Mark Gulessarian

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Daily Post (Liverpool)
September 21, 2005, Wednesday



MARK Gulessarian knew all about the attractions of Anglesey from the days when he holidayed there with his family.

He went on to work in hotel management in towns across the UK and Europe. But when he saw an advert for a job running the Treaddur Bay Hotel on the the island it immediately caught his eye.

"I saw this post in Anglesey advertised in a trade magazine and I knew the area because as children we came to Rhosneigr on holiday for about 15 years," he says.

"And I knew Trearddur Bay, although I didn't know the hotel. So I came down and looked at the hotel and liked it."

Gulessarian says he was attracted to the job, not just because of the beautiful location and quality of life, but also because the hotel was run by a privately-owned company and its two directors "came across as genuine, and with a keen desire for the operation to succeed at a higher level than it was".

He moved to the Trearddur Bay Hotel as general manager in 1995 and over the course of the past decade has doubled the hotel's turnover to £1.8m.

The business is part of Longford Hotels Ltd, owned by Manchesterbased brothers Christopher and Richard Lees-Jones who have family links with the Anglesey and Caernarfon areas. Richard is chairman of the J W Lees brewing group and Christopher vice-chairman. Christopher is chairman of Longford Hotels, whose registered office is at Trearddur Bay, and Richard is a director of the group.

The 42-bedroom Trearddur Bay Hotel, two miles from Holyhead, trades strongly in the leisure market from Easter to September and is developing its business markets thanks to a new £1.1m conference and banqueting centre, called the Canalfan Penrhos Centre, opened earlier this year.

It is that development, supported with an EU Objective 1 grant of £287,000 to retain and create jobs in the area, which is enabling the hotel to look both east and west for new business.

"When I put together the business plan for the new banqueting and conference centre we looked at the opportunities in Ireland," explains Gulessarian.

"Dublin has become very expensive for the day delegate. So we will be looking to put together a package with Stena that will bring delegates over here, give them a conference and overnight accommodation at the hotel and get them back home at a rate cheaper than the £120 day delegate rate in Dublin.

"We are also looking for business opportunities within the UK. We have a natural corridor along the A55 to Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and Manchester and have identified conference organisers and bluechip companies who use conference facilities."

While new business opportunities further afield are being targeted, the Anglesey-based business community continues to be an important part of the hotel's client base.

"Our local business clients are the RAF, Stena, Anglesey Aluminium, BNFL and Holyhead Boatyard."

All those businesses, in their own ways, have helped with the economic regeneration of Anglesey over the past few decades. Stena has, for instance, developed Holyhead port into a major European transport hub, while Anglesey Aluminium has provided well-paid jobs for almost 600 people through longterm power supply contracts with Wylfa nuclear power station. But with the atomic plant earmarked for closure in 2010, the smelter must devise an alternative energy strategy or face possible closure.

Gulessarian said: "The Objective 1 programme has made a difference to the island's economy, not so much in GDP which has not risen, although that is a problem afflicting Wales as a whole, not just Anglesey.

"But I sense there is a buzz about Anglesey these days and a lot more positive voices around.

"Ty Mawr Industrial Estate at Holyhead is on the point of going ahead, and we have seen a lot of out-of-town retail development at Penrhos," he said. Tourism continues to be one of the island's key wealth generators. Gulessarian, trade director with the Tourism Partnership North Wales and Anglesey Tourism Association chairman, says: "I think tourism is probably the single biggest industry on the island. Stena has been successful in attracting large cruise ships to Holyhead this year, and that did give us some day visitors to the hotel.

"There is also a plan to establish an airlink from RAF Valley to Swansea and Cardiff by September 2006.

"There will be four return flights a day, opening opportunities for both the business and tourism markets.

"But we must look at the wider picture. Valley to Stansted and Valley to Dublin are the other opportunities.

"There are operating issues that need to be resolved with the RAF because Valley is an exceptionally busy base and they have concerns about the numbers of movements they can handle."

The hotel is now in a position to be able to cater in a much more comprehensive way. It can cater for a business breakfast, training event or dinner for anything between 10 and 160 delegates.

Outside the traditional holiday period, more than 80% of the guests staying at the hotel are business visitors, while on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays that swings back to the leisure market with short breaks.

Gulessarian says the all-year round room occupancy rate is 72%, significantly higher than the Wales average.

"We now have 58 employees, of which 42 are full-time," he says. "Since we opened the new conference centre, we have already created five full-time jobs, and that figure is set to rise to 11 by the time we have rolled out the facilities and developed them to their full potential.

"The centre was two and a half years in the planning and development, but I can see it generating income in the region of £250,000 a year."

Of Armenian extraction - his grandfather settled in Manchester to work in the clothing trade - Gulessarian graduated from the Blackpool Hotel School in 1980 with an HND in hotel management and catering administration, before following what he describes as a traditional trainee management scheme in the Southport, Manchester and Liverpool areas.

A move to Switzerland enabled him to broaden his experience before he returned to the UK as general manager with a hotel just outside Swindon.

A spell with Trust House Forte gained him corporate experience before he moved to Pontefract to become operations director in charge of four hotels and four public hotels. From there, Anglesey beckoned.

He says: "Career opportunities are better now than when I joined the industry. Then, it was long and unsocial hours and not particularly well paid. Today there is a strong career structure available to our employees question.


Age 49 this week Hometown Northwich Now resident Trearddur Bay Marital status Married, with three daughters Interests Golf, motor racing Unfulfilled ambition To own and operate his own hospitality business Personal business philosophy: Exceed guest expectations and deliver quality

GRAPHIC: Mark Gulessarian is attracting trade from Ireland with Treaddur Bay's new banqueting facilities Picture: GERALLT RADCLIFFE

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