CHROME fittings, smokey glass, swish contemporary furnishings framing an indulgent state of the art decor. The Bournemouth Sands Hotel... well, it’s got none of these, writes Bob Westerdale.
IF you are looking for the trendy, decadent trappings of a modern boutique style hotel, this, in truth, isn’t the place to be.
On first inspection, I couldn’t help but think of ‘Hi de Hi,’ the ‘60s, or cruises for people sailing towards the twilight of their lives.
As I arrived, the music coming from the lounge was certainly from a time when fringes, flares and platform soles ruled the dance floor.
A quick peek at the hotel itinerary promised Bingo on the menu for tomorrow.
As was juice, cottage pie, chocolate sponge or jelly and ice cream. None of that foreign muck.
Talking of dinner, it is served from 6.30pm. To 7pm. Miss that slot...and well, you miss it full-stop, presumably.Ditto breakfast. 8.30am to 9am. No slacking, just be there.
Get the picture that it was all a bit of a culture shock, for this traveller? Well, that’s not exactly the case.
It did take a while for the penny to drop why this full-to-the-brim hotel was the venue of choice for so many.
The fact is that The Sands, owned by Daish’s Holidays, is a blast from the past for people who feel at home amongst routine, order and above all tradition.
While there may be a queue to walk into the dining room because of such a narrow timeframe, the food (which you had previously ordered on a betting slip sized piece of old tech paper) was tasty and delivered hot and quickly.
While the furnishings of heavily-patterned carpets and old fashioned wall dressings jarred with modern thinking, it’s entirely possible that it’s not a million miles off what some of the veteran guests may have at home.
And while the bedrooms are not the last word in elegance and style, they are certainly clean and comfortable. And if some of the furniture is a tad weary...well so are some of the guests...weary of the 21st century, that is.
The lesson I learned as I looked at the full to capacity dining room and communal areas was that this might be an old school business model, but it’s one that works.
Daish pride themselves on ‘hassle free’ value for money holiday packages.
They take you there on the coach, feed, entertain and accommodate you, then they take you back again.
Everything is done in a no-nonsense, methodical way. Professional, but never impolite. The guests come back year after year.
Why reinvent the wheel, when there is nothing wrong with the old one?
And while the 74-bedroom Sands may have a few, minor issues (a hair dryer the missus borrowed from Reception was last checked as usable in October 2005) its in a superbly practical location, a few hundred yards from the sea and a walkable distance from Bournemouth town centre. Yes, it took me a while to get the vibe.
And, if I’m honest, to avoid applying values relating to hotels I’d visited that charge an awful lot more...for a service which isn’t a million times better.
The acid test for the regulars is simple. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Or as one woman from Nottingham told me “the food is smashing, the room is decent enough. And we don’t mind the music too much.”
* Daish’s Holidays have four hotels in top coast resorts: Newquay, Torquay, Bournemouth and Shanklin on the Isle of Wight and, by offering year-round, value, relaxing holidays, have managed to keep their four hotels fully booked for 30 years.
* Although Daish’s caters generally to the mature market – with return coach travel, half-board accommodation and live nightly entertainment, quizzes and bingo – there is a sizeable family market during the school holidays, attracted by the ‘free kids’ deals, as well as the child-friendly product.