Meet our Travelling National Sales Manager: Craig

Name: Craig Duguid

Job Title: National Sales Manager

Job Function: I am responsible for driving business into the apartments with the able assistance of my sales and reservations team.

Time with Company: 13 years this December

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How many countries/continents/cities have you visited (rough estimates allowed!)?

Ok here goes: 19 (3 of which were purely for connecting flight purposes) countries, 31 international cities and too many in the UK to count, 4 continents – mainly all for work, but some leisure

What has been your favourite country and your favourite city?

I don’t think I can pick just one as every country is so different.  I always find something I like in each place.  There are countries I have visited which I wasn’t so sure about to start with but have grown to love e.g. India.  It was a real shock to my system the first time I visited as I had never been anywhere like that before.  My first visit was to Mumbai which is so busy and hectic and the mayhem starts the minute you step off the plane, however this is something I now find so exciting and to me what makes India the place I love.  There is always something going on in Mumbai and every one of your senses is kept busy constantly.  The people are so friendly and I have made some great friends over there.  I recently visited Australia for the first time this year.  It’s somewhere I have never been too bothered about going to mainly because of the distance and the time it takes to get there, but I have to say I was absolutely blown away by it.  It is such a fantastic place with so much to do, and it has such a great feeling.  I am also a huge fan of Kuwait and Kuwait City.  I have visited it several times and again have always been made to feel so welcome and have made some great friends.

What is your favourite thing about travelling?

I love going to new places and experiencing new things and meeting new people.  As I am usually there on business I don’t always get to see as much as I would like to.  I am also a bit of a transport geek so love travelling by aeroplane and train.  I love experiencing different airlines and travelling on different aeroplanes!  Favourites so far are the Dreamliner and A380!!  I also managed to travel by train on my recent trip to India.  I travelled from Chennai to Bangalore and I have to say it was amazing.  The train was old and rickety and there was so much chaos at the stations, but it is a system that seems to work and work well.  I booked a first class ticket which cost around £30 and included a 3 course meal.

If you had to travel with only one accessory/item, what would it be?

Hate to say it, but has to be my phone.

Do you have any funny travel stories or any travel disasters?

I have not had any disasters and have too many funny stories to pick just one, however I have had a few exciting things happen: An earthquake in LA, an earthquake in New Zealand, an hurricane in Maryland (US), getting hit 3 times by lighting on a flight into Heathrow (one hit was just outside the window from me and I felt the heat) and trying to land during Hurricane Bawbag in 2011 on a flight from Gatwick to Aberdeen which got a few metres above the tarmac before the pilot decided “maybe not” and we returned to Gatwick as all airports to the north were closed – it wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences!

Travel map or travel app?

Travel app every time.  I would be lost without Google Maps!

Do you have any travel tips for both corporate or leisure tourists e.g. how to pack?

Can give for both.

Corporate – make sure you have chargers and adapters!  Also if you are travelling with hold luggage make sure you have essentials in your hand luggage – spare clothes, toiletries, etc. in case your hold luggage doesn’t arrive!

Leisure – lay out everything you think you need, then only take a quarter of it!  Remember sun cream.

What countries are on your travel bucketlist?

Japan, Russia, Nepal, Poland – in fact too many to mention.

Which destination surprised you the most and you would recommend?

India

Selfie stick for travelling – yay or nay?

The selfie stick is so last year.  I now use my watch to take the best selfie!

What is your favourite accommodation type and why?

Apartments obviously for both business and leisure travel.  When travelling on business I do like my own space after a busy day.  Nothing better then stretching out on a comfortable sofa watching TV knowing I have refreshments in my fridge.  Can also eat what I want, when I want it and not be restricted by hotel restaurant opening times!  When I am travelling for leisure it is normally with my family so we much prefer the space and comfort an apartment offers rather than being crammed into a small “family room” which hotels offer.

Finally….post your favourite travel selfie

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#ScotSpirit

What do you think differentiates Scotland from any other destination in the world? Could it be its renowned warm hospitality; its rich historic tapestry; the absolutely jaw-dropping stunning landscapes and scenery (be it dramatic cliff faces or tranquil beach fronts) or the exhilaration and adrenaline-pumping energy of all the adventures that are available from bungee jumping to mountain biking? Whether it is these answers or another, what is resolutely irrefutable is how Scotland is like no other country on Earth – it is truly unique in its appearance, its energy, its character and in its spirit. No other destination can replicate the emotion and wonder to be found in Scotland and what is so pure about it is that once you experience it, it is everlasting and becomes a part of you. Therefore, this is what has culminated in VisitScotland launching its very first global marketing campaign for Scotland – The Spirit of Scotland campaign.

The Spirit of Scotland campaign aims to reflect the amazing potential that Scotland can bring as a holiday destination – in terms of the memorable and exciting experiences it offers. What adds to the campaign is how it reflects the true hospitality and generosity that characterises Scotland by VisitScotland working in association with tourism providers to allow vulnerable and disadvantaged families to have their own memorable Scottish holiday so that they too can benefit from the magic. The campaign is built on the foundation of several prominent spirits which uniquely characterise Scotland and its people, now known as the “Seven Spirits of Scotland” (the seven deadly sins are so old-school):

Warmth – We mean the atmosphere, food and people as opposed to the climate!

Humour – In Scotland, we love to have a laugh (particularly at ourselves) and there is always something amusing going on.

Guts – Participation in some of Scotland’s most daring activities and adventures or even just the indomitable spirit of people overcoming any obstacle and barrier in their way.

Spark – With the 2016 focus year of “Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design”, it is clear for all to see the inspiration that Scotland provides from its unique inventions; its modern architecture and its irreplaceable artwork. Cutting-edge, innovative and creative – there is more to Scotland than just heritage.

Soul – Scotland is renowned the world over for its stunning, idyllic and dramatic landscapes and scenery whether that is beautiful natural wonders; dramatic mountain views or tranquil coastal walks.

Determination – Linking back to the ‘guts’ involved in engaging in some adrenaline-pumping activities or taking on a challenge, it is undeniable that a sense of perseverance and tenacity can sometimes be required on a trip to Scotland.

Fun – What can better characterise Scotland other than fun?! Whether you are visiting one of the myriad of visitor attractions on offer or exploring the streets of one of our bustling cities, a sense of enjoyment and excitement is always lurking around the corner.

What Is Our Chosen Spirit? Warmth

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With everyone getting involved from visitors to tourism providers, we want to take the chance to become an ambassador of this campaign by identifying with one of the “Seven Spirits” and what could be a more appropriate one than Warmth. Having studied abroad and having worked in a diverse workforce, I am very proud to state how if there is one thing that international guests always comment on about Scotland, it is the amazing kindness and generosity that Scottish citizens provide to guests. This was no different than when I worked Front of House at The Spires because we welcomed guests from all corners of the globe and everyone positively commented on just how open and embracing the Scottish people were. Likewise, if there is anything The Spires likes to characterise itself on, it is its warm sense of hospitality and providing a home away from home sensation which emanates through the design of our apartments to the greeting provided by the enthusiastic, passionate faces that await you at reception. Hospitality is so important to us it even forms an integral part of our brand values with “Service”, “Respect” and “Smiles” being key underlying principles. Consequently, wherever our guests come from and for however long they stay, we strive to make sure everyone feel instantly welcomed and at home – no request is too big.

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It is the warmth provided by our staff to our customers throughout their whole stay which encapsulates the true essence of Scotland and while the scenery, landscape and activities make for a wonderful time; it is the hospitality that really completes the experience. When our guests arrive, when they come home after a long day exploring and even when they leave, we strive to have them leave with fond memories of their stay with us and to know that they experienced the best and warmest service available. Regardless of which of our Scottish cities guests stay in, be it the dynamic powerhouse of Glasgow, the breath-taking beauty of Edinburgh or the sparkling silver landscape of Aberdeen, we want them to know the magnificent warmth that typifies our nation as a whole – even if it is not so warm outside! We are so eager to replicate the spirit of Scotland it has acted as a significant form of influence on the design of our newest Edinburgh apartments with Scottish touches playing a role throughout including beautiful artwork designed by a Scottish artist.

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Wanting To Show Your #ScotSpirit?

A crucial element of The Spirit of Scotland campaign is the incorporation of social media. Subsequently, an integral part of the campaign is the use of #ScotSpirit on everyone’s favourite social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to encapsulate everyone’s unique experience in Scotland. Therefore, whether you are visiting us in Scotland or you are lucky enough to live here, make sure to spread the spirit and magic of Scotland by using #ScotSpirit alongside your unique photos and stories – it is time to let the world know just how awesome and amazing our corner of the world is for both holidays and living.

For more information, visit https://www.visitscotland.com/about/uniquely-scottish/scotspirit/

The Simple Art of Smiling

We use them each and every day. In fact, I am 99% sure you will have used one today, if not even in the last few hours since lunch. It is a symbol universally known that can be understood in every language and by people of essentially any age: the smiley emoji. Of course, one cannot mention the smiley emoji without using a visual example…..

🙂

We all use this useful little guy countless times throughout our life but where did it come from? Well, as part of today’s history lesson, I am going to take you back to Massachusetts in 1963 where a gentleman by the name of Harvey Ball, who was a commercial artist, first coined the image that was going to become renowned around the world as part of a task to boost employee morale at a local firm through the design of an happy face…and it only took him 10 minutes (your piece of trivia for the day!). It may have only taken 10 minutes to create, but it is an image that has become iconic and will undoubtedly be passed through a plethora of generations; reflecting how simplicity and a smile can be the quickest and most effective solutions to any issue.

However, as a response to the fear that the smiley face was becoming over-commercialised, and so it was not an act being reproduced genuinely between person to person, Mr. Ball made the executive decision to create “World Smile Day”. This beautiful day is dedicated to the simple art of smiling and to ensure that on at least one day in every year, we take the time out of our day to put a smile on someone’s face and to therefore restore happiness across the world.

Being in the hospitality industry, there is almost no symbol more synonymous with our offering than the smiley face because our ultimate goal is to create lasting memories for our guests that leave them walking out of reception with you guessed it, a smile. If our customers leave without a smile, then we have not done our job right. Therefore, we present to you our lovely readers, the 10 things that have us smiling this season at The Spires and hopefully our smiles will in turn put one on your face too so as to spread the cheer.

  1. Customer Satisfaction

Being in the hospitality industry, one of things that makes us smile the brightest is going as far as we can to deliver the ultimate guest experience and to know that we have succeeded in making our guests smile in return. That is why Trip Advisor reviews are such a key reason for our happiness as it is great to hear first-hand how our guest’s stay was and what made their stay (hopefully!) enjoyable. It helps us to determine what to keep on doing and what to improve upon. Having worked in the Front of House, I can personally attest to how there was nothing that brightened my day quite like knowing I had put a smile on one of my customer’s faces whether it had been through the simple act of giving them directions; generating a WiFi pin (something which never fails to raise a smile!) or merely giving them the key to their apartment. There is no feeling quite as potent or as powerful as knowing you have impacted someone’s day in a positive way, and it is amazing how it is the smallest things that can have someone flashing those pearls.

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  1. The Apartment Collection

-This is the latest development at The Spires and has seen us moving up in the world by become a serviced apartment agent as well as a serviced apartment operator. As a result, we are now a one-stop-shop for all our customer’s serviced apartments needs and so whether they want to stay in the UK or even in far-flung locations like Asia or Australia, we can make it happen. Therefore, we are smiling as we have expanded our business and are therefore in a position which enables us to better meet and serve the rapidly evolving needs of our customers. It is great to know that wherever our customers choose to go, we can play a part in creating the ultimate vacation for them. To learn more and understand why we are smiling, check out our dedicated website to “The Apartment Collection – By The Spires” – www.theapartmentcollection.co.uk.

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  1. The Spires in Edinburgh

-If there is anything that has had us smiling this season it has been the much anticipated opening of our newest location: The Spires Edinburgh. With a mix of Studio, One-Bedroom, Two-Bedroom and Two-Bedroom Plus apartments, we can cater to a wide range of accommodation requirements and whichever style of apartment you stay in, you are guaranteed a luxury experience due to the tasteful, refined surroundings of our modern and beautifully designed apartments. Conveniently located only minutes away from the action of some of Edinburgh’s most renowned streets, a certain Princes Street is only a hop and skip away, The Spires Edinburgh offers an oasis of calm from all the hustle and excitement emanating through the historic, stunning streets. In particular, the amazing top floor views of the Firth of the Forth have us smiling due to the stunning blend of city and nature. To learn more, visit our dedicated Edinburgh page: www.thespires.co.uk/edinburgh-serviced-apartments-and-suites.

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  1. New Arrivals

-Whether they are new guests or loyal customers, happiness and big grins always stems from the arrival of guests to The Spires. It is a new chance to make another positive impression and to hopefully make another happy guest.

  1. Social Media Interaction

-Every ‘Follow’, ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’ has us grinning like a Cheshire Cat because it gives us a chance to successfully engage with our guests and to feel like we are building a relationship with them – even when they are not staying with us. That is why we try to cover as many social media channels as possible so that whatever our guests are into, whether it is being a Master Tweeter or a prolific Pinterest pinner or even a passionate blogger, we can reach out and talk to them. It may be misplaced vanity, but every new follower we get makes us feel like we have done a job well done and that we are appreciated (hint: follow us please, it has been “scientifically proven” how increased likes leads to smiling ;))

  1. Snack Table

-It is the foundation of every office across the nation: the snack table. No office is complete without one and no office productive. Whenever we are feeling down, tired or just plain gluttonous, it is our never-ending stashes of biscuits and tea/coffee that we turn to so as to restore our joy and to turn that frown upside down in rapid speed time – particularly when cake glorious cake is involved. As they say, there is nothing that a good cup of tea and a Kit-Kat cannot solve! Click here to read more about everyone’s favourite table: https://thespiressuites.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/the-snack-table-2/

  1. Travelling

-Being under the umbrella of the tourism industry, travelling is something that we all love to engage in. Whether it is going to exotic locations like Dubai or India to liaise with potential suppliers on a business trip or even just taking mini-breaks to one of our respective locations like Birmingham, the chance to make new connections, to see new places and to experience new cultures always has us smiling because the world was made to be seen and explored and these are memories that will last a lifetime.

  1. Fall

-Get the warm mugs of cocoa out and that favourite scarf your grandma knitted because the fall/winter season is here! Between the sugary sweet yet spectacularly spooky mystery of Halloween and the breath-taking allure and magic of Bonfire Night, there is so much to look forward to. Whether it is the colourful array of crisp leaves that line the streets, the new selection of clothes in the shops or the temptation of seasonal products such as Pumpkin Spiced Latter, there is nothing quite like the Autumn atmosphere to put a warm smile on our faces to defend ourselves against the increasing chill.

  1. Friday Afternoon

-Some of us may have the October holidays to look forward to and some of us may not, but there is one holiday around the world that never gets ignored; Friday afternoon. Whether you have an action filled weekend that sees you take an exhilarating and much anticipated mini-break or merely a relaxing weekend which sees you become best friends with your couch and Netflix, we know you are lying if you say that the corners of your mouth do not turn up into a smile as that much-watched clock hand hits 5pm. Let’s be honest, it is not so much just a smile but also a Hallelujah!

  1. Working at The Spires

-*Cheese Alert* and it has arrived in all its cheesy glory! I cannot speak for everyone, but coming into The Spires always makes me smile as I am yet to work with a lovelier, more welcoming array of people. Whenever there is a tough moment, there is always someone there to support you or make you laugh (normally with a biscuit or cup of tea in tow) and it makes for a really positive working environment.

Remember, even the simplest, smallest act of putting a smile on someone else’s face can change that person’s day as well as your own. Sometimes we think we are not capable of making a change in the world but that mere power of making someone forget all the stress and sadness that maybe currently inhabits their life is a mighty skill that we should never forget. They say that money makes the world go round, but maybe so does smiling.

We told you what makes us smile, now tell us what makes you smile!

🙂

Sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/amy-packham/world-smile-day_b_8226728.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Ball

Me, My Selfie & I

Of course no blog on selfies is complete without one or two illustrative examples and so all selfies used in this blog are courtesy of our globetrotting selfie-fanatic National Sales Manager 

Selfies at work and at play!
Selfies at work and at play!

It all started innocently enough. A few of them taken were here and there, then it began to spread and then it became a craze that took over the world. Now it is no longer a “trend” or a “fad”, it is simply a behavioural norm that we are so accustomed to we longer notice. Any guesses as to what I am referring to? The odds are you will shamelessly have taken one (or maybe an abundance) yourself and they will most likely be in your possession right now. They are the latest entry in the pop culture archive and they are commonly referred to by a mere sole word that is always rising in the ranks of power: “selfie”.

Yes, despite starting off as an innocuous niche twitter hash tag even as potentially far back as 2004, “selfies” have since risen to global dominance and are both a standard part of our vocabulary and behaviour. Nothing quite exemplifies the now new-found normality and acceptance of “selfies” quite like the fact that since 2013, “selfie” has cemented itself a position in the online Oxford Dictionary. Therefore, for those who are selfie ignorant,  a “selfie” can be defined as A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media”.

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Although I am not a personal avid fan of selfies (going through my phone’s gallery can play testament to this), I am particularly intrigued to see their impact on the travel industry and how they influence the way in which people travel. Indeed, it is undeniable the correlation between “selfies” and vacations because ultimately, social media has totally revolutionised how travel photos are taken. I am sure most of us still remember the days when the digital camera was the latest sought after technological development when it came to photography, however long gone are those days. Now, it is all the aforementioned selfies and Instagram filters so we can post and boast to the world right there and then the adventures we are engaging in. Nothing quite epitomises the social media revolution quite like the fact that apparently holidays are no longer the personal experience taken just for us, in helping us to explore and escape, but are in fact made for sharing. This trend has led to a whole new brand of travellers, now recognized by the Future Foundation report as “social-capital seekers”, who travel with the over-riding ambition of documenting their adventure and therefore designing it to be Facebook, Twitter, etc. post friendly. Even already the bond between holiday snaps and social media can be reflected in that a survey for Hotels.com revealed that twenty-five per cent of British travellers share a photo within an hour of arriving at their holiday haven, although the average time people wait is almost three hours.

Going on holiday and the taking of photos are synonymous activities because photos are that way of documenting the happy memories and preserving them so you can look back at them and reminisce. However, the development of selfies is beginning to question whether this remains the true primary motive. More often than not, it is likely that on your social media you will spot someone posing with *insert iconic landmark”. From the Empire State Building to the Colosseum to the Eiffel Travel; they have all played the scenic backdrop for someone’s mobile phone selfie portrait. If anything, the development of the selfie stick has exacerbated this trend as it is now even easier to get the perfect angle and pose for that ultimate selfie which will trigger a plethora of likes and retweets. Therefore, narcissism and selfies are beginning to become quite inter-linked with people believing that all these self-portraits taken in cultural and heritage rich locations are more a means of boasting about the locations we have been. It can be debated how truly interested someone is in the attraction itself and the meaning and values it holds. Potentially, we are no longer living in the moment and taking in the time to truly bask in the beauty of attractions because we are all just superficially about taking the “ultimate selfie” to show the world that we were there.

Craig with the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
With the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Linking on to this notion of cultural admiration, and just general health & safety, is that further debate is igniting in the travel industry when it comes to selfies, or at least selfie sticks, with increasing numbers of attractions banning the admittance of selfie sticks. For instance, Disney World has been the latest attraction to post physical signs forbidding the use of selfie sticks and therefore joins the ever growing list of anti-selfie stick locations which also includes the prestigious likes of the Colosseum, the Guggenheim Museum, The National Gallery in London as well as a variety of stadiums.

Craig with the Hollywood Hills
With the Hollywood Hills

Ultimately, selfies will remain a divisive topic. Potentially they are the epitome of the shallowness and narcissism of our generation in terms of how we feel our self-worth and popularity is all linked to the followers we have and the number of retweets. If it cannot be documented to the world on social media to be admired, then what is the point? Alternatively, selfies are just a fun way of us leaving our mark on the world and showing that we were here on this Earth at one point and as a reminder of the magnificent sights and wonders we have witnessed.  As I have been told, anyone can go on Google and get a photo of Big Ben or the Grand Canyon, but you will never be able to find one that was clearly yours if you are not starring in it also. Likewise, they also are just fundamentally practical, particularly for solo travellers, because they prevent you from having to awkwardly walk up to someone red-faced and embarrassed asking them to take your photo for you (and then again, if you invariably do not like it). Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with a good selfie or two but the most critical thing is that if we are taking them with, or in, cultural attractions like museums or historical landmarks, yes it is good to take a moment to document our time there, but also to take a minute to fully understand the true value of the attraction and what it stands for and represents.

P.S. The Spires is not on the anti-Selfie Stick list and so we fully embrace and enjoy seeing selfies or just old-school photos of our guests in our apartments. Post to our Instagram using #TheSpiresApts or simply tweet us @TheSpiresSuites so we can see how you are enjoying your stay 🙂

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24992393

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/10465199/Forget-the-selfie-holidaymakers-go-for-braggie-photos.html

http://skift.com/2015/04/24/selfies-are-changing-the-fundamental-reasons-why-we-travel/

The City Built on More than Just Oil

Source: www.offshorewind.biz
Aberdeen

If I were to ask you for the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Aberdeen, odds are on that “oil” would be your headlining answer. It would not be at all surprising because even as a born and bred Aberdonian, whenever someone asks me to describe my home town, the oil industry tends to be my instant characterisation of the city I call home. It is not possible to separate Aberdeen from the oil industry because the North Sea and its oil supplies are what has put Aberdeen on the national, and indeed the international stages. Nothing epitomises this quite like the fact that Aberdeen is known as the “Oil/Energy Capital of Europe”. Due to the strong inter-relation between Aberdeen and oil, it is undeniable that the predominance of tourism is in relation to business as reflected by the fact that over half of the visits to Aberdeen are linked to business matters.

Consequently, I can fully understand why one may not consider engaging in a leisure trip to Aberdeen. With the strong association of energy corporations and professional services, it is easy to comprehend why someone may think Aberdeen is all work and no play. HOWEVER, there is so much more to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. It may be best known for its oil supplies, but there are so many other achievements and accolades that Aberdeen should be on the map for; none of which have anything to do with business but all to do with fun. From the luscious supply of lush green spaces; an abundance of breathtaking castles and all the fun and frolics to be had at the seaside, it is clear that Aberdeen is equally capable of delivering glowing holiday memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.

The Silver City

Practical, easy to maintain and stunning to look at, the eye-catching glistening of the granite walls of Aberdeen are certain to capture your attention and your camera’s lens. Known as the Granity City and the Silver City, Aberdeen’s greyness can easily be attributed to its architecture that was built in the granite days of the Victorian era. Due to the mica that sparkles beautifully in the sun, it is no wonder that Aberdeen’s resplendent architecture is one that you have to stop to admire.

Marischal College  Source: www.canon-fodder-forums.com
Marischal College
Source: http://www.canon-fodder-forums.com

Do I Spot A Castle?

Aberdeen may have alter-egos in the form of the “Silver City” and the “Oil Capital of Europe”, but it also has a rather unknown secret identity that goes by the code name of “Castle Country”. With a collection of over 300 castles and more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK, there is almost a castle to visit every day of the year meaning more than one trip to Aberdeen is not a choice, but an necessity. Due to the wealth of castles to explore, there is a castle to suit everyone’s tastes. There is the breathtaking dramatics of the haunting cliff-side ruins of Dunnotar Castle or for an idyllic family day, there are also the enchanting gardens that surround the splendour of Crathes Castle. For a more majestic experience, a trip to Balmoral Castle cannot go amiss for it is a favourite with the Royal Family and even is the grand holiday abode of Her Majesty the Queen. Similarly, Craigievar is an almost iconic image for Scotland as due to its ethereal fairy-tale like appearance, adorned with turrets; it is also supposedly responsible for inspiring Walt Disney. An exploration of castles could be your sole reason to visit Aberdeen if you embark on Scotland’s only Castle Trail which will take you through 17 of Aberdeen’s most renowned castles. You could visit all the castles and still desire more because ultimately, there is always a fascinating story to be learnt about Scotland’s captivating history.

Dunnottar Castle  Source: : http://www.uk-pictures.com/dunnottar_castle.html
Dunnottar Castle
Source: : http://www.uk-pictures.com/dunnottar_castle.html

The Grass is Always Greener…

To balance out the stunning (if a little gray) architecture; over a quarter of Aberdeen is actually open space. The fact that Aberdeen has won the Britain in Bloom competition for a record-smashing ten times is only testament to its abundance of sweet-smelling, picturesque parks. Whether you are looking for a tranquil walk in nature or a heart-pumping workout, there is a park to accommodate anyone and each will provide a scenic backdrop to all the action. Each park has its own unique attractions providing the perfect location for a family day trip. If you are looking for rose gardens to admire; a play park to keep the little ones out of trouble or a maze to get them lost in, look no further than Hazlehead Park which also comes armed with a petting corner full of furry friends. Duthie Park and Seaton Park also present the perfect setting for a moment to engage with nature and Duthie Park even has its own winter gardens which is resident to the UK’s largest supply of cacti (a little bit of trivia for you all!). However, if you stay at The Spires and are happening to be looking for a park closer to home, the ethereal Johnston Gardens is also a gorgeous spot for a bit of nature loving as due to its hidden waterfalls and ponds, it is no wonder that it is a favourite for wedding photos.

Johnston Gardens  Source: Wikipedia
Johnston Gardens
Source: Wikipedia

Nature Watch: Aberdeen Style

Parks are not the only natural wonders in Aberdeen. Perhaps the biggest draw to Aberdeen this lovely sunny season are our favourite new residents: dolphins! Due to Aberdeen being one of the best places in Europe to watch these magnificent animals at home in the sea, it is no wonder it is fast becoming a prime dolphin watching spot. Often frolicking near the harbour, it is not uncommon to witness the dolphins feeding & playing. It is truly a beautiful sight and reflects how there is more to the North Sea than just oil. RSPB Scotland’s DolphinWatch team will be there till mid-August and with dolphins appearing on 90% of 2014’s DolphinWatch days, you cannot miss an opportunity to see such playful fun.

Dolphins in Aberdeen Harbour  Source: www.rspb.org.uk
Dolphins in Aberdeen Harbour
Source: http://www.rspb.org.uk

Golf Anyone?

Golf is a sport synonymous with Aberdeenshire due to its plethora of courses to play on. Residence to over 50 courses, there are courses only a quarter of a mile away from Aberdeen and even more courses located just an hour’s drive away. Therefore, you are certain to find a course you like. Most famous is the Hazlehead No 1 which is rumoured to be one of the best in the North-East and whose claim to fame is that it was designed by Dr Alistair MacKenzie; the man who was responsible for creating the Augusta National course home of the US Masters. It is no surprise that Hazlehead No 1 is a thorough test for those golfing skills! Similarly, history meets golf with The Royal Aberdeen Golf Club being the sixth oldest course in the world and if it was not enough that the course allows for some superior golf playing, it also allows you to play among stunning panoramic views.  Another golf course that is commonly associated with Aberdeen is the splendour of The Trump International Golf Links which has only helped to consolidate Aberdeen as a golf paradise.

Royal Aberdeen Golf Course Source: www.dailyrecord.co.uk
Royal Aberdeen Golf Course
Source: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk

Those Summer Days Spent by the Seaside…..

We all look fondly back with nostalgia on those good ole days spent on holiday by the sea, splashing about in the sea and munching ravenously on delectable fish & chips. Well, due to Aberdeen’s Fun Beach, you can relive those memories and bring them into the 21st century. Many a day can be spent at the beach between the arcades; mini-golf; tempting restaurants; the amusement park; the leisure pool filled with watery thrills & spills; the ice-rink, the cinema….All this before you even consider the simplicity of just walking along the coast line to bask in the fresh sea air and to feel the warm sand between the toes. It is truly an entertainment hotspot and is certainly one to keep the whole family occupied and the cameras snapping.

Aberdeen Beach Source: VisitScotland
Aberdeen Beach
Source: VisitScotland

Journey to the Past

The beach borders on another prime Aberdonian attraction: Footdee (or fondly known as Fittie by Aberdonians). The words charming, quaint and idyllic certainly come to mind but how could they not considering Footdee is a well-conserved fishing village where you are free to walk around and bask in the tranquility of life by the seaside. It is truly a walk back to the past and is in stark contrast to the modernity of the city centre that is only minutes away. Similarly, due to Aberdeen’s strong maritime links, of course there has to be a museum to document the bond between Aberdeen & the Sea; something which The Maritime Museum spectacularly manages to convey in its award-winning displays.

 

Footdee  Source: TripAdvisor
Footdee
Source: TripAdvisor

History in the Walls

History could not be any more present in the city than in Old Aberdeen where you are able to find a 15th century college and a medieval bridge and cathedral. Aberdeen was once its own independent town between 1489 and 1891, however to this day its historical beauty still remains and you can feel the rich heritage emanating through the walls. Popular sites on the two-hour journey to the past include the King’s College (which is now a part of the University of Aberdeen) as well as St. Machar’s Cathderal and the Brig o’ Balgownie. Traverse the cobbled streets and breathe in the smell of the past, it is truly a unique and beautiful trail to follow which shows how there is more to Aberdeen’s history than just the sea.

St. Machar's Cathedral Source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2636881
St. Machar’s Cathedral
Source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2636881

The Water of Life

It goes without saying that a visit to Aberdeenshire is not complete without a visit to a distillery. Scotland is home to the only whisky trail in the world, in Speyside, where you will be able to find more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries each possessing their own unique recipes and history. From Glenfiddich to Glenlivet to Cardhu, these are the famous whiskies we all know, and can be found on this illustrious trail.

However, you do not have to look as far as Speyside to find a fully-functioning distillery; reminding you how Aberdeen is in a prime location to engage in all aspects of Scottish culture. There are eight distilleries only an hour from Aberdeen which may be smaller in scale, but still have their own exciting story to tell and unique whisky recipe to taste. Fettercairn, Knockdhu and Glen Garioch are some of the names featured and of the eight overall distilleries; at least half of them do have visitor centres making for a perfect day-trip from Aberdeen.

City Life

Aberdeen may have 8,000 years of stories to tell, but that does not stop it from being a bustling modern 21st century city. There is always a whole host of the biggest names gracing the stages of the AECC, the Music Hall, the Lemon Tree and His Majesty’s Theatre. However, if it is Hollywood calling you, then there are three major cinemas to keep you up-to-date as well as the artsy Belmont Cinema which shows a more international & indie selection of films. With all the latest brands in the shopping and food plaza hotspots of Union Square, Bon Accord Centre, Trinity Centre, St. Nicholas Centre and The Academy, your wallet will not be short of exercise and that is before you even consider the retail parks. However, if it is the mind you want to exercise, then the likes of the Tolbooth Museum & the Aberdeen Art Gallery should be enough to engage the brain. Other cultural activities include the plentiful supply of festivals that take place, including the Aberdeen Festival Collective which features prime events such as the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, Techfest & Aberdeen International Youth Festival among other.

His Majesty's Theatre Source: www.rosemountaberdeen.co.uk
His Majesty’s Theatre
Source: http://www.rosemountaberdeen.co.uk

If you have managed to reach the end of this rather extensive city guide to Aberdeen, then I hope that you are in no doubt that it is a lie to say Aberdeen is for business tourists only. Aberdeen opens its arms to everyone, as does The Spires, and so whether you do come for business or leisure, we look forward to giving you a warm Aberdonian welcome.

Sources:

http://www.visitscotland.com/

http://www.visitaberdeen.com/

http://aberdeen.stv.tv/articles/317594-dolphinwatch-was-launched-at-aberdeens-torry-battery-on-friday-april-17/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/the-granite-city-thats-made-of-stronger-stuff-10264270.html

The Water of Life

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The amusing thing about life is that with each and every day, there is something being celebrated. For example, there is a designated national awareness food day for almost every food item imaginable (particularly in the USA). Recent illustrations of this is that on May 17th, we will be celebrating National Walnut Day (not one for those with peanut allergies!) and a few days ago unbeknown to me, on May 11th, the world was celebrating the ultimate foodie’s dream day: National Eat What you Want Day. Why am I lamenting on thoughts of days and food? Well, apart from it being the Year of Food & Drink as part of VisitScotland’s latest annual campaign, it is also Whisky Month and tomorrow (May 16th) is actually World Whisky Day. Not just National Whisky Day, but World Whisky Day meaning that a plethora of crystal tumblers around the world will be raised in salute to Scotland’s national drink. Therefore, being located in Scotland it would be almost criminal for us not to mark this special occasion, particularly with our headquarters being in Aberdeen, which is only an hour away from many a small and unique distillery. Therefore, in a land known for its tartan and haggis, we are taking a moment to focus on and appreciate the national drink of Scotland.

First things first, it is undeniable that we have to take a look back to when Scotland’s favourite export rose to prominence. With a history that dates back to the 15th century, the first known event involving whisky was all the way back in 1494 when Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey in Fife gained the king’s permission to create acqua vitae. Unfamiliar with acque vitae? Well, once translated from Latin, it means “water of life” and this is where whisky’s name stems from; the Gaelic translation. It may sound ironic; however water from Scotland’s burns and streams is indeed a critical component of the whisky making process.

Back in the day, whisky was often associated with rebellion with much being done by Scottish distilleries to avoid the menacing English taxman. The epitome of this was that in the 18th century, there were only eight legal distilleries versus four hundred ILLEGAL ones. However, nowadays, whisky is held in much higher esteem because when we say whisky is one of Scotland’s biggest exports, it is not in jest because whisky actually accounts for more than 85 per cent of Scottish food and drinks exports and is worth a massive £4.3 billion.

It goes without saying that a visit to Aberdeenshire (and Scotland for that matter), is not complete without a visit to a distillery. Both highly educational and enlightening, the experience will differ per distillery from whether you get to witness the blending process or whether you can engage in a cheeky tasting, but it is always a certainty that you will be able to pick up your own bottle of the “water of life” to ensure that you have an authentic piece of Scotland with you. Scotland is home to the only whisky trail in the world, in Speyside, where you will be able to find more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries each possessing their own unique recipes and history. From Glenfiddich to Glenlivet to Cardhu, these are the famous whiskies we all know, and can be found on this illustrious trail.

However, you do not have to look as far as Speyside to find a fully-functioning distillery. If you are staying with us in Aberdeen and are in search of something to do, even with the family, there are eight distilleries only an hour from Aberdeen which may be smaller in scale, but still have their own exciting story to tell and unique whisky recipe to taste. Fettercairn, Knockdhu and Glen Garioch are some of the names featured and of the eight overall distilleries; at least half of them do have visitor centres making for a perfect day-trip from Aberdeen.

glen-garioch-distillery-tour

Similarly, a whisky day-trip is also a possibility with a stay at The Spires in Glasgow due to its close proximity to two distilleries: Auchentoshan Distillery and Glengoyne Distillery. A visit to either or both is a good idea because Auchentoshan is only 20 minutes from Glasgow’s city centre and offers whisky masterclasses and at Glengoyne, you can even craft your own personal blended whisky! Even if you are just looking for a place to relax after a long day of business meetings or exploring the city, Glasgow is renowned for its plentiful supply of whisky bars such as the Bon Accord Ale House which offers a fairly large selection due to it being home to over 300 whiskies. Consequently, it is of no surprise that it is held in very high esteem in the nation.

glengoyne5

If you are thinking of staying with us in Birmingham, you will not miss out on any of the fun there either because Birmingham is certainly not immune from the whisky scene either with it having now hosted an annual Whisky Festival for the past three years. This is no small festival we are talking about either, as while the first festival was attended by an acceptable 200 fanatics, this figure doubled in 2014 to 400 and in 2015, 600 tickets were released as the figure was expected to jump yet again. As a result, it is no surprise that after London, Birmingham’s Whisky Festival is the largest in England. It is clear there is a passion for whisky amongst Birmingham’s residents due to the launching of whisky collections by venues like The Plough, as well as the opening of Hard to Find Whisky; a whisky store that specialises in the selling of rare bottles of whisky. Emphasis is on the word “rare” as some bottles can even be sold for significant sums of money; does anyone have £35,000 to spare?

With it being National Whisky Month, there is a whole host of events going on across Scotland and in particular, there is a wide range of whisky madness occurring all around the globe tomorrow due to it being World Whisky Day. Over 11, 000 people are expected to attend nearly 150 events registered around the globe and if you happen to be staying with us in any of our locations, it is clear that you will be not far from any of the festivities.

Always remember to drink responsibly and with caution 

Sources: http://visitbirmingham.com/what-to-do/birmingyum/events/whisky-birmingham-2015/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinkadvice/11099642/What-does-whisky-mean-to-Scotland.html

http://www.visitaberdeen.com/attractions-and-activities/whisky-distilleries-in-aberdeenshire

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/whisky-distilleries-breweries

http://www.visitscotland.com/about/food-drink/whisky/

Images: VisitScotland, http://www.trossachs.co.uk, Telegraph

Back to Serviced Apartment Basics

glasgow tweaked
The Spires Glasgow

The most exciting news at The Spires in the past few weeks is that we have just launched our brand new serviced apartment finding service: “The Apartment Collection- By The Spires”.  As you may know, The Spires initially operated over one hundred serviced apartments across four major UK destinations. However, with this latest development, we are no longer constricted to these geographical boundaries and are now able to source serviced apartments all across the UK & globally; meaning we are now in a position where we are better able to satisfy our customer’s diverse requirements.

Now for a little bit of honesty. When I first interviewed at The Spires, it would be fair to say I was a little ignorant in regards to the serviced apartment world. I could probably give you a satisfactory definition of what a serviced apartment was, but it was not an accommodation form that had really made it into my consideration set when it came to decision-making. Conversely, having now worked at The Spires for approximately 3.5 months I think I can safely say that I am somewhat more enlightened, and while by no means I am a fountain of knowledge or a serviced apartment guru, I am certainly a converted key advocate for them. Therefore, you too may be sitting reading this thinking “why would I want someone to source me a serviced apartment anywhere I want?” or even, “why would I choose to stay in a serviced apartment”. Consequently, I think it is time for you to sit down with a nice hot beverage and prepare for a lesson in serviced apartments as we go back to basics and discover all there is to know about this dynamic industry.

The Definition

There has been much furore and confusion when it comes to deciding on a set definition for a “serviced apartment”, due to the variety in supplier offerings, and this could be at detriment to the industry because it means that customers are in a state of confusion when it comes to their expectations of the experience they will be provided with.  Similarly, many terms are thrown about when it comes to serviced apartments including “suites”, “apart-hotels” and “extended stays” so it is no wonder that it is difficult to create a standardised global image. However, when in doubt, it is best to turn to the official industry body for serviced apartments: The Association of Serviced Apartments (The ASAP). As their Managing Director states,  The ASAP is now marketing “the Serviced Apartment as an umbrella term for a type of furnished apartment available for short–term or long–term stays, which provides amenities, housekeeping and a range of services for guests where taxes and utilities are included in the rental price.” In effect, what makes The Spires unique is that we offer the flexibility and service of a hotel (such as housekeeping and breakfasts on request) with the space, freedom and comfort of an apartment-it is the best of both worlds.

When looking for serviced apartments, there is always a wealth of possibilities to choose from; particularly with individuals being able to lease out their apartments. Therefore, to help you with your decision-making, make sure to look out for those apartments which have passed The ASAP’s Quality Programme because it means it has been subject to a rigorous inspection process and therefore has been deemed as exceeding customer expectations.

The Industry

For all you ever want to know about the serviced apartment world, you need look no further than The Apartment Service’s “The Global Serviced Apartments Industry Report”. This year alone, the report was compiled using findings which had been unearthed from over thirty interviews and over 2, 500 surveys that had been conducted with stakeholders in all relation to the industry from operators to agents to buyers.  Therefore, it is safe to say this report knows what it is talking about.

The most critical finding that was documented, is that the serviced apartment industry is one that is rapidly growing. At present, there are nearly 750,000 serviced apartments operating in over 9, 000 locations and since 2008, there has been an 80% increase in the amount of serviced apartment inventory across the world. The rapidness of the serviced apartment boom can only be emphasized when it is considered how in the past twelve years, the numbers of serviced apartments have doubled and they are predicted to double again in the next four. Yes, as you may infer, as an industry we are aiming for world domination!

Of course, I am sure we have all endured an economics lesson in life and therefore are aware of the connection between supply and demand. Therefore, there would not be this surge in supply if it were not for the fact that there is a market for it. Over 80% of those surveyed stated they preferred serviced apartments over hotels, with factors such as the freedom to make your own meals, as well as the privacy, swaying their preference.

The Misconceptions

Going based off of my own misconceptions, I think one of my greatest ones in regards to serviced apartments was that they were designed for corporate long-term bookings. However, while I cannot speak for the whole industry, I would say that a majority cater for leisure and corporate bookings alike. Similarly, while minimal stays do tend to be in place, this can be from as little as two or three nights and a great percentage of apartments, such as our own, can actually be booked from as little as a one-night stay. This is because booking an apartment is on par with booking a hotel room in that all you have to do is pay for the apartment per night (not the number of people). With the majority of providers, there are no leases or utility bills to be paid separately as you are not taking any ownership of the apartment, like you take no ownership of the hotel room.

The Benefits

As was stated before, 80% of respondents favoured serviced apartments over hotels and in approximately 75% of businesses, employers are increasing their usage of serviced apartments when it comes to business projects and assignments. Hotels and serviced apartments will always be in a heated rivalry because of the similarities of their product offerings, however, would it be biased of me to say that serviced apartments edge it? You get all the benefits of a hotel stay from the attentive housekeeping and the hearty breakfast on request, but you also get that extra space and flexibility; and normally at a lower cost to boot.

 I will not lie; I love the thrill of staying in a luxurious hotel with the thriving lobby environment and shedding the adult responsibilities of making the bed and cooking dinner. However, having stayed in one for a prolonged period of time, I can also say how the novelty does wear off. Being restricted to a sole room can make you go stir-crazy as your legs long to be able to move between more than just the bathroom and the bed.  Similarly, your stomach and your wallet ache from having to eat out all the time. It is true; you do not long for something till you lose it and when you stay at a hotel, you long for those home comforts. Thankfully, that is where serviced apartments come in. You have the familial welcoming decor of your home as well as fully furnished modern kitchens and lounges that mean you can spread yourself out like you do at home and have control over the food you want to make.

Similarly, like hotels, a majority of apartments like ours will have a dedicated reception desk meaning you will always be greeted by a warm, friendly face and have someone there to ensure you have the best experience possible.

Aberdeen39Glasgow008

Birmingham122

Ultimately, I am confident in saying that the world is waking up to the benefits of the serviced apartments and due to there being over 700,000 located all across the world, with “The Apartment Collection-By The Spires” we can certainly find you an apartment for wherever you want to stay.

Sources: http://www.relocatemagazine.com/articles/reeditor-02-2015-tas-report-reveals-exponential-growth-and-investor-interest-in-serviced-apartments

http://www.relocatemagazine.com/news/re12-d1-2014-5591-asap-unveils-new-quality-accredited-logo-and-serviced-apartment-definition