How did you get into the meetings/hospitality industry?
Hospitality is all I have known really and I have pretty much covered every department within hotels. I spent a good deal of time on the operational side from housekeeping and kitchen, to conference and banqueting, before I moved to telesales at Thistle and found my passion definitely lies within sales and marketing. I have not looked back and have been working in sales ever since.
What do you like about the industry?
I love how the paths of many of the people I have met throughout my career in hospitality cross more than once. This is especially the case in sales. In hotels, no two days are ever the same and I love the diversity of my work on a daily basis. I think you definitely have to have a passion for hospitality as it’s not for the faint hearted and has been especially tough the last few years, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
Prediction for 2014 and the future?
Hotels in general are starting to see a brighter future and, after a strong 2013, we see this continuing in 2014 and beyond. The conference market is beginning to strengthen again and there is now a real need to deliver both value for money and a commitment to service and delivery. We developed five simple conference promises in 2013 to give our customers the confidence in our commitment and ability to deliver both of these. These promises were born from a working committee we created called our ‘Conference Champions’. These are the people within our business who deliver the conference and events on a daily basis.
Greatest career achievement to date?
Seeing the positive brand changes and direct impact on sales at Cedar Court during my two years in this role. We have worked hard on various elements of the business with a focus on improving our IT infrastructure, PMS systems and distribution channels, while also developing the brand image of the group. These changes have worked hand-in-hand with creating the most important factor, which is a strong culture of sales throughout the business involving every department in every hotel.
How was business at the hotel/venue last year and what trends did you note?
The group had a very successful 2013 with the rooms business contribution being the overall success, benefitting from a healthy growth in occupancy and ADR. The conference market was consistent with 2012 and is showing positive growth signs for 2014.
What is the typical visitor demographic and how does business tourism compare to your leisure bookings?
We have five hotels throughout Yorkshire with our two North Yorkshire hotels in Harrogate and York enjoying a strong leisure base and our three West Yorkshire hotels in Bradford, Huddersfield and Wakefield more business led with strong conference and transient market.
Cedar Court Grand in York is Yorkshire’s only five-star hotel and attracts both UK and international visitors for leisure stays while also enjoying a healthy meetings base.
What is the USP of the venues for event organisers?
For conferences, a major factor is how accessible the hotels are. The three West Yorkshire hotels have direct access to the M1 or M62 and extensive complimentary car parking facilities.
Cedar Court is one of the only hotels to offer complimentary parking in Harrogate, which is a great feature, and all five hotels offer complimentary Wi-Fi.
What’s been the most difficult situation you have had to deal with during your time at the venue?
Probably the process of taking all hotels onto a new PMS system but, while this caused a few hairy moments and some very late nights, it was all worthwhile! (I can say that now it’s over).
Blackberry or iPhone?
I thought I’d never say it, but now it’s ‘i’ products all the way!
What sports team do you support?
None at all. I don’t have time to watch sports as work and my two young boys take up all my time.
Any unusual requests from event organisers?
Thankfully, nothing out of the ordinary so far. But, however unusual an event, we would give it our best shot to deliver it. It makes a pleasant change to have unusual events taking place.
This was first published in the July/August issue of CN. Any comments? Email Paul Colston