Manager Nicola's 'Hamptonality' Tale
It’s taken eight years, but Hampton by Hilton Canterbury, the city’s biggest hotel, is finally open! It’s a fascinating blend of the original Victorian and Georgian architecture and the new building alongside it. It reflects both the richness of Canterbury’s history and its role as an iconic travel destination, perfect for those in search of beauty, inspiration and hospitality.
As the Sales Manager, Nicola Smith showed us around, it became clear that the new city-centre hotel has fascinating stories to tell – and will be the beginning of many more of #OurCanterburyTales.
A brand-new hotel in the heart of such a historic city is big news, Nicola – how have your first few months been?
We decided on a soft launch, to go carefully and open a small number of rooms first, so we could sort out any problems and get our 18 new team members working well together. We have 129 bedrooms, and there’s also a small gym/fitness centre, a state-of-the-art meeting room and a bar/café area near the reception lobby.
It’s always exciting to launch a new Hampton by Hilton, and so far our guests seem very happy! We also want Canterbury residents to come and use our spaces, so it’s a place where everyone feels welcome.
The hotel’s entrance is Victorian, but has some surprises – can you tell us more?
As in many old buildings, some previous features have survived, such as the fireplace, which probably dates from the 1600s. I already know how I’m going to decorate it for Christmas!
And we have something much older – a huge chunk of a wall from the Roman theatre that was built right here in around AD 210-220. It was discovered when the Canterbury Archaeological Trust excavated the site a couple of years ago.
We’ve displayed it in a very dramatic way; to see it, just come into the reception area, keep your eyes on the floor – and prepare to be amazed!
From the outside, you’d never guess there were 129 guest rooms – where have you hidden them all?
It’s the work of some very clever architects, and the rooms are surprisingly spacious for a city-centre location. It’s partly because the designers have made the most of every inch of space; for example, when needed, the wardrobe door cleverly slides across to close off the bathroom.
The duck-egg blue and pale grey colour schemes were chosen to be calming and relaxing. All the windows are double-glazed and soundproofed, and the curtains provide total blackout – I know it’s true because I’ve slept here!
A special feature is that each room has its own separate air-conditioning system, so you are only breathing your own filtered air, not anyone else’s. It was specified before COVID-19 arrived, but obviously makes our accommodation extra safe, as well as future-proof.
There’s an iron and ironing board tucked into the wardrobe, as well as a hairdryer – we’ve tried to think of everything to make your stay as easy and hassle-free as possible.
Oh, and when we’ve cleaned the room, we followed by electrostatic disinfection – a seal is then put on the door, which is only broken by the next guests to use the room.
Is the hotel accessible to people with disabilities?
Yes, we’ve made sure that doorways and lifts are wide enough for wheelchair access, and we have four rooms with roll-in showers. One is also a connecting room, which means two interconnecting bedrooms with their own bathrooms, ideal for a disabled person and a carer.
And there are audible, visual and strobe alerts in appropriate areas and an Induction Loop System at reception.
What do you love most about the hotel?
Well, the views across Canterbury are incredible. Just coming out of a lift or checking a guest room, you suddenly see all the beautiful colours and angles of ancient roofs and chimneys; I never get tired of them.
And we’re excited that a rooftop café-restaurant will be opening later this year – it’s not managed by us, but the entrance will be through our Georgian building. In fact, if we just go up these stairs and look across from the outside… You can see all of the Cathedral – what a heart-stopping view!
It’s going to be an incredible draw for visitors and residents, but we also have our own café and bar in the ground floor atrium. It’s chic but very welcoming – the glass roof lets the light flood in and there are lots of different seating spaces. So you can come in to work on your laptop, or meet friends for breakfast (which is free for our guests) or a coffee.
And if you fancy something stronger, we have beer, gin and rum made just down the street at Canterbury’s own brewery and distillery, The Foundry. As you can see, we’re already meeting and working with our neighbours!
We also want our guests to love being here as much as we do. So when they arrive, we find out why they’ve come to Canterbury and then recommend events and places we think they’ll enjoy. Most of our team members are from the local area so they really know what’s going on and love sharing their ‘insider’ knowledge.
Everyone in the team is trained for every hospitality role, so the service our guests' experience is as seamless as possible. Our reviews show that people really appreciate the way we do things – we call it ‘Hamptonality’ [laughs] and we want local residents to experience it as well, so everyone is welcome!
What are the best things about being in Canterbury?
Being right in the heart of the city is wonderful; just having so many world-famous sights and attractions within walking distance is a joy. Canterbury has a fantastic community and a wide range of hotels, B&Bs and other places to stay – there’s something to suit everyone. So we’re delighted to be part of that at last.
As we’re so close to the sea and the countryside, this is the ideal base for a holiday or weekend away. And for anyone spending time in Kent, staying with us is the perfect way to turn a fun day out into a longer break – especially if you’re a member with Hilton Honors points. As the county’s fourth new Hilton hotel, we’re definitely here to stay…