BHN talks to Adam Rowledge about his role as GM in a central London boutique hotel.
• Can you tell us about your background, and why and when you decided to enter the hospitality industry?
“I started my career aged 16 as a banqueting waiter in a local large conference hotel. This was just to earn money initially, but I soon fell in love with it and spent the next two years while at college and during my gap year working in all the departments in the property and eventually into a group accounting role.”
“From there I went to study in Birmingham and started working for Hotel du Vin part-time, before moving to a full-time role in their Henley-on-Thames hotel once I graduated. I then embarked on the first of two stints with Hand Picked Hotels. I’ve since had the pleasure of working in some fantastic properties, such as The Grand Hotel & Spa in York, South Lodge and The Hempel, before joining the team at Georgian House two years ago.”
• What attracted you to Georgian House and the boutique hotel sector rather than working with one of the big hotel chains?
“I was inspired by the vision hotel partner Serena von der Heyde has for the hotel and the values of the business really resonated with me. I felt that it was the perfect opportunity to make a real difference to the business commercially and to the team. For a small business, we have big aspirations and so far, have been very successful in achieving them by being innovative and flexible with our approach and empowering the team and utilising their skill set as best we can.”
• London is one of the most competitive hotel markets in the world – what are your biggest challenges and opportunities as GM of a central London boutique hotel?
“I think that we all know the employee challenges that our industry faces are huge, as well as the changing political and economic landscape, which has caused a number of issues and opportunities. For me, one of the biggest challenges is how we continually adapt to stay ahead of our competition and the role that technology plays in this. I’m sure that most hoteliers would be the first to confess that they’re not techies so for GMs of independent hotels, it can be challenging to manage this without the specialist support of a team focusing on it.”
• As one of the younger GMs in the industry, do you think you bring a different approach? If so, how?
“I think that it’s not necessarily anything to do with my age but I think that one thing I try to really do is give our team all of the training, development and support that they need to do their job and let them get on with it. We have quite a collaborative culture at Georgian House and the team are empowered to run the business and take ownership for what we do.”
• What impact do you think Brexit and the weaker pound is having on the London market? Is it changing the guest demographic at Georgian House?
“The weaker pound is definitely having an impact on the market and has been a key contributor to our success over the last few months. As the pound has recovered slightly against the dollar, we have seen this effect decrease but despite the horrendous terrorist attacks that have taken place this year, the market has been quite resilient. The guest demographic hasn’t changed at Georgian House due to this, we welcome a high proportion of transient leisure travellers and the proportion of our international guests hasn’t really changed.”
• And how is Airbnb affecting your business? Would you consider listing inventory on Airbnb or similar?
“An increase in supply will always have an effect on business and we know that some guests who used to stay with us for events, such as the Chelsea Flower Show, are now using Airbnb solely due to pricing. Ultimately, I think that Airbnb offers a totally different experience from staying in the hotel, so the competition is not as direct as it is for other types of accommodation. Over the last 18 months, we have been continuously making improvements to the property to advance our guest experience, including refurbishing our F&B areas, creating more of our Wizard Chambers and launching a mini-cinema, and this is what makes us stand out from using Airbnb.”
• What would you say to young people considering a career in hospitality?
“A career in hospitality has given me opportunities beyond what I can imagine I’d have had in any other industry. I’ve met some truly amazing people, learned more than I ever thought I would about such a variety of subjects, and I have made some amazing friends and had such fun along the way.”
“In hospitality anyone can succeed, it’s a meritocracy, so it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what school you went to or your upbringing, everyone can make a real difference to their colleagues and guests from day one and I think that’s really powerful. I also feel that I’ve been so fortunate to have been inspired by some truly amazing people in our industry, and it’s truly humbling when someone tells you that you’ve inspired them and I think that’s something that we’re really great at in our industry.”
Adam Rowledge will be speaking at the 2018 Boutique and Lifestyle Hotel Summit in London. Click here for more information.