Our Community Impact award recognises Charity Bank borrowers that have made a significant positive impact on their local community or the community they serve through the work they do.
Gwesty Seren is a social enterprise that operates as a standalone, wholly-owned subsidiary of the Seren Ffestiniog Cyf charity group. Seren was established 21 years ago with the purpose of supporting people with learning disabilities to live, work, socialise and integrate into the local community. It also organises holidays twice a year for the local people it works with. Time and time again it came up against difficulties with accommodation that had claimed to be fully accessible.
In 2010, the Community Asset Transfer Fund initiative was set up in Wales, which coincided with the sale of a Gwynedd County Council care home. The idea to create hotel accommodation designed with people of all disabilities in mind was born, and Gwesty Seren (meaning Hotel Star in Welsh) was established.
Gwesty Seren opened in April 2014 as a 3-star, 10-bedroom hotel and restaurant. It is designed to facilitate the ease, comfort and enjoyment of those with disabilities, as well as their families and carers. There are lifts both inside and outside, spacious rooms and bathrooms, wide corridors, hearing loops, and a neutral, calming decor. In addition to this tailored design, there is also an atmosphere of understanding and support at the hotel that can be difficult to find elsewhere.
It also organises social and skill-based activities to further support its ethos of encouraging and facilitating social inclusion, offering those with disabilities the same access to everyday pursuits as everyone else.
The hotel’s intake has steadily grown, with annual occupancy rates rising from 25% during the 2014-15 period to 43% in the 2016-17 period. Final figures for the 2017-18 period are expected to be around 60%.
This is reflective of the unique accommodation and services Gwesty Seren offers. It is the only hotel of its kind in Wales, where every aspect has been designed to offer first-class, fully-accessible facilities for everyone. This has also attracted specialist holiday companies, four of which regularly bring their guests to Gwesty Seren.
Gwesty Seren is looking to continue building its revenue base to ensure long-term sustainability whilst also maximising its impact on both the local and wider communities.
Seren recently won a contract with the Department of Work and Pensions to run an employment programme that helps people who are struggling to get back into the workplace. Gwesty Seren has so far welcomed five people on this scheme who are being offered a variety of hospitality-based work experience and training to help them return to employment. It is also looking to develop and expand on the life skills courses it runs in collaboration with the local college.
Gwesty Seren received two loans from Charity Bank to assist with the purchase and renovation of the hotel.