Aviator by TAG
Created by TAG Group as a hotel for elite travellers moving between London and the world’s leading destinations, Aviator opened in 2008 and has become the first port of call for discerning guests the world-over. EatSleepDrink speaks to Elise Roberts, Director of Sales and Marketing, to find out more about this seductively stylish hotel.
Located near London in Farnborough, Hampshire, Aviator reflects the timeless glamour of aviation with sumptuous interiors and offers the ultimate in comfort for its legions of loyal guests. Literally opposite the hotel is the TAG-owned private airport, so it is unsurprising to learn that Aviator enjoys much of its business from the airport’s busy travellers. Indeed, the hotel itself feels very much like a first-class lounge; everything has been thought in terms of facilities and comfort, which, in a world of first impressions, is fundamental to the property’s appeal.
The idea of Aviator was developed over many years and the first step can be traced to TAG’s purchase of Farnborough Private Airport in 2003, as Elise begins by explaining. “At the time, there wasn’t suitable accommodation in the area that catered to private aviation clientele, which was the main stimulus behind the construction of Aviator on the Airport’s perimeter,” she affirms.
“Our property was actually built on the site of the old RAF Officer’s Mess on land which TAG also owned. Construction began in 2007 and in the summer of 2008 Aviator opened its doors to the public”.
Given the exceptional facilities and proximity to Farnborough Airport, it comes as no surprise to hear that the initial reception to Aviator was superb – a sentiment Elise confirms. “We have a very diverse market appeal, because it is essential that while the hotel was built for elite travellers, it must also cater to the region of North Hampshire and Surrey, and leading international brands holding events in the South East. This local appeal was very important to us and we did various activities to engage with the local community, such as hosting ‘hard-hat’ tours before the hotel was officially opened.
“I have been at Aviator since the very beginning and am the longest serving employee,” Elise asserts. “Working to establish Aviator has been fantastic; the senior management team and I have all fallen in love with the hotel and the experience and I think we’re all stuck here by choice, which is very rare in the hotel industry”.
Luxury and Diversity
“Whether guests have just arrived from Farnborough Airport, a regular corporate guest or if they are here for a weekend break from London, we work really hard to tailor an individual experience and create a bespoke and personal atmosphere,” she affirms. “Whilst this does happen at other boutique luxury hotels, they tend to be a lot smaller than Aviator, so there is much less diversity at one time. Our guests, hail from all over the world, and stay with us for many different reasons, so we have a very rich demographic”.
Once checked-in, all of the bedrooms at Aviator are contemporary, rich and comfortable with walnut panelling, leather-accented furniture and bathrooms with black glass walls, granite vanity tops and chrome finishing. For the ultimate in luxury, the Sky Suites on the building’s fourth floor truly reflect the indulgent personality of the property. Offering walk-in wardrobes, over-sized bath tubs, Missoni blankets and space to lounge, the windows are surrounded by dark wood Venetian blinds that typify the deluxe experience of the Suites (the Airside rooms are particularly stunning).
Standing at the top of the Guggenheim-inspired spirals, the lobby and atrium of the hotel further add to the sense of a first-class experience. Even the event spaces – so often a tired feature of many hotels – are well considered. The private entrance to the events wing and dedicated relaxing lounge areas provide direct access to Aviator’s versatile meeting rooms.
Furthermore, the Sky Lounge, used exclusively for tailored events and celebrations, offers breathtaking views of the airport, combining with the atrium to create a venue that leaves a remarkable and lasting impression.
“I am lucky to work for a group that places a great deal of trust in us with the strategic direction and branding of Aviator,” Elise explains. “Almost a year ago, in June 2011, we re-launched the brand image with a new website following months of development work with BKKR. The overarching communication strategy from that point forward centres on amplifying Aviator’s true brand spirit as ‘innately stylish’ and TAG Group’s first hotel, Aviator by TAG, whereas before we were simply portrayed as Aviator.
“This was not a decision I took lightly, but the strength of the TAG brand, and thus for many of our potential guests, gives our property that added stamp of quality, so it seemed like the natural progression of the brand.
“Aviator has been built organically and the flexibility we are afforded by the board means that we can change and adapt quickly, without the need for protracted bureaucracy,” Elise tells us. “In terms of the Olympics, we are in a very fortunate position in comparison to other hotels on the outskirts of the M25, largely because of our location besides the airport. Farnborough Airport will be the hub for many private guests, VIP delegations and corporate sponsors from around the world, so there is a massive amount of potential for us there.
“We work closely with the customer services team at the airport and we cater to both the crew and passengers on the jets, so we are expecting to be extremely busy during July and August. This kind of business is unique to Aviator; because we are adjacent to the airport, we are definitely expecting very high occupancy rates throughout the summer months,” she confirms. “And although luxury differs for each individual, perhaps one of the biggest luxuries for high net worth individuals and people with a public profile is anonymity, which is where Aviator really comes into its own”.
Intimate Classic Dining
Unsurprisingly for a hotel of the Aviator’s calibre, food and drink is also a premium affair. Head Chef Luke Wheaton has created a delightful five course tasting menu that is served in the Brasserie’s private dining rooms. During our recent visit, we particularly impressed with the Seared Hand Dived Scallops and Devon Crab with White Radish, Sweetcorn and Ginger Dressing. Similarly engrossing was the Pan Fried Black Sea Bass with Shaved Fennel Salad and Razor Clam Sauce Vierge, whilst the Loin of Venison with Braised Red Cabbage was exquisite.
Incredibly for a menu of this quality and substance – not to mention the subtle-yet-comprehensive service – the price is remarkably affordable. At £95 per person, including wine pairings with each course, the menu offers excellent value for money, as emphasised by the busy restaurant on a Tuesday evening.
The Brasserie also prides itself on working with small local suppliers and the menu is a superb showcase of the strength of regional ingredients cooked with style and without pretension.
As Elise briefly touched upon earlier, one of the major selling points of Aviator is its demure appearance and anonymity, which belies the luxury within. “For the high net worth individuals, of which there is quite a close circle of friends, word spread quickly about Aviator. There is no major fanfare on the entrance to the hotel or on arrival. Check-in is discretely handled and guests can retreat to their Suites or visit the gym through their own private staircase.
“The rooms come complete with Bose sound systems and a vast digital library of classic albums and films, including some of the latest blockbuster movies,” she affirms. “Guests of our Sky Suites are also welcome to indulge themselves with the complimentary mini bar or luxuriate in the bath with exclusive Mitchell & Peach toiletries. Ultimately, Aviator is all about creating a luxurious retreat for guests whether on business or pleasure, so, in this sense the anonymous facade of the hotel is of great appeal to our guests who are looking for peace and quiet in intimately luxurious surroundings”.
Weddings are a similarly indulgent experience at Aviator. Perhaps one of the largest growth areas in the hospitality sector, the happy couple who wed at Aviator can enjoy one of the ultimate honeymoon pleasures and board their own specially arranged private jet at Farnborough Airport. Chauffeured directly alongside the jet awaiting their arrival, the married couple can be comfortably aboard their own plane ready for departure and honeymoon bliss within 20 minutes of leaving the hotel – a service perhaps unrivalled anywhere in the world.
Above and Beyond
Given the Aviator’s undoubted position as the first port of call for discerning travellers, we were keen to find out more about the hotel’s plans for the future – something that Elise is expertly positioned to elaborate on. “Our strategy for the next 12 months is really more of the same – I am not a huge fan of promotions or offers for the sake of it. My ultimate goal is that all of our marketing engages our audience and reflects the quality of the hotel and, indeed, the TAG brand.
“We often feature like-minded brands who share our attitude and ethos,” she testifies. “The hospitality sector is saturated with companies that are just out to make money in the short-term. I am a big believer in integrity and building long-term relationships with customers, suppliers and brands. This is the kind of strategy that I have championed here since we opened and it will continue to inform our operations in the future.
“One project I’m really enjoying working on at the moment is our newly launched evenings featuring highly regarded artists and musicians. Our first evening, an intimate party in the Sky Bar, featured Tim Soar DJ’ing into the early hours and the next event on 15th June will host an intimate five course dining experience bound by the Parisian jazz tones of 9incommon and renowned illustrative artist Emily Alston.
“Called FORM, the evening is inspired by the brilliance of combining and celebrating the pleasure of exceptional food, wine, works of art and compositions of music,” she highlights. “Continuing the evening until late, Sky Bar will host Quest DJ and award-winning composer Alex Parson, performing alongside Aviator’s mixologists Aaron and Ben. Only guests who sign up on our website are invited to these members-only events”.
“Ultimately, I am very fortunate to work for TAG and be supported by the hotel board to follow our instincts and passions and be able to work with the team to create an experience with personality, warmth and charm, rather than something bland and middle of the road!”
Having kindly accommodated EatSleepDrink in one of the Airside Sky Suites, we can further testify to the quality of the Aviator experience. And with the ‘Devour’ package currently on offer (http://www.aviatorbytag.com/special-offers/tasting-menu), guests can enjoy a five course Champagne Tasting Menu and overnight stay for £505 per night per couple, which offers tremendous value for money.
With the continued demand for private aviation, as well as the age-old desire for luxury, style and comfort, the Aviator offers that rare commodity: luxury worth paying for.
Visit: www.aviatorbytag.com or call: +44 (0)1252 555 890 for reservations.