In Business: the luxury Welsh resort that’s hosted the Ryder Cup

15 August 2019

From Victorian manor house and early 20th century maternity hospital, Celtic Manor in South Wales has been transformed into an internationally renowned five-star resort – and host to golf’s Ryder Cup. Mark Colcomb, Vice President of Finance & Support at the resort, tells us how Barclays has supported the business “every step of the way” – including putting up former US president Barack Obama.

When the serial entrepreneur and Wales’ first billionaire Sir Terry Matthews bought a 19th century manor house in Newport, South Wales, in the 1980s, he partnered with Barclays to begin building the five-star resort that exists today.

Within 20 years, he had transformed the venue from its most recent incarnation as a maternity hospital into a luxury resort boasting 400 bedrooms in two hotels and a host of facilities including golf courses, spas and leisure clubs.

But it was winning the bid in 2001 to host the Ryder Cup – one of the most prestigious golfing tournaments in the world, where the best European and US players go head-to-head over three days – that really put Celtic Manor on the global map.

Graeme McDowell, Celtic Manor

Golfer Graeme McDowell hit the Ryder Cup-winning putt at Celtic Manor in 2010

Barclays was then instrumental in helping develop the championship golf course where the prestigious tournament eventually took place nine years later, in 2010 – watched by sport fans in 195 countries around the world.

“Sir Terry initially developed it into a 17-bedroom boutique hotel,” explains Mark Colcomb, Vice President of Finance & Support at the Celtic Manor Resort. “That expanded fairly quickly to about 75 bedrooms. He built the main resort hotel in 1999 which added another 330 odd bedrooms. Having acquired two more hotels in recent years, we now have more than 700 bedrooms across our Celtic Collection and Barclays have been with us every step of the way.””

“Subsequent to the Ryder Cup, we had the Nato summit here in 2014 which is another massive global event,” says Colcomb. Once again, Barclays was on hand to help the resort prepare for the global event. The bank was involved in the creation of the Hunter Lodges, which hosted then US president Barack Obama during the summit – the first time a serving president had visited Wales. 

Riding the storm of the recession

While Celtic Manor began predominantly as a conference business, it was forced to broaden its business model at the time of the financial crisis in 2008.

“When we had early warning signs of the recession, we realised it was going to have a significant impact on our revenues,” says Colcomb.

To keep the resort in business, Celtic Manor decided to expand its leisure market, a move which Colcomb describes as an “excellent fit”.

“The conference market tends to come to Celtic Manor during the week and school term times. The leisure market, and particularly the family market, is the opposite,” he says. “We were able to ride the storm of the recession very well. In fact, we managed to grow during that time because we added an extra string to our bow.”

“Celtic Manor is now a major contributor to the local economy,” says Colcomb. “We employ over 1,000 staff and our payroll is around £25 million.”

“Barclays have always been very supportive of us through the good times, but also through the more challenging times. They’re a very innovative bank – and keen to help us move the business forward.”

Restaurants, renovations and relationship directors

With a choice of eight restaurants across the collection, good food is integral to Celtic Manor’s business model – and the business is hungry to achieve culinary excellence. Its signature restaurants, Steak on Six and the Newbridge on Usk, have both earned two AA rosettes – the award presented to restaurants with the best tasting menus in the UK.

Also on the horizon for 2019 is the major new addition of an International Convention Centre to the resort, which Colcomb explains will be “a game changer not just for Celtic Manor, but for the local economy”.

Created in partnership with the Welsh Government, the Convention Centre is predicted to bring in £70 million annually to the local area – and will boast 26,000 square metres of floor space and a 1,500 seater auditorium.

“The joint venture is in a separate company so Celtic Manor has to make some significant equity investments into that, and Barclays are kindly helping us,” says Colcomb.

To meet the extra demand for accommodation brought by the thousands of delegates attending conferences and events at the new centre, the business is also growing its Celtic Collection portfolio.

Mark Colcomb, Celtic Manor

Mark Colcomb, Celtic Manor Vice President of Finance & Support

A former Hilton Hotel, located near the main resort, was acquired and restyled as the Coldra Court by Celtic Manor in 2016. The acquisition of another hotel in the nearby village of Magor has seen the launch of a new Tŷ Hotel brand and construction work is already underway on an additional property in Newport – all of which has been made possible by funding from Barclays.

In the last 37 years, Celtic Manor has worked with a number of Barclays Relationship Directors. Colcomb says: “Every single one has been fantastic – they’re very keen to know the business.

“The good thing about Barclays is that they’re very hands on. They come to the resort quite a lot so when we put one of our numerous applications in for future growth, they’re fully aware of the facilities and the opportunities we have.”

The resort’s current Relationship Director Simon Vittle reflects on its journey. “From when it was a manor house in 1982 to where it is today, Barclays have very much helped Celtic Manor grow.

Barclays is exceptionally strong in Wales and brings a huge amount of expertise to the business, locally and nationally. We’ve helped achieve a great resort which is internationally known, and I don’t think you can put a price on that.”