Harry Murray, chairman of Lucknam Park hotel & spa near Bath, is a judge for the Hotelier of the Year award, which is now in its 30th year. A former recipient of the title, he tells Janie Manzoori-Stamford what he looks for in a winner
What was the impact on your career of being named Hotelier of the Year in 1986?
It had an enormous impact on my career. Although I am a self-motivated and ambitious person, this award inspired me to set even higher standards. The award also raised my profile in the industry and helped me to mentor and inspire others to achieve higher goals.
How has the professional standing of hoteliers changed in the past 30 years?
Far more hoteliers now have a degree in hotel management than they did in the past and many reach senior positions without the traditional style of training that I undertook. There is also an increase in hoteliers specialising in specific areas of the business, such as food and beverage, human resources, marketing, finance and technology.
As a judge of the Hotelier of the Year award, what are you looking for in a winner? I'm looking for someone who is passionate and totally committed to the hospitality Industry, who is well respected by his or her peers for achieving quality standards and value for money.
They must have an exemplary business track record and be an inspirational leader who motivates a dedicated team to achieve a shared vision. They must also have a strong attention to detail and lead by example.
Our winner will have a dedicated training and development programme for staff and will be an excellent communicator who interacts well with guests and their team.
They must embrace social responsibility by supporting charitable initiatives involving their team and they must also be innovative and creative to ensure that guests consistently experience the ‘wow' factor.
This is the 30th year of the awards. Have the qualities necessary to be a good hotelier changed over the years? The job is far more complicated today and requires more resources (financial, human, technologies) than in the past because of the speed of technology and the growing dependency on external factors.
The industry and trends are moving at an enormous pace and, as mentioned above, there is now a need for more specialist roles. A hotelier of today also has to manage up the line because of the development of separate owners/asset managers/marketing consortia. Sadly, in my opinion, the tradition of the hotelier walking the floor and interacting with guests and staff is a dying art.
You have now retired from day-to-day hotel management. How actively are you still involved in the industry? In addition to my role as chairman of Lucknam Park, I am fully involved with the hospitality industry. I am a governor of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, a director of the UK's first hotel school (Wivenhoe House/Edge Hotel School) a Master Innholder and Liveryman, a life patron of Springboard, a patron of Hospitality Action, a member of the SW committee of the British Hospitality Association, and chairman of the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.
Do you know of a hotelier that embodies many of the above qualities? Visitwww.hotelcateys.comfor details on how to nominate. Deadline for entries is 9 August.