1.Tell us about your experience working within hospitality, conferencing and events?
I entered the travel & hospitality industry back in the late ‘80’s when shell suits & jet perms were at the height of fashion! I spent 5 years working within the TMC industry programming booking scripts, being a business travel consultant, using a Telex machine and various other departments, and it was there that I grew a love of the hotel industry as was fortunate to spend time overseas staying in iconic hotels in beautiful locations, so in the mid-90’s (when Grolsch bottle tops on Kicker shoes & Rick Astley was Never Gonna Give You Up was the height of cool!) I took on a sales executive role at the Birmingham Metropole hotel, which at the time was part of the Metropole Hotel Group and then latterly Stakis & Hilton owned. It was from that moment onwards that I knew “hotels” was the industry I wanted to be in as it was always fascinating people watching and knowing that every day was completely different to the last and next one, and what a place to start my hotel career…802 bedrooms, 34 meeting rooms, largest room taking 2000 delegates with the next largest taking 1600 and then 1200 and so on to the smaller boardrooms. 24 years on and roles at Hilton, Le Meridien, Paramount Hotel Group, Macepark Group (Whittlebury Hall), QHotels, Jurys Inn and now Whittlebury Hall & Spa Ltd.
2.Tell us a little about Whittlebury Hall?
As I describe it, we are now 2 good companies coming together to become 1…Whittlebury Hall & Whittlebury Park were united at the end of 2016 to form Whittlebury Hall & Spa Ltd. Still focussed on delivery exceptional guest experiences, we are currently embarking on a business transformation programme that see the benefits of being a family owned, independent business. 600 acres, 400 colleagues, 254 bedrooms, 62 meeting rooms, 36 holes of glorious golf, a 30+ treatment rooms/stations Spa, 5 restaurants, 2 AA Rosettes and 1 vision to be Remarkable.
3.Why did you choose a career in the hospitality & events industry?
I started off programming booking scripts for the business travel industry and whilst it was a superb experience travelling the world at such a young age as part of fam trips and projects, I loved staying at hotels and was fascinated watching the day to day dramas, stories & events unfold in each and every one that I stayed in, both in the domestic market and overseas destinations…so I knew from the mid-90’s that I wanted to be a part of this theatre that is hotels/lodging.
4.How would you say the industry has evolved over the last couple of years?
More choice, more technology & NOW.
More choice for the guest, be it supply, products, booking options, loyalty schemes, affiliations, partnerships etc…for me, this is all positive as it keeps hoteliers on their toes to ensure that customer remains King/Queen.
More technology, both for the guest and hotelier; there are so many great BI tools available for us as an industry to embrace and use in a strategic way to enable us to put the appropriate tactics in place to drive opportunity & revenue performance, and these aren’t just exclusively for the chains as they work just as well for the independents. There are also some great booking/scraping tools available for the guest to ensure that they have transparency of rates & reviews, which means that it should keep us on our toes in terms of being creative with package offerings and innovative with product & service offerings.
The NOW for me is the development of true direct connects DCs) as this allows the guest an instant answer to a booking or question and improves the efficiency of a hotel team, but not to the detriment of employment levels as I personally believe that improved technology allows us (Whittlebury Hall & Spa and the wider industry) to reallocate the colleagues to more guest facing roles to improve guests interaction and satisfaction, and not to save on payroll.
5.Are there any trends you see emerging in the industry?
As previously mentioned, I see DCs becoming more established and purposeful especially within the Meetings & Events industry for certain type of bookings, e.g. a day/resi meeting for 20 delegates with simple criteria, however for the more detailed events there is no replacement for the human touch & relationship that is built up over a period of time.
Clearly the evolvement of the sharing economy continues to gather pace (the number of users in the US has grown +100% in 2 years and is predicted to grow a further +30% in the next 3), and with Air BnB now entering the Events space it will be interesting to see what direction this now takes as that could further impact direct bookings
6.What do you love most about working at Whittlebury Hall?
When I was first approached about coming back into the business that I had left 10 years earlier I needed time to reflect as I genuinely loved the role I had at Jurys Inn and the team that I worked with for the past 6 years, however as I started to see the opportunities that existed for the future it was those which excited me as I genuinely believe that Whittlebury Hall & Spa can be one of the leading resort destinations within the domestic market within a few years. I love the fact that all of our team are committed to doing the best that they can on any given day and enjoy going the extra mile for our guests. Given the size & scale of our estate, no 2 days are the same, so that is really enjoyable too.
7.What is your favourite team building event?
I have experienced many over my years within the hotel industry and have favourites based on the circumstances and memories, e.g. when I worked at QHotels we had a sales conference with an “It’s a Knockout” inflatable course where one of my colleagues went diving through the closely positioned vertical inflatable posts only to find that whilst they made it through their tracksuit trousers hadn’t….as it was, Off Limits provided this event!
I am really competitive, so team building events such as problem solving in a series of rooms in order to escape and beat the opposing teams really work for me, and then more skills learning based team building such as cookery events really work as they are more relaxed but still deliver the objective of working together.
8.Tell us some of your favourite interests outside of work?
Weekends are usually filled up with chauffeur services for my 2 children’s activities, which is great as I love them being active and having a multitude of sports & interests to participate in, both individual and as a team. I have a geeky side to me as I still enjoy online console gaming as it is a bit of escapism, and I also collect & build Lego which is a rollover from my childhood but a lot more expensive than I remember now that I pay for the models myself; I enjoy taking my time building Lego models and am currently in the middle of Assembly Square, having just built the Capitol Building…the new Bugatti and Taj Mahal are next on the list. For a more energic interest I am also a student at Jado Kuin Do, which is a martial art based on Karate, Kung Fu and Kick Boxing, and I am at a Brown belt level going for my 1st tags for Black. I did start the year off wanting to get into running, but that hasn’t worked out as yet, but I am still working at having the “running bug” bite me! Even though I overlook 36 holes of golf I am yet to venture out onto the course to enjoy a few rounds playing myself, although I am caddying(!) for my colleague at the forthcoming Trilby Tour we are hosting in June.
9.What is your all-time favourite joke?
I am glad you asked…..”a man goes to the zoo……….the only animal in the zoo is a dog………it’s a Shih Tzu!
We're excited to see what happens next, with all that Marc has to offer to the industry the future is bright for everyone at Whittlebury Hall.