How did you get into the industry?
I’ve always loved the idea of running a large hotel. The fact that no two days are ever the same and the range of different people that you get to meet and interact with on a day-to-day basis has always appealed to me. I started my career in the hospitality industry in New Zealand before moving to London in 2003 and I’ve never looked back.
What do you like about the meetings industry?
During a week at the hotel we can host anything from a London Fashion Week show to an annual conference or gala dinner for a blue chip company. The sheer scope of the industry is incredible and it is such a fast-moving, exciting sector to work in.
How is business at the hotel since the refurbishment?
We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a strong presence in the meetings and events market, but since the refurbishment of our meeting spaces we’ve seen a significant increase in enquiries from new clients, as well as continued business from our regular customers. We’ve received some great feedback about the newly renovated spaces.
We have also recently introduced free, fast Wi-Fi and an online check-in service for all visitors and the feedback from that has been phenomenal. The importance of easy to use, fast and free internet should never be underestimated.
What is the hotel’s visitor demographic?
It’s very international. The history and heritage of the hotel appeals to overseas markets, particularly American clients. In terms of industries, there isn’t a particular sector that we work with more than others. It has always been diverse.
How is the event business faring?
I think that London in general is still enjoying buoyancy following the Olympics. For us specifically, the meeting and events side of the business is strong, which has only been enhanced by the recent investment into our meeting and event spaces.
How did the Olympics affect business?
The Olympics were very fruitful for us – we were able to build new relationships with key clients from businesses that we may not have hosted at the hotel at any other time. I think that London is experiencing a halo effect from the Olympics in terms of meetings and events. People from across the world want to come to London because of the sheer choice in terms of venues, restaurants and attractions which were highlighted during the 2012 Olympic period.
What is the USP of the venue for organisers?
Location, location, location. The famous Eleanor’s Cross is just outside our front door, which marks the most central point in London, and we are right next to Charing Cross station, so the transport links are second to none. The blend of history and heritage alongside modern design and up to date technology means that delegates and guests have the best of both worlds.
What’s been the most difficult situation you have had to deal with as GM at the hotel?
Trying to keep the interior designers in check when we were working on the refurbishment. It was a bit of a balancing act to make sure that all of the rooms looked fresh and new while still giving a nod to the hotel’s historical links, but we got there in the end.
Time-saving tip for organisers?
Leverage the expertise of the team at the venue or hotel where you are booking your event. Don’t try to do everything yourself and give yourself more work to do when there are talented experts who coordinate multiple events on a day-to-day basis.
Most successful personal achievement?
Hosting a visit from President Clinton. I personally met and looked after him during his visit and even arranged special ‘presidential M&Ms’ for him. We received some great feedback from his team after the visit, so all of the hard work was worth it.
Funniest moment experienced at work?
It may sound cheesy but as well as working hard, we always make sure that we have fun every day at The Charing Cross Hotel. There’s a really nice atmosphere among the staff here and I think that the guests pick up on that.
What sports team do you support?
I’m originally from New Zealand so I would have to say the All Blacks rugby team, although I can’t do the haka.
Prediction for the future?
Technology in hotels and venues is becoming more important and will continue to be a deciding factor when clients are choosing which venue to use for their event, particularly with the boom of social media, face-time and video content. Watch this space.
This was first published in the February issue of CN. Any comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org