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Country House Hotel seeks younger audience using virtual reality

Scarborough’s Wrea Head Hall has launched a new virtual tour in order to appeal more to savvy travellers.



The top rated country house hotel has undergone a major refurbishment and is now ready to face the world.

Former GP Mark Giles and Hollywood marketer Gerry Aburrow bought the Victorian country house hotel six years ago from the administrators of English Rose Hotels which owned four local hotels including the Holbeck Hall Hotel which slid into the sea in 1993.

The new owners were seeking an improved work-life balance. Scarborough attracted them because it has the second highest footfall of tourists outside London and they saw that the hotel, although dated, had “good bones”, an excellent location set within 11 acres of woodland and grounds, very good staff, kitchens and levels of customer care, sea views with pheasants and deer to enjoy, and yes a wine bucket in the roof to catch the drips.



Over the years, the new owners have rewired the whole hotel, replumbed the twenty one bathrooms with Burlington of London fittings and carrara marble, installed Wilton carpets and Duresta furniture and ensured that the 1881 mansion retains its wood panelled charm while providing lots of hot water at a good pressure.



“Being a GP is about solving people’s problems and keeping them happy in the longterm, and the hotel business isn’t so different” said Mark “as a GP for 30 years I took care of adults I first saw as children, who in the fullness of time brought their own children to see me.”

Gerry’s work took him around the world but he tired of the usual rack-rate-minus-discount hotel pricing system. Wrea Head has embraced a little bit of Yorkshire straightforwardness and sets a single price for dinner, bed and breakfast. They send out marketing postcards four times a year to announce the prices, and that’s that. Gerry explains “we are not a boutique hotel and we don’t do weddings. We are very good at dinner, bed and breakfast.” The strategy has been very successful.

Leaping ahead with a virtual tour

“The hotel business we bought relied on vouchers and cheap deals. We stopped all that and simplified“ said Gerry. “Our customers have mostly been readers of magazines such as Yorkshire Life but of course increasingly people are using social media and while we are certainly embracing that, we wanted to leap ahead with a virtual tour that will allow people to look around the hotel before they book.” The virtual tour can be found on the Wrea Head Website.



“We have been deliberately underplaying what is  here so that people are pleasantly surprised when they arrive, but we are rated now very highly as a romantic hotel in North Yorkshire so it’s time to show people what we’ve got and what better way than with a virtual tour?”




“What’s great about the Digital Zest service apart from the quality of the images is that the tour is ‘stitched together’ so you can move through the hotel from room to room as if you are there. Also the search engines love moving images. In use, we find it very receptive, satisfying and easy to use.”

Viewing the virtual tour is easy using a desktop computer, tablet, smartphone or virtual reality headset. An app and mount, for instance Google’s affordable Daydream View, allow the VR tour to be experienced by anyone with a suitable smartphone.

Try before you buy

“Rather than trawling through descriptions, virtual reality allows potential guests to see for themselves before making a booking. It brings ‘try before you buy’ to the hotel industry” said Paul Taylor, Founder of Digital Zest.

As former head of marketing for the high street video rental company Blockbuster and then VP of the international supply chain for Warner Bros, Gerry is used to the rise and fall of digital media, “a business like us would normally be a follower, but with the virtual tour we wanted to leap ahead and lead”.

Did they get the work life balance they wanted?


“It’s been a huge gear change” says Mark, “Gerry did it cold turkey, straight out of corporate America, I’ve done it more gradually but yes, now we work but choose when. Wrea Head Hall is a very strong business. We were advised not to try to start small and work our way up, not to do something we would outgrow, but to find something we would grow into. That was the best advice we received.”



For more on Wrea Head Hall (including bookings) visit

To enquire about a virtual tour for your business, get in touch











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