Interview: Paul Middleton, Sales Manager at Hilton Canary Wharf

How did you get into the industry?

I started my career in hospitality in August 2011 as sales coordinator at Hilton London Green Park, Hilton London Hyde Park and Hilton London Islington. Prior to that I studied and worked abroad for three years, which included two years in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was this experience that inspired my passion for hospitality and the travel industry.

What do you like about the meetings industry?

In a professional capacity, I’m driven by the challenge of taking an enquiry from initial contact all the way through to the event itself. It’s also great to meet clients from so many different backgrounds, and to see their enjoyment when their event is taking place.
 
How is the events business faring?

Despite the recent economic downturn it remains strong. The budgets are still there and people are definitely still booking and hosting events. We did see a trend for smaller meetings, but demand for the big conferences and events is growing rapidly.
 
What is the hotel’s visitor demographic?

Throughout the week, being in Canary Wharf, we host a high proportion of business travellers who are visiting local offices in the Wharf or attending a conference at Excel London. However, at the weekends, we welcome a lot more leisure guests who are perhaps in London for sightseeing or a concert at the O2 arena.
 
How did the Olympics affect business?

We had a great London Olympics and we were at full capacity. However, many companies decided to hold their meetings and events after the buzz had calmed down. A large proportion of the guests we had at that time were working at the Games themselves.

What is the USP of the venue for event organisers?

Our Quayside suite is the largest hotel meeting space in Canary Wharf. On entering, guests are greeted by a large bar and reception room which many think is the event space itself, although this is actually just the breakout space for the 400 capacity conference room.
 
What’s been the most difficult situation you have had to deal with?

I would say the most difficult situation I’ve faced was in my previous role. About a month after starting my career with Hilton, and as a newcomer to the industry, I found myself between managers for a short while. Thankfully the support I got from the team members around me was fantastic and it really helped me to develop my skills quickly. It was definitely a case of jumping in the deep end and learning to swim.
 
Time-saving tip for organisers?

I don’t think one can overlook the benefits of keeping strong relationships. We have many repeat clients who come back because our hotel knows their requirements and how to look after their needs. This reduces the time taken to build not only an understanding of specific event and attendee details, but also trust, which clients often find one of the biggest challenges when beginning a new business relationship. Building and maintaining relationships is one of the things I love most about my role.
 
Most successful personal achievement?

I was invited to join Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders in 2013. It’s a scheme launched by Travel Trade Gazette to recognise the 30 highest flyers in travel under the age of 30 who have made an outstanding contribution to their business. Considering the calibre of the others on the scheme, it’s a real honour to be selected.
 
Funniest moment experienced/witnessed at work?

I once conducted a show round for the wrong person – I received a call to let me know my appointment had arrived and after a full show round of the hotel. The person eventually broke the news that they were actually there to meet our maintenance manager, also named Paul.
 
Blackberry or iPhone?

iPhone – but I’ve never owned a Blackberry so it’s hard to compare.
 
What sports team do you support?

Growing up in the Midlands I was left only one real option, Nottingham Forest.
 
Prediction for the future?

There’s definitely a shift towards more electronic proposals and an emphasis on online booking tools; however, the human element will always be important when delivering a bespoke and personalised service.

This was first published in the March issue of CN. Any comments? Email conferencenews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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