In the hot seat with Macdonald Hotels & Resorts’ Debbie Taylor

Debbie Taylor, Regional MD for North West at Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, points to some great expectations.

How did you get started in the industry?

Prior to joining Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, I held senior roles in the tourism and hospitality sector in the US and UK.

Working as president of hospitality and real estate at Kohler Co, I also worked on the restoration of the Hamilton Grand Building in St Andrews, which is now one of the most coveted addresses in the world of golf. Having been born in the Wirral, I feel working with our venues in the North West is my ‘homecoming’.

Your trickiest challenge and most rewarding experience?

Attracting and retaining talent is one the most challenging aspects of the hospitality business, but when this works well, seeing team members flourish and grow is one of the most rewarding things.

We need to do much more to raise the profile of the hospitality industry and highlight the opportunities that are widely available. For example, Meg Fairclough aged 24, started out as a waitress at Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa and progressed to the role of the hotel’s F&B manager, through her experience gained from managing large conferences and events. By profiling impressive success stories such as Meg’s, I believe that we can appeal to a young audience and build the future of the hospitality industry.

The best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Always treat people as you would like to be treated yourself and try to inspire your team to be and give their best.

What plans do you have for the future?

As the Northern Powerhouse begins to gain momentum, the North West is continuing to grow as one of the UK’s most competitive regions for conferences and events. Our aim is to make sure we maximise the opportunities that this will bring and we are investing in our meetings and event sector across the company, both in our product and service but also in our sales and marketing resources.

What trends have you seen in the market over the past year?

There are three key trends affecting the conference and events industry. Firstly, rapidly evolving technology and the role it plays in making conferences more effective, with a growing importance on providing a stronger return on investment.

Secondly, the pace of the environment has changed and lead times for organising conferences and events are getting shorter. Finally, expectations are constantly increasing in relation to the service provided. This applies from the minute the enquiry is made right through to the delivery.

What would you change about the industry?

It would be good to see better partnerships developing between all private and public sector organisations. It would be beneficial for the hotel industry to work more closely with local destination marketing organisations and tourism groups.

Greatest achievement?

Being awarded a Hotel and Caterer Award for Manager of the Year in 2007 and an industry scholarship at Cornell University.

What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the industry?

I would say it is important to have a combination of three key things: Passion – you have to care about what you do and strive to achieve. A focus on quality – the service and experience provided to the consumer is one of the most important things about our industry. And unwavering calm and a positive attitude, as you will never know what can happen next.

What other initiatives do you support in the industry?

Women are integral to any business’s success and their skills are extremely important in hospitality. Empathy, strength and remaining calm under pressure, are all important qualities to succeed in this industry and things I often see demonstrated by our strongest female leaders. Supporting women to thrive, grow confidence and understand their potential is an important part of my role as a leader, coach and mentor.

What changes do you think the North West will see over the coming year?

Manchester is starting to see significant improvements to its transport links and Manchester airport is the third largest airport in the UK. While the HS2 speed rail project will improve infrastructure and journey times between Northern cities, which in turn will lead to greater business to the conference industry.

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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