By Susan Young
When Angela Vickers, CEO at Apex Hotels, asked me to take on the HIT Chair’s Challenge and organise a health and wellbeing event for the industry I took up the bat… literally.
Last month the first of two events took place. Hospitality leaders joined me and a team of speakers at Archerfield House Hotel to learn and talk about health and wellbeing in hospitality, but we also looked at what steps can be
taken to improve the health and wellbeing of their businesses – so it was a two-fold approach.
I believe that if you start at the top the lessons learned filter down – and
also there can’t be a much more stressful job than running a successful business because there are always challenges along the way. Early in the New Year, I plan to organise an event for employees which will
complete the Challenge.
Fraser McIlwraith – Dark Art Drinks
It seemed sensible to start with someone who has come up through the ranks and who has himself experienced the highs and the lows of hospitality.
Fraser McIlwraith of Dark Art Drinks took us through some of his own experiences working in the trade. His journey included getting to the stage where he saw the benefits of looking after his health and wellbeing through exercise, diet and sleep and he credits his time working for Buzzworks as a life-changer. Fraser told us, “When I was working in a Vodka Wodka it was very successful and we worked hard and we played hard. I don’t think I was ever really completely sober. But that was the norm at the time.” He went on to run Booly Mardy’s which was also very successful before taking some time out to travel. When he came back he joined Buzzworks in Ayrshire and this is when his lifestyle changed.
Says Fraser, “They organised events for staff to participate in such as running a 10km. To participate you had to look after your diet and
get fit but there was also the team spirit that made you want to do it. But another key point was the fact that they were based in Ayrshire so I had to drive every morning!”
Today Fraser runs his own drinks consultancy, is embracing a vegan-diet, spends a good amount of time in the gym and he and wife Lauren are
committed to a lifestyle which still manages to embrace all that is good about hospitality, but always with an eye on their own health and wellbeing.
Next up was David Collins, the co-founder of The Great National Group, which was founded in 2010. The Great National Group is now one of Ireland and the UK’s largest privately owned hotel services companies supporting over 140 independently owned properties throughout Ireland and the UK. Great National comprises two separate hotel brands, ‘Great National
Hotels and Resorts’ and ‘Classic British Hotels’, the latter having been acquired in 2018. See our case study on page 16 for a great example of a
Great National also owns and operates specialist rooms revenue agency, Revanista.com which provides a range of proven in-sourcing solutions for hotels including digital marketing, OTA/GDS management, call centre support and yield optimisation. Revanista also provides software solutions which deliver hotels enhanced rate and channel agility.
David revealed that he has been in the hospitality business for 36 years and in fact previously worked for Stakis Hotels from 1987 to 1993, initially in hotel operations and latterly in group operations as Stakis’ group marketing
He shared with the group some of his business successes, some pragmatic lessons learned from both his commercial interests and personal pursuits which include surfing. He has also invented a paddle pillow which helps people with lower back problems surf.
Julie Hanson, Seasonal Yoga Academy
It wasn’t surfing that our next collaborator was talking about but breathing. Julie Hanson the yoga guru who founded the Seasonal Yoga Academy, who is also one of the foremost yoga teachers in the country, had everyone breathing properly.
Julie, who has more than 40 years experience in health, fitness and wellbeing gave us her talk on looking after ourselves and employees too.
Julie has written various books including Deconstructing Yoga and Energy in Season.
Next morning she took us all through a morning Nidra – no yoga mats were required but it certainly was a great start to the day. Climate change and, excuse the pun, is a ‘hot’ topic at the moment and who better to tell
us about the benefits of going Green for hotel business than Steve Macfarlane of Glenuig Inn.
In 2007 Steve set out to demonstrate that it was possible to run a leisure and tourism business efficiently and profitably with minimal environmental footprint. His vision was to develop an energy-efficient building from existing building stock rather than starting from scratch with an eco-build.
12 years on, Glenuig Inn, on the Sound of Arisaig on Scotland’s West Coast, is not only described as Scotland’s exemplar green Inn but holds a clutch of awards in recognition of the fact. Through hard work and determination, Steve has incorporated wide-reaching environmental improvements as part of a holistic approach to running a successful business: including 100% renewable energy, zero food waste leaving site, 97.5% reduction in waste to landfill, sustainable supply chain management, lower energy bills in winter than summer and passive ventilation in the main building.
The Inn is also regularly used as an exemplar at the Scottish Parliament, was a case study at the National Economic Forum 2017 and more recently has been featured as a case study in the publication of Scotland’s progress to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). It is also award winning. It was European Business Awards for the Environment runner up 2018/19 Green Hotelier 2018 Global Winner – Waste Green Apple Award – Scottish Green Champion 2018.
He certainly got everyone thinking and the questions flowed mainly around ‘How do you scale up? There is no-one more passionate about it than Steve, and he certainly made a very good environmental and business case for going green.
At dinner, everyone got a chance to talk about their own business challenges and got an opportunity to meet some new people.
Next morning Michael Rao, Scottish Business Development Manager UK & Ireland, for STR took us through some industry figures which demonstrated that the over-provision of hotel rooms, particularly in Glasgow is having a negative effect on room rates. He gave an overview of the global market, then the UK, and then broke it down to the regions and Scotland. STR work with 66,000 hotels worldwide – and get information on some 9 million rooms. Every month they get data on performance, which includes occupancy and revenue per room. This allows them to do analysis and forecasts.
Said Michael, “Around the world, it’s a bit of a mixed picture. Europe has seen 2% growth. But there has been a slow down in Asia and Australia and Oceania – due to fewer Chinese travellers. All the world has suffered due to this fact.”
He explained that London has been quite resilient, but Edinburgh has seen a decline of just under 2% which he puts down to new supply. Every region outside of London is marginally down on occupancy but the average room rate has taken a bigger hit – which has been due to supply, economy and Brexit – as people have delayed travel in general.
“Glasgow is down almost 10% down due to new supply in the market.”
Kai McCabe Murray of the Kai Consultancy, a business coach, was next to speak. She specialises in guiding business leaders and their teams to play a bigger game effectively and sustainably. She had plenty to say. But she kicked off by asking a couple of questions. What three things (in business) do you spend 80% of your time on? And ‘what stage is your business at? The latter went from excited to disillusioned and from start-up to advanced growth.
She also asked the listeners to gauge whether they were mostly involved in Business Support, Business Management or Business Operations. She highlighted ‘Tony’s Mountains and Valleys’ devised by Tony Hsieh the man who sold Zappos to Amazon. In it, he has a satisfaction scale – he got more satisfaction from reconnecting with friends than from selling his company to Amazon. It was all very interesting and thought-provoking.
Gordon White, Managing Director of Fatbuzz, and our resident digital expert, also enlightened the H&W guests. He started off by suggesting that the amount of time businesses are investing in social media is not paying dividends and said that unless you were paying to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it wasn’t effective. He reminded us that if you are buying its not social media but advertising and suggested that if hoteliers were not paying for it, they might as well stand in a carpark and throw their money away. “Generally people we talk to are investing a disproportionate amount of time on social media for what they get. The only measurement worth looking at is ‘engagement’, and that said engagement had dropped like a stone on Facebook. However, I have to qualify that if you are paying the social media platforms are effective.”
He also told the delegates that although they may feel that Tripadvisor was the bane of their lives, in fact, it is, without exception, the most powerful tool they had. He went onto give some excellent advice with regard to what they should be doing.
Glen Dott, Specialist advisor, Co-operative Development Scotland/Scottish Enterprise and Carole Leslie to speak about another topic that is always at the forefront – succession planning and the potential of ‘Employee Ownership. See the following pages for some key information and a case study. Again there were plenty of questions for the duo..
And last but by no means least we finished off with a session on mindfulness and how to add it easily into your everyday life. The man who had the unenviable task of coming in at the end was Mark Pettigrew of Outstanding Results.
This was a one-off but several of the attendees have suggested it could be an ongoing event. I will leave that up to HIT.
A big thank you to Great National Hotels for supporting the event and Archerfield House too, as well as all our speakers.