To celebrate the long awaited reopening of hotels in the UK on May 17 (and of course further easing of lockdown), we spoke to two GMs about how they’ve been readying for reopening! The second of two interviews is with Andrew Coney FIH, GM at The Hari.
Firstly, huge congratulations at being named Travellers Choice Best Hotel on Trip Advisor! How do you feel?
Absolutely ecstatic. It is quite something to be announced as No1 hotel in the UK and the team absolutely deserve the acknowledgement. This is our fifth anniversary of becoming The Hari and it is so gratifying to have guests vote and recognise the way we approach service and provide something very different, spontaneous and exceptional.
Tell us about your career to date.
I left school and started working in a kitchen, a huge culture shock for a school kid who had aspirations to be an immediate award winning actor and at the very least a manager of a 5 star hotel. Initially I hated it but the bug quickly took its course and ever since I have loved every single day. I have travelled all over the world and I have had the most extraordinary experiences, hospitality gave me the most incredible career path. Hotels I have managed have ranged from boutique to 1000 rooms and I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the most outstanding people who have joined me in creating a unique guest service.
What made you go into hospitality?
At school we were asked for three career preferences. I chose Acting, Undertaking and Hotel Management. I probably lacked the talent to cut is an actor, the funeral route was probably a mischievous side swipe at school career planning as we were all meant to be bankers or lawyers and hotel management was based upon some holiday work. I spent two summers working in a small hotel in Cornwall and was guided by a mentor who knew exactly what hospitality meant – being hospitable! She was the epitome of what every hotelier should aspire to be – eccentric, amusing, entertaining and professional.
As we approach May 17, how have you been preparing for reopening?
Exactly the same way we have after the last two lockdowns, we just get back on with it. I salute my team for the way they so efficiently and positively return after these wretched breaks. The energy and enthusiasm is incredible. As an industry we should be so proud of the resilience that our teams have displayed despite this awful on/off way we have had to cope with.
What change in government policy is crucial to help the recovery of the hospitality industry moving forward?
We face a very real recruitment crisis driven by both Brexit and Covid. Government needs to help with European work force flow to enable recruitment into the vast number of roles that are vacant and will be created.
What can companies do to tackle the people and skills shortages in the post-Brexit, post lockdown UK?
Let us work hand in hand with bodies like the IoH and Springboard UK to make even stronger connections with education and drive more interest in our sector. Apprenticeships, training and mentoring are key right now. We need to be collaborative and avoid just poaching one another’s talent and salary battles that many small businesses just cannot fight.
Which sectors of our industry do you expect will lead recovery in 2021 and beyond?
On current trend it would appear to be the UK resorts that are striding ahead with excellent occupancies forecast for the summer, capitalising on the Staycation market and desperation by many to get to sunshine and relaxation away from home. With a still very unclear picture about broader overseas travel it is inevitable that people will be hesitant about booking flights away from home. The cities will be waiting with heavy expectation for the borders to eventually open and business and leisure travel to return in any volume.
What is your main area of focus to help the industry drive recovery?
Continuing to lobby government and professional bodies to push for assistance to the hospitality industry allowing recovery and confidence to allow everyone to start to invest again in people and product.
At the hotel we see the need to be flexible and creative, we are collaborating with new partners who have suffered similar tough times. We are working to showcase the work of art graduates and aligning with local shops like Harvey Nichols to attract UK domestic visitors to new, alternative experiences.
We are resilient people in hospitality and will be positive about driving ourselves back to the successful and essential part of the economy that we are.
What made you join the Institute of Hospitality?
I do not think there has ever been a time more pertinent for everyone to work together to strengthen our world of hospitality. I originally joined for better networking, sharing of knowledge and I believe strongly in the mentoring scheme. The turbulence is some way off going away and we have a duty to support those who have been impacted negatively, whether through job loss, mental wellbeing or career guidance.
Which elements of Membership did you use most during lockdown?
Networking was fabulous and kept us positive and the legal advice and general coping information was very valuable.
Tell us three things about you that no-one knows!
- I think Pimms is for life and not just for summer…
- I’m also of the opinion that Scallops are evil!
- I have cage dived with Great White sharks.