In the hot seat: Julia Gallagher, Visit Brighton

VisitBrighton’s head of sales Julia Gallagher, talks budgets, standards, pizzas and spiralisers

How did you get started in the industry?
I joined over 20 years ago in the organising department for EIBTM, when it was hosted in Geneva. Being fortunate enough to work for Ray Bloom was an inspirational experience that consolidated my desire to pursue a career in the MICE industry. I moved on to become an operations manager for a Brighton-based PCO, CongressWorld, which specialised in organising pharmaceutical congresses. I now work for Brighton and Hove City Council as head of sales for both the Brighton Centre and VisitBrighton.

Give us the flavour of a typical day for at VisitBrighton?
As colleagues in the industry know, there is no such thing as a typical day. Tasks range from creating bespoke proposals for clients, hosting site inspections, liaising with venue sales managers, planning and monitoring sales strategy, negotiating budgets, through to attending venue and product launches.

How is business looking at the Brighton Centre and what is its USP?

Business is exceptionally buoyant. We are currently experiencing record-breaking levels of business and the future diary is jam-packed. The centre offers clients a totally flexible space that accommodates the needs of 99.9% of MICE organisers, with enviable sea views thrown in for free. Many of the centre’s staff, from the sales team to security, have worked there for over 10 years so their knowledge of both the city and the venue is extensive.

Your single best piece of sustainability advice for an organiser using the venue?

The centre has achieved two world class International Standards for Environmental Management (ISO 14001) and Sustainable Events (ISO 20121). Sign up to our Sustainable Event Commitment and we’ll help you create a more sustainable event.

What could the UK events industry do better?

I am dismayed that an industry which is so female dominated has so few women ‘at the top’. A huge pool of exceptional talent is being overlooked and under utilised.

Proudest moment in your career to date?
As I walk through Brighton and see necks adorned with delegate badges I am hugely proud of the work carried out by my team. According to the Economic Impact of Tourism Brighton & Hove 2014 study by South East Tourism, tourism-generated turnover supports 18% of all employment in Brighton & Hove, which equates to 21,000 jobs. I feel privileged to be part of a team that helps create economic prosperity in my home town.

Funniest moment experienced at work?
It involved a drunken naked delegate cavorting outside of a hotel room – confidentiality dictates that I can say no more.

What is your Achilles’ heel?

Our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses. I find it very hard to say ‘no’.

What is your most prized possession?

My wedding ring, which originally belonged to my grandmother.

Recipe for chilling after the stresses and strains of the working week?

I pick up the kids from school on a Friday afternoon and make pizza with them, taking out the week’s frustrations on a mountain of dough. I follow this up with a glass or two of wine and The Great British Bake Off on catch up and instantly feel chilled. A child-free Saturday morning at my allotment would be the icing on the cake.

Your favourite sports team?

If I say anything other than Portsmouth Football Club I may not be allowed home.

Industry prediction for the future?

How to effectively integrate technology into events will continue to be an industry ‘hot potato’. By embracing new technologies we will be able to enhance the delegate experience and their learning opportunities.

Favourite gadget?

If we’re talking work – my mobile phone. If outside of work, I can thoroughly recommend a spiraliser. It totally transforms courgettes.

Favourite event booked in this year?
In May, Brighton hosted the Search and Rescue annual conference for maritime and aviation professionals including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. A live, airborne search and rescue exercise was staged at sea in front of the Hilton Brighton Metropole hotel, which was truly spectacular. It was a glorious, sunny day so the spectating delegates were also well-placed to enjoy a spot of Brighton’s brilliant beachfront.




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