An iconic Welsh hotel has defended its decision to introduce a £200 membership fee after becoming overwhelmed by social media users looking to take sunset photographs from its clifftop bar.
The Druidstone Hotel, perched on a remote Pembrokeshire clifftop, is a favourite for visiting holidaymakers in search of sundown drinks and selfies on the terrace.
With its west-facing terrace and 20 acres of grounds, the venue attracts beachgoers from the sands below to watch the sunset over the rolling waves of St Brides Bay.
But for non-residents and outsiders, the Druidestone’s majestic views and cellar bar real ales now come with an extra price tag, with the membership of the ‘Dru Crew’ starting at £200 and increasing to an eye-watering £400 a year.
According to the hotel’s website, the controversial move has been designed to strike the right balance between loyal locals versus the passing trade, temporary campsite and holiday cottage guests.
And while critics have branded the ploy backward and elitest, owner Angus Bell hit back, stating that when people are whinging about it on Facebook and TripAdvisor, let’s be honest, they’re exactly the sort of people he didn’t want to come.
One Tripadvisor reviewer that has been a patron for meals and drinks for over 40 years, lamented that the current hospitality model was one that some in Pembrokeshire would recognise.
Another called the move as completely elitist and backward and that it was frustrating to have such a beautiful place turned into an elitist members-only club where you can only drink if you were staying there or spending £200 plus a year.
And a third complained that sadly now it was a £200 a year members meetinghouse thus preventing people from calling in ad hoc for drinks and food.
However, Angus Bell remains defiant, and he said that his one enjoyment in life was now time, and said that he’s got time for his staff, time for his guests and that he’s not stressed. He said that was his home, and he couldn’t ever imagine living anywhere else.
He said that he’s made his life better, even though some might be a bit upset that they can’t just pop over for a cup of tea.
The Druidstone is frequently praised in guidebooks and by travel writers as one of the most treasured hotels in Wales.
It appears to have been done solely out of greed, and he probably accepts that barely anyone will pay the membership, but he seems more than happy with that and doesn’t want every man and his dog in his hotel, and he doesn’t want his home to become a pub. It is his hotel and he makes the rules, and I guess if people don’t like it, they don’t have to stay at the hotel.
He also needs to keep all his locals and guests coming there after all the tourists have gone home, although I can’t say that I would spend £200 a year to be allowed in. Still, hospitality has had a rough time, so perhaps he should be given some slack.
It’s the 80/20 rule. Eighty per cent of your business is sustained by 20 per cent of your regulars, and if you lose the regulars, then you won’t be in business when the tourists go home.
It’s either going to backfire and lose all customers or it’s going to make more money and be a big success, but why would you cut off the hand that feeds you?
If he just wants residents only, then perhaps he should issue a membership card to the locals who request one, but then if he’s unhappy with visiting holidaymakers, maybe he’s in the wrong business.