How did you get into the industry?
I have been in the international hotel industry for over 35 years, 30 of those with Hilton. I also spent six years as Managing Director at The Savoy prior to its closure for refurbishment. I was appointed General Manager at London Hilton on Park Lane 10 years ago, but actually joined the hotel as a management trainee in the 1970s post graduation from the University of Surrey.
What do you like about the industry?
This market provides a variety of demands and allows for the ability to offer a huge difference in the style of production and presentation. Guests come from a varied cross section of markets, from financial services, pharmaceutical, sports and associations, for example.
How is the event business faring?
It is very healthy and growing with demand from emerging markets.
What is the hotel’s visitor demographic?
It’s global. We enjoy a strong local demand coupled with demand from the US and Europe, as well as a growing interest from the BRIC countries.
How did the 2012 London Olympics affect business?
London Hilton on Park Lane was the official headquarter hotel for the International Olympic Committee during the Games, and was therefore closed to the public during the Games themselves. The Olympics has certainly put London on the world stage in terms of both a business and leisure travel destination.
What is the USP of the venue for event organisers?
Location is definitely a key USP. London Hilton on Park Lane is at the heart of Mayfair, overlooking Hyde Park. We also have a range of settings for all types of meetings and events, from one of the largest ballrooms in London, to the Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows, along with a variety of purpose-built business meeting rooms, supported by a staffed reception and business centre.
What’s been the most difficult situation you have had to deal with during your time at the hotel?
Every client has different demands and expectations. The team at London Hilton on Park Lane takes great pride in hosting a huge variety of events. Many clients have taken over the hotel and styled the conference to their unique requirements. Perhaps the most challenging was hosting the International Olympic Committee during the Olympics with Heads of State and the President’s office and headquarter administration. The property was in the limelight throughout the Olympic period.
Time-saving tip for organisers?
Plan, communicate and review regularly with team and event managers. The likelihood is that we have experienced something similar and can invariably, through discussion, offer solutions.
Most successful personal achievement?
A loving family and team sailing racing campaigns. As a keen sailor and part of the Royal Ocean Racing, I was also at the helm when Hilton took part in the Profile Club, a hospitality sailing challenge in which we took first place in 2010 and came in second the following year.
Funniest moment experienced at work?
In the Jubilee year I was waiting for HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to arrive. However, the Queen was running late and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived first. With time to spare, he turned to me and said, “Well, what are we going to do now?” Luckily the rest of the party wasn’t far behind.
BlackBerry or iPhone?
What sports team do you support?
Prediction for the future?
My wish for the future, rather than prediction, is greater global understanding through effective communication and more meetings of the mind.
This was first published in the May issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor