In the hot seat: Johanne Holman

Johanne Holman, director of sales and marketing at Exclusive Hotels and Venues, talks of the Rugby World Cup, Millennials and the power of face to face meetings

 

How did you get into the industry?
I have always had a positive outlook, and in return have managed to achieve and secure each and every job opportunity within the industry I have wanted. I studied in the college of my home town in Kent where I took a Higher National Diploma in Business Studies (Travel and Tourism). I always wanted to work in the leisure and hospitality industry and very much on the sales and marketing side. Things could not have worked out better. I’ve worked with some incredible brands.

What do you like about the meetings and events industry?
Everyone I meet in the industry talks about the interesting people they meet and I completely concur. Although people do move around fairly frequently (hotel and client side), it’s very incestuous, so delightfully the same faces do reappear and keep coming back.

Are there other sectors you think the meetings industry should learn from?
I think we should always be close to other service industries; people buy people so we must never be complacent, and as much as technology seems to be dominating the news agenda at the moment, I’m convinced that more and more people are looking for high quality hospitality.
Recently we partnered with British Airways to see how they approach great service. Some of our teams did a business-to-business swap, in order to give us both an insight into how the other worked and vice versa. I’m really proud of the partnership; it showed a genuine desire from both parties to always be at the cutting edge of what great service looks like.

How do you plan to expand Exclusive Hotels and Venues’ footprint in the M&E industry?
As a brand we are serious about this industry; we have eight outstanding hotel and venue products to offer, and we want to do more. We’re especially good at Exclusive Use hire of our properties, our venues are the perfect size for this.

Tell us about your plans when the Rugby World Cup comes around in the autumn.
We have an amazing opportunity. We’re handling everything from the RFU’s dietary requirements, accommodation, to catering for the huge amount of media that will want access with the team throughout the event. We also jointly designed and built the training centre they are using at Pennyhill Park. We have curated specific menus for the team.

Is there a market abroad for quintessential rural England meetings and event experiences?
Absolutely, and IMEX really demonstrated that. Our plan is to partner with VisitEngland, who sell the quintessential English persona excellently. Next year is the Year of the Garden, and we want to be the representation of English hospitality and great outdoor experiences; afternoon tea, golf, cricket, farm to plate dining, spectacular gardens, and properties with history, heritage and personality.
We know from our success in the leisure market that there is a genuine appetite for this in North America, mainland Europe and Asia, and we’re looking to grow our business in these territories in the M&E market as well.

What trends are coming to the fore in your business today?
We’re seeing a continuation of the return in the incentive market and also the learning and development sectors. These are big sectors for us, so it’s an exciting time.

What’s been some of the more difficult challenges along the way?
I dislike the word ‘junket’, the idea that as soon as you leave the office and go to a country house hotel you are automatically on a jolly and immune from any sort of productivity. It’s a real stab in the back for this industry and devalues what we do, which is create more productive, happier people who enjoy what they do and feel valued.
There isn’t an event organiser I know who sees training or incentive as a luxury, only a massive opportunity to get people working better and smarter for their companies.
 
Advice to your 20-year-old self making your way in business today?
Try and enjoy what you do more; I was always focused on career development, progression, pushing myself towards more success. Its only when I look back do I remember the amazing experiences I have had along the way, it would have been nice to slow down and enjoy the moments a little more!

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Conference News resides at the heart of the conference industry examining the issues affecting organisers, venues, destinations and suppliers. Published monthly, Conference News features the latest news, interviews and industry analysis from market influencers.

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