Robin Twigge to sell The Swan Hotel in Harleston
“One day, I’ll buy this place,” Robin Twigge declared when he first stepped into The Swan Hotel in Harleston.
And, although his father told him he was daft – because he had just taken over the Park Hotel in Diss – he eventually bought the 16th century former coaching inn, which had made an instant impact on him.
However, after 18 years, two appearances on The Hotel Inspector television programme and fully involving himself in the life of the town, he has decided to sell, with the hotel on the market for £800,000.
He has bought a house with two acres of land in Needham for the 10 dogs he and his partner Vicki keep and, with his 70th birthday coming up next year, has decided it is play time.
“I have classic cars I don’t play with enough, and lots of grandchildren I never play with,” he said.
He thought about opening dog boarding kennels at his new home but that would mean dealing with owners and he candidly admitted that, after 55 years in catering, he was losing his tolerance of customers.
His hotel career began as a washerupper at the Crown in Woodbridge and moved on to include the Savoy in London, the Hilton in Brussels and 12
years with Trusthouse Forte.
Eventually, he arrived at Diss and, in 1991 and 10 years later, made good on his declaration that he would one day own The Swan.
More than a hotelier, he has been involved in town life, especially Harleston’s Future, the Waveney Festival and Information Plus.
“We have got to keep our unique town,” he said.
However, he fears for traders and pubs as costs – especially rates – continue to rise.
“Everything keeps going up, nothing comes down and you can’t pass everything on to the customers,” he said.
“The hotel industry has changed, with everyone wanting more for less money.”
There were uncomfortable moments on his first brush with Alex Polizzi on the hotel television programme.
“But I did it for the business and it worked,” he said.
“Only today (last Wednesday), a customer came in and said his wife recognised me from the television.”
He is confident The Swan has a bright future with a new owner with money to invest in its development and 15 bedrooms.
But, for him it is retirement, before adding: “Unless something comes along.”