Santander Helps Hotel Take a Step Closer to 4-star Status

A family-run hotel enjoys a 4-star makeover with funding from Santander.

In Brief

  • Company name: Seamill Hydro
  • Sector: Hotels/Hospitality 
  • Turnover: £5 million
  • Seamill Hydro is a second-generation family business – a destination hotel and spa on the Ayrshire coast.
  • The management team needed a business loan to improve the hotel facilities, including the completion of an orangery-style restaurant and upgrading bedrooms and other areas.
  • Santander provided a £2.8 million business loan to help with the hotel refurbishment.
  • Relationship Director Peter Anderson helped to facilitate the business loan and worked out a deal that allowed flexibility on the drawing down and repayment of the finance. 
  • Santander also helped seamlessly transfer the business’ day-to-day banking and cash-management without interruption to customers or suppliers.
  • The restaurant was completed ahead of time and the family has been able to move ahead on other improvements and looks forward to achieving a 4-star rating next year as a result.
  • The changes are already having a positive impact, with turnover for 2014 now forecast at an additional £1 million.

Situated on the Ayrshire coast, Seamill Hydro is a second-generation, family-owned hotel and spa business that has an established reputation as a wedding, leisure and family holiday destination.

In spite of the economic downturn, the hospitality sector remains a competitive environment and customer expectations are high. However, while the business was looking to forge ahead with improvements to their facilities, they found themselves held back by a lack of funds.

Reach for the stars

The family’s ambitious plans required £200,000 for the completion of a spectacular sea-facing restaurant and a further £800,000 towards the refurbishment of bedrooms and other areas of the hotel. Ultimately, the Sweeney family wanted to achieve a 4-star rating for the hotel, and to see the restaurant and other facilities booked up all year round.

The family knew that if they funded the improvements solely from profits, they wouldn’t be able to achieve their goals in a realistic timescale. “Our work ethos from our upbringing was to only spend out of profits and that had to change,” says Sylvester Sweeney, who runs the hotel with siblings Steven, Marina and Lorraine. However, the business’ incumbent bank –which it had worked with for 50 years – didn’t share this progressive stance.

New beginnings 

The Sweeneys began looking for a bank that shared their vision and understood the importance of moving quickly in a competitive sector, and they were introduced to Santander Relationship Director Peter Anderson. Peter spent time getting to know the family and understanding their vision in order to find a finance solution that would help to realise the hotel’s ambitious plans.

Santander worked out a £2.8million funding package, which included an allowance to refinance an existing debt and sufficient funds to cover the hotel improvements. With Peter dedicated to working towards a quick funding resolution for the family, the loan agreement process took just six weeks to complete. 

“That was important because we had already started the refurbishment of the restaurant and we were relying on the first input of cash to finish,” says Sylvester. 

Food for thought 

The restaurant refurbishment was completed ahead of deadline, which was a great morale boost for staff – the business is a significant local employer. The timely completion date also resulted in a summer of additional turnover. 

“Refinancing has also improved the financial performance of the business, as Santander was able to offer improved terms on existing debt,” says Peter. As a result, the Sweeney family has revised its financial forecasts and now foresees a turnover for 2014 that is closer to £6 million than the previously forecast £5 million. “On the back of what they’ve done, the financial performance is stronger, so they have a higher value business, improved cashflow and they have conserved cash as well,” says Peter.

Ultimately, the finance package meant the team could act on their vision for the hotel. “Santander has an open and flexible approach,” says Sylvester. “They worked in a very straightforward way and that made us feel comfortable in dealing with them. The whole package is a good model.”

Flexible funding 

Santander set up an arrangement that meant the business could draw down the loan periodically and also agreed that the customer could forgo capital repayments for one year. “We discussed everything with Peter and I gave a good financial plan to Santander as to why this made sense,” says Sylvester.

Peter was able to set up these flexible arrangements, because of his confidence in the business. “We have built up a strong working relationship with the business and are pleased that the hotel has exceeded its own growth expectations,” says Peter. “I believe that Santander has helped them achieve their goals more quickly.”

Peter was also involved in helping the Sweeneys to move the day-to-day banking and cash management of the hotel over to the Santander. Direct debits and Bacs all had to be transferred seamlessly and without interruption or inconvenience to customers or suppliers. “It was nice to think our suppliers and customers didn’t know,” says Sylvester.

Looking ahead, the family want to see a business spread across the leisure and spa facilities along with the main hotel and restaurant business. Peter believes the success of the business is founded on their willingness to diversify. “They knew they had to keep the business fresh,” he says.

The improvements and diversification of the business are a motivational force in themselves. “Seeing the growth of the business and hearing people’s feedback, that’s what drives us on and gives us energy,” says Sylvester. “Santander trusted our vision of the business, and we see this as a long-term relationship.”

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Relationship Director Comments


We have built up a strong working relationship with the business and are pleased that the hotel has exceeded its own growth expectations.

Peter Anderson, Relationship Director