Pathways: Claire Gamble, group director of sales, Dakota Hotels
The group director of sales at Dakota Hotels speaks to Lisa Jenkins about dedicating her life to luxury hotels and the inspirational hoteliers who helped her on her way.
Did you study a hospitality-related course at university?
Yes, I completed a BA in hospitality management.
Did you do any work experience in the industry at a young age?
I did some waitressing as well as a year's work experience with Forte Hotels, covering all departments including the kitchen and housekeeping.
What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?
I really wanted to own a coffee shop with a boutique next door – I thought it was a good start to study my degree.
How did you make the transition into a job in hospitality?
As soon as I graduated, I applied for a job at One Devonshire Gardens as a receptionist. When I was a young child, my Dad used to drive past the hotel and I always said to him I wanted to work there. It was the best hotel in Glasgow at the time and one of the best in the UK.
What was your first job in hospitality?
Waitressing at the Pancake Place – it was such a fab place at the time, serving homemade pancakes and coffee.
Were there any influences that encouraged you to take your career route?
Beverly Payne, who now manages the Conrad London St James, was a positive influence for me. She employed me in my first role as receptionist at One Devonshire Gardens after I graduated.
Beverly and Ken McCulloch promoted me to front of house manager within a year of starting. It was then that I realised I wanted to stay in luxury hotels and focus on the front of house/reception side of the business. I learned so much from them both.
What were some of the steps in your hospitality career?
After working at One Devonshire Gardens I helped to launch a recruitment agency, specialising in beauty, cosmetics and modelling, before moving back into hospitality – I missed it so much!
I moved to Monte Carlo in Monaco for a year and worked in several four- and five-star establishments before returning to One Devonshire Gardens to help with its relaunch to Hotel Du Vin. I moved into sales, focusing on the entertainment, media and sports markets. Then I became part of Principal Hotels' executive team, and when Principal was sold and IHG took over, I helped to rebrand all of the Principal hotels to Kimpton, InterContinental, Voco and more.
What industry networks have you been part of that have supported you in your career progression?
HIT Scotland has been a great charity to be part of, and I have completed the HIT Scotland leadership talent programme. I am also co-chair of the HIT Poets lunch.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced working in hospitality?
I would say the biggest challenge has been navigating through Covid. With multiple properties in Scotland and England, we've had to adapt to differing restrictions and lockdowns.
Do you have any regrets?
None that I can think of – though I wish I'd spent more time in Monaco and developing my languages.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Do it! I love the industry – it's hard work, but it's a sociable business with so many opportunities in different areas. And there's the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world.
What are your future career goals?
I am very happy where I am with Dakota Hotels. It's a brand I have always loved, with such a young energetic and professional team and plans to expand to more locations in the UK.
Who inspires you in the industry?
David Taylor, Sean Wheeler and my husband Nick Gamble, who I met while working at Hotel du Vin and Malmaison. They are all true gentlemen and an inspiration to many.
- June 2020-present Group director of sales, Dakota Hotels
- May 2016-June 2020 Director of sales: entertainment and media, IHG/Principal Hotels
- August 2010-May 2016 Group sales manager – entertainment, media and sport, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin
- September 2006-August 2010 Operations manager, Hotel du Vin Glasgow
- April 2004-September 2006 Front of house director, Mar Hall hotel, Glasgow
- February-March 2004 Front of house consultant, Malmaison Manchester
- June-December 2003 Manager, the Columbus hotel, Monaco
- March 2002-June 2003 Front of house/central reservations manager, Loch Lomond Golf Club, Argyll & Bute
- July 2001-March 2002 Sales and events manager, G1 Group
- August 1998-July 2001 Office and business development manager, Retail Solutions & Recruitment
- September 1993-August 1998 Sales/guest relations manager and front of house/duty manager, One Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow
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