Is The Hotel's Mark Jenkins a real-life Basil Fawlty?

Mark Jenkins

The Hotel's Mark Jenkins opens up to The Big Issue about problem staff, his failed marriages, and why he wants a new career

You run a hotel in Torquay but do you have anything else in common with Basil Fawlty?
What made Fawlty Towers entertaining was that the guests were an inconvenience. That’s what gave John Cleese the original idea: he stayed in a hotel in Torquay – not The Grosvenor, funnily enough – where the owner was quite rude. But I do like the guests. Even the problem guests aren’t really a problem because after a week they’ve gone home. The staff are the bloody nightmare because they’re there every week.

What do you like doing when you get the chance to go on holiday?
The last holiday I had was a honeymoon – my second marriage – and she cleared off after four months so that’s put me off holidays for now. That was immediately after I bought The Grosvenor.

Is that when you first got into the hospitality industry?
I bought my first hotel a few years before. My first wife had just left me for someone else and left me two youngish children. I needed to be able to be at work and look after the children at the same time, so I bought a hotel. The irony is, as I decided to buy the hotel, I foolishly took my wife back. She stayed for five years until the divorce cost me a bloody fortune.

The previous series must have been a great advert for the hotel.
Yes and no. Immediately following the programme we had quite a lot of regular coach business cancel – horrified! We replaced that with fans of the TV show but they’re not as regular as the coaches that keep coming back and put bums on beds.

Has the recession meant more people are holidaying in the UK?
I think ‘staycation’ is a nonsense. You could still go to Spain and get a bit of sunshine for seven days cheaper than staying in a hotel in Torquay for a week.

But you’d give me a good discount, wouldn’t you?
Yeah, I know, but are there more people holidaying in this country now than there were a few years ago? Definitely not. And what happened to the long hot summers we used to have in the ’70s? Last summer was a disaster! I had a massive party for the jubilee – brilliant jubilee party – but it was a washout. I mean, they had a great time – we brought it all indoors.

From The Hotel it’s clear you’re a born entertainer. Is that something you’d like to pursue?
Oh God, yes. I always wanted to be an entertainer. Who in their right mind wants to run a hotel? Am I hoping doing this TV show opens up a new career for me? I bloody hope so! 

The Hotel is on Channel 4, Sundays at 8pm. Read The Big Issue's TV review.


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