospitality for just about 20 years now and I’m a hotelier through and through. I started as a waiter in a restaurant and worked all this time to become a general manager, and I am very proud to be the general manager of the Queens Hotel. Not everyone can say they are the manager of one of the first purpose-built hotels in Europe.

I’m very passionate about the industry and about delivering excellent customer service to guests and just making people happy at the hotel. I’m also very passionate about football, too.

Tell us about the Queens Hotel

The Queens Hotel is one of the first purpose-built hotels in Europe and it opened in 1838, the same year as the coronation of Queen Victoria and so it was named in her honour. The hotel was originally named the Royal Victoria, but they decided Queens Hotel was a more fitting name.

The hotel was opened as a result of the discovery of mineral springs in Cheltenham which turned the town into a health and holiday spa resort. People, including royalty, came to the town and it was decided that a hotel was needed to fit that kind of status of its visitors. Work began in 1834 and it took about four years to build. It was conceived by Robert Jearrad and his brother Charles who built the hotel after the Temple of Jupiter in Rome.

It was built for £40,000 at the time and it was very exciting when it opened. The building has always been a hotel and has welcomed lots of visitors including Sir Charles Napier, the Duchess of Russia, Glenn Miller, Bob Hope and more, who all came to the hotel when it was an American Service Club during the Second World War. The hotel also became a women’s hospice during the war, too.

How has business been for the Queens Hotel over the last year?

When we were in lockdown there was obviously no business and we didn’t open for keyworkers as there was not a demand, but when we were allowed to open from July to Oct 2020 it was very busy and challenging given the restrictions.

We opened the garden on Monday 12 April 2021 and since then it’s been extremely busy. Since the hotel opened fully, we have been running at a very high occupancy which has been challenging as finding staff in hospitality is tricky at the moment.

The façade was refurbished and we have held a lot of activities within the community including the projection of poppies onto the front of the hotel as well as an advent calendar, supporting Children in Need, Cheltenham General Hospital and Cheltenham Open Door as well as providing cakes, food and collection donations. We also held a 24-hour gymathon this year to raise money for Hospitality Action and the efforts they make to support this industry which has taken quite a hard hit and is still suffering now.

How has the Queens Hotel adapted to lockdown restrictions?

Last year was more difficult because we had signs everywhere, we had to change the way we do things such as breakfast — no buffets anymore – for example, and adapt to changes, wearing masks continuously etc. We have also done a lot of work during the closure, refreshing the hotel and bringing it up to speed for when we did reopen.

There are some restrictions that are still there such as using dividers, hand sanitisers etc. and they will not go away for quite some time. What we don’t want to do is put so many restrictions on guests as a service. Last year was different, but we are starting to ease those restrictions in terms of what we provide as a service. When you come into the hotel you won’t see too much difference, maybe some floor stickers and signs but people understand what is going on. We have adapted to these according to guidelines and our own safety protocols.

What can people expect at the Queens Hotel?

Coming to the Queens Hotel you should always expect a special experience. It’s not a usual bog-standard hotel with the same bedrooms. The hotel is more than 180 years young, with different size bedrooms and when you come into a hotel like this you expect to hear about the story of the hotel, have a memorable stay, and expect to be looked after by the team. It’s a different experience when you stay at the Queens Hotel.

How can locals and visitors make businesses happy?

I think in order to make business happy it’s about promoting the local businesses. Hotels specifically need the residents of Cheltenham to continuously promote the hotel, whether that’s through word of mouth or social media.

It is crucial if residents or visitors know people who are interested in working in hospitality to recommend the Queens Hotel. It is a privilege to work here and to say you work in this kind of hotel is amazing.

It’s something we also do, promote and work with local businesses, for instance Bicycle Hire, the steam railway, Sudeley Castle, as well as buying from local businesses such as Neptune Rum and more.

It’s all about promoting what is happening in Cheltenham and we expect to do the same. I would invite everyone to come and visit and have a coffee, an afternoon tea and something to eat.

Why is the Queens Hotel a happy place?

It’s a happy place because it’s a place of coming together, whether it’s family, friends or colleagues. It’s a place which always has something going on and has a lot of history. I think personally when you know the history it makes you happy.

For us as a business and a team, is make it a happy place as well – because you can relax, you can enjoy yourself, you can get an experience, you can just be happy.

Where is your happy place in Cheltenham and why?

All the parks in Cheltenham and all the wonderful greenery, especially in summer with everything coming to life, makes the town a happy place. When I walk from home towards work and around the parks and see a lot of people I get a real buzz. The gardens are really well looked after. It makes you feel like ‘wow’. Even if it is raining you see the colours out there and it makes you happy as well. The council has been doing a great job in keeping these gardens looking so wonderful and so fresh.

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