It's a new year and a new challenge for Christopher Cottam, who this month takes over the reins as general manager at Forest Pines Golf & Country Club, Broughton, North Lincolnshire.
The hotel has just had a £11.5m refurbishment and it's Cottam's job to push Forest Pines in the conference market now that it boasts purpose-built conference facilities for up to 364 delegates.
Cottam has joined the company at an exciting time, after QHotels paid £180m in November to add the 12-strong Marston Hotels group to its portfolio, boosting its estate to 21 (now 22).
Cottam's previous role as general manager at Marriott's Hanbury Manor hotel in Ware, Hertfordshire, taken on in 2003, saw him technically employed by the American giant but also accountable to the property's Middle Eastern owners.
Although it meant there was never a dull moment, there was "too much time with bank managers, lawyers and investors", and not enough time with his family, he says.
After the hotel won the Large Hotel of the Year award at the 2006 Enjoy England Awards for Excellence, Cottam decided to look for a new challenge, and reduce the amount of travelling he had to do.
Forest Pines, with its 188 bedrooms and 27-hole golf course, gives Cottam the opportunity to focus on pure general management once more and achieve a better balance between work and home life now that he isn't flying to the Middle East twice a month.
At Forest Pines, Cottam is able to combine his passion for golf and love of the hospitality industry he has had since joining the Clifton Arms hotel in Lytham, Lancashire, as a deputy restaurant manager in 1982.
Cottam took on his first general management position in 1998 at the age of 23 when his boss at the Cumbria Grand hotel at Grange-over-Sands had to retire because of poor health.
Changing jobs every 18 months or so since then has allowed Cottam to gain skills and win promotion quickly.
By the age of 30 he was one of the youngest general managers running a five-star hotel in the UK - the Imperial hotel in Torquay, Devon - and roles in Chepstow and Coventry followed.
Cottam's parting advice for anyone set on a career in luxury hotels is straightforward. "I find that the longer the driveway, the greater the expectations of the guest," he says.
Forest Pines has…
- Annual turnover £6.5m (2006)
- Bedrooms 188
- Staff 250
- Rack rate £139
- Annual occupancy 70%
Cottam's key responsibilities
Managing golf and leisure facilities managing corporate clients sales motivating the team
By Catherine Bennion-Pedley