Was hospitality always your career choice?
Whilst growing up in Shetland, at the age of 14 I started work at a local hotel in housekeeping, and some of my best memories are of those days. When I left school I had a short stint in Psychology at university, and then flew as a cabin attendant on helicopters in the North Sea, before realising my passion for hotels. I attended RGU in Aberdeen and completed a degree in hotel management, and haven’t looked back since.
What are some of your responsibilities in the hotel?
I oversee all the sales and marketing activities of the hotel through a team of 50 people. Our role is to ensure that we maximise revenues in all areas from rooms, restaurants, and the spa to our conference facilities. We have a great product and an amazing team of associates who provide excellent guest services which makes our job so much easier.
You have worked in Dubai for the last seven years; what’s your take on the hospitality scene?
Vibrant, dynamic and ever-changing. We are extremely fortunate to have such a broad range of products and experiences that can suit every type of traveller. We have great flight connectivity, and with the growth in facilities such as Dubai Parks & Resorts, City Walk, and IMG there are more reasons to visit, and to return.
What are some challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Work-life balance; finding time for your family and friends can be challenging, particularly for my three children, so I ensure I take holidays and try to switch offt. With family and friends scattered across the globe, social media ensures I stay connected.
How do you generate the confidence to manage a 1,600-room hotel, which some would consider an overwhelming proposition?
I worked for Marriott whilst the hotel was being built, and often thought of what it would be like to be in this position. I wasn’t overwhelmed when approached; I was excited, and also honoured to have been asked given the great talent in the industry in Dubai. Filling a hotel that is an average of four standard hotels in Dubai can lead to sleepless nights, but the team have done a fantastic job positioning the hotel globally since opening, therefore my job is to build on their success.
What strategies have you adopted to ensure you stay above your comp-set?
As a large hotel it is fundamental to have a strong base of business, and then we layer in from all market segments. But the reality is it all comes down to the customer choice and that is driven by our service. The hotel has reached 14 on Trip Advisor, out of 545 hotels in Dubai, which is an amazing achievement given the size of the property. The sales and marketing team can bring the customer to the hotel but it’s the product and operational teams that will keep them coming back. Being part of the largest hotel brand in the world is also key, we have almost 100 million Marriott rewards customers across the globe and that drives loyalty to our hotel.
What are some of your achievements, and what ambitions do you have?
Hearing that I made a difference to the people I have worked with in their careers. Ensuring the team has the opportunity to grow is imperative, and I get great satisfaction when members of the team get recognised and promoted. I would like to become a general manager; traditionally hotel companies have looked to operational managers for these roles, however I believe commercial awareness and the ability to manage owner relationships are two fundamental requirements in today’s climate.