CN scrums down with James Lee, Twickenham’s head of conference and events sales
How did you get started in the industry?
Working at The Royal Lancaster Hotel (now the Lancaster London) in 1991. I had qualified as a diamond merchant. Something told me that before I committed to that, I should try something different, and when I found a role in purchasing at this amazing hotel I was hooked.
Favourite aspect of the events industry?
The ever changing demands from the range of events that we accommodate. Technology requirements are changing dramatically, communication around events is much more dynamic and interactive and even the food and beverage experience has changed radically in the last decade. These force us to stay one step ahead and come up with fresh ideas and creative solutions with our clients.
What could the industry do better?
The way we solicit feedback. Organisers completing forms and on-line surveys is a very static not to mention low response rate activity. We have to offer it in a way that is easy, interesting and time effective for them.
Future industry prediction?
The majority of meeting and event space will be booked and organised on-line.
Most difficult situation you have dealt with?
Declining requests to hold events during the Rugby World Cup (RWC). It goes against the grain to turn business away. While we try to provide alternatives, it is not always possible.
How is business in the lead up to the RWC?
2015 has been a busy year so far and sales activity at the stadium has never been greater. We have seen big increases in enquiries as we approach the tournament.
Any new investment at the venue this year?
Refurbishments have transformed some of our meeting space. Over £75m has been spent improving facilities inside and outside the ground.
Do you expect the tournament to result in a jump in event bookings post-RWC?
Given the size of the tournament and the kind of coverage it will receive, we would expect the stadium to be on more people’s minds. The challenge for us is to translate this increased awareness of the stadium into increased awareness of the meeting facilities we can offer.
What is the most exciting aspect of being a host venue for RWC?
I think watching the excitement build here among the staff and everybody involved, you can sense that something huge is about to happen!
What will your involvement be during the tournament?
From a sales point of view we will be working hard to ensure that post the tournament there is a huge demand for our space and that we are ready to capture that demand. As a massive rugby fan and supporter of England, I will be glued to every game, tackle and try.
Who would you back to win the RWC?
My head says you cannot look further than the All Blacks. That said, I am not a betting man so, come on England!
Funniest moment witnessed/experienced at work?
Watching my son’s face when he came into the office for the first time. He loves Jonny Wilkinson and we have a floor to ceiling print of Jonny on a pillar. When he saw it his jaw hit the floor.
How do you relax?
Watching sport and coaching rugby at a junior level. I am never more relaxed than when I am training our Under 11 team but this quickly turns to competitive angst when we play a game.