Kelly Staunton AIH is this year’s winner of the IoH Aspiring Managers Awards organised by our London Branch. Kelly entered her first management role just eight months ago, as Guest Relations Manager at The Midland Hotel. We talked to Kelly to find out more about her role and what winning this award means to her.
Tell us about your current role in hospitality.
As a Guest Relations Manager, my role involves providing professional and high end guest service experiences. Analysing customer feedback and providing strategic direction to continuously improve the overall rating of guest satisifaction. On a daily basis at The Midland I am working with various departments in the hotel to ensure the smooth running of the business.
Also, working as a Duty Manager on top of my daily Guest Relations Manager role, I work closely with the front office team to meet and greet VIP guests and organisers by escorting them to the rooms and liasing closely with their needs. The Midland is one of Leonardo’s biggest and busiest hotels consisting of 312 bedrooms, two award winning AA Rosette restaurants Adam Reid at The French and Mr Coopers, award winning Tea Room, award winning urban spa, an iconic lounge and bar, and 14 meeting spaces. Working as a Guest Relations Manager requires passion, a strong energy and continuous attention to detail on a daily basis.
What do you love most about working in Guest Relations?
I love Guest Relations as it involves working in an ever changing, dynamic and fast paced environment. Guest Relations gives me day to day challenges which I enjoy overcoming, and the opportunity to interact with people from around the world.
You recently won the London Aspiring Manager Awards, how did this make you feel?
Winning the award has given me such an overwhelming feeling and its a great boost for me to continue striving for excellence in everything I do at The Midland Hotel and Leonardo Hotels. I feel inspired to continue and develop my achievements further.
How important are awards like this for the hospitality industry?
Awards like the Aspiring Manager Award and similar are important as they recognise and promote rising stars within the industry. These awards are important for the industry as they can showcase the raw talent and dedication young hospitality professionals have. Awards like these are important to the hospitality industry as it publiscing to other organisations around the world what the ever changing hospitality industy can offer. Giving employees the opportunity to apply for these awards, provides them with the motiviation and insight to strive towards achieving something within the hospitality industry. These awards are not only important for the hospitality industry, however they can be an extension to an employee’s life.
When you were growing up did you always want to work in hospitality?
Since I was around 10 years old I have always wanted to own a hotel and I have always loved luxury décor and establishments. At the age of 14 I got my first job in hospitality as a housekeeper working part time around my studies. I have always wanted to work in hotels and become a General Manager.
What skills do you need to be a successful manager?
To be a successful manager within the thriving hospitality industry it is important to have a strong passion and dedication to your role. Excellent communication, interpersonal and leadership skills are key. It is important to convey the ability to motivate, discipine other staff members and remain calm under pressure.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
My career highlight was graduating from the University of Central Lancashire in BA (Hons) International Hospitality Management with a first class honours, and was lucky enough to be selected on a graduate program in Guangzhou China at the 1200 bedroom five star Marriott Hotel, as a Front Office Management Trainee. Whilst doing the graduate program I was studying full time, long distance for an LLM (Masters of Law) International Business Law with University of Central Lancashire. This was a challenege for me to balance both studying and working in a very diverse and new environment.
Working in Guangzhou China has been a career highlight as it was certainly an eye opener with a complete change of culture. I had to quickly adapt to the new environment and start to learn Mandarin on my days off. Only 20% off the guests were International and the rest where local Cantonese. This meant communicating in both English and Mandarin. Moreover, as a Management Trainee I had to learn how to lead a large front office team of 30+ staff members working on the front desk, concierge, executive lounge and guest services. It pushed me to the limit to develop my confidence and adapt new skills.
What makes hospitality such a special industry to work in?
Hospitality is one of the most thriving and ever changing international industries. It offers the unique experience of having the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. The hospitality industry allows you to develop yourself – professionally and as a person. Not only do you improve on professional skills, you experience situations that will put you to the test and make you develop as an overall person. This industry is emotionally rewarding too. You get to see the outcome of your efforts straight away. You might have to implement an up-selling initiative? If you do it right, you’ll see numbers grow from the first day. Perhaps you have to greet some newlyweds. If you’re truly hospitable, you’ll see their grateful smiles and know you added to their joy.
How do you think we can attract more people to see hospitality as a long-term career choice?
To answer this question I asked various team members of different age ranges of their thoughts and ideas. It is important that hospitality can be seen a long-term career choice by picturing the benefits to the millennial generation. Starting young in the hospitality has paid off, as I have now worked my way up to become a successful manager at 24 within the diverse hospitality industry. Hospitality is a multimillion pound industry that has jobs all around the world requiring different skill sets. Therefore there are always opportunities for people to develop and be promoted to a higher level. Now, I’m not necessarily thinking financial rewards! As you probably know, hospitality is not well-paid in the entry level positions. However, there is good news too! If you are passionate and driven, you soon find yourself managing million-pound departments. The responsibility can be awesome.
Which elements of membership of the Institute of Hospitality do you utilise the most?
I joined IoH a year ago and the elements which I have used the most are the online resources and quarterly magazine. I find both of these very insightful with all the current trends and updates of the ever changing hospitality industry. Being a member of the Institute of Hospitality will provide me with support and advice at every stage of my career. Additionally, I attend the networking events that take place throughout the year. This is to engage with other members and hospitality people throughout the country.