Cottonmill at Sopwell House: Creative excellence

By Sarah Todd


By Sarah Todd

25 July 2020

European Spa visits the newly refurbished Cottonmill Spa within Sopwell House in St. Albans to witness the results of the owner AB Hotels’ recent £14m investment

Creative Excellence

Nestled deep in the Hertfordshire countryside, the beautifully enhanced and expanded Cottonmill spa at Sopwell House was unveiled with a soft opening on August 1, 2019.

Primarily intended to boost the spa’s position in the luxury guest market, the £14m (€15.7m) investment took place across an extensive development period of six years. Owned since 1986 by the family-run AB Hotels, Sopwell House retains its original Georgian grandeur with the main building housing the majority of the hotel’s accommodation, its restaurants and the spa, which now has a two-tiered membership that offers a new level of exclusivity in the shape of The Club at Cottonmill.

Located adjacent to the main house, a separate development has converted an original farmhouse into 16 Mews Suites. Accessible only through private gates and intended to provide ‘the next level of luxury’ for guests, this enclave of private courtyards and botanicals opens out onto a secret garden with open-air hot tubs.

Spa has been a driver for the hotel’s business since it opened Sopwell House Spa in 1991. Over the years the spa has benefitted from several small extensions and enhancements, but the most recent redevelopment was seen as a necessary and logical next step, according to Sopwell House’s director, Rafi Bejerano.

“Cottonmill has always made a healthy profit but our objective was to take Sopwell House from strength to strength,” Bejerano explains. “The £14m we invested made this the biggest single project we’ve ever undertaken; it was quite a big statement for us.”

The development aimed to help AB Hotels shift its existing market position, increase footfall and expand its clientele. “Cottonmill has been a very busy and successful spa ever since it opened,” explains Bejerano. “Now we are looking to increase our midweek business spend as well as our room occupancy and rate. We will strive to provide five-star service and use our new spa offering to elevate the hotel’s position in the marketplace to entice the more affluent and seasoned traveller.”

The spa stayed open throughout the work with leading spa operations expert Debi Green chosen to ensure the right result was achieved. “In order for us to open a truly luxury spa with such a range of different services, the level of detail in terms of market research and the spa’s positioning was immense,” states Bejerano. “We looked hard for a person to lead the pre-opening phase of the project and Debi Green was absolutely exceptional in bringing our project to fruition.”

Beginning work at Cottonmill in February 2018, Green was faced with the challenging and multi-layered task of combining an existing team running a successful spa with its redevelopment alongside the creation of The Club.

“From the very beginning, the owners were relentless in their pursuit of excellence,” Green recalls.

“I was tasked specifically with the operations side of the spa and I was responsible for putting together the critical path for all its different streams from start to finish. I coordinated elements including recruitment, treatments and SOPs, benchmarking, membership research and budgeting. It’s probably the best facility I’ve ever worked on – it has been an incredible project to be a part of.”

“The spa looks fantastic and the level of detail and care is phenomenal. We’ll now use it as a catalyst to elevate Sopwell House in the luxury market.”

Rafi Bejerano

Director, Sopwell House

Find out more about Cottonmill Spa

Designed to complement the dynamic needs of modern living, Cottonmill was brought to life with the dream to build a place that felt integrated with its natural surroundings

Visit website

Spa statistics

Sopwell House

Owner: AB Hotels

Director: Rafi Bejerano

Spa director: Richard Macklin

Spa consultant: Debi Green

Spa Consultancy Interior design: Sparcstudio

Property developer: Paragon

Investment: £14m

Spa size: 1,500sqm and 400sqm

Spa Garden Spa team: 70+ at full capacity

Treatment rooms: 14 plus two specialist rooms for Vichy shower and quartz treatments

New jobs created: 40+

Suppliers: Spa4, FA-Design, Technogym, Rigo Spa, Dyson, Dornbracht, Premier Software, Gantner

Hydrothermal design and supply: Rigo

Product partners: Elemis, ESPA, Aromatherapy Associates, iS Clinical, Jessica and Mii

Treatment beds and loungers: Gharieni

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