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Obituary: hospitality journalist and PR Miles Quest dies at 81

21 September 2018 by

Journalist and PR Miles Quest, who was one of the major chroniclers of the UK hospitality industry over the past 50 years, has died of cancer at the age of 81.

After studying hotel management, Quest went on to write about the hospitality industry in various journalistic roles before setting up his own PR company during which he most notably became the spokesperson of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) for more than 10 years. He was also the author of two seminal books. With former hotel owner Peter Nannestad he penned How to buy and manage your own hotel, while together with Jim Cartwright he wrote a comprehensive history of contract catering Service on a Plate.

Born in Newport, south Wales, in 1937, Quest grew up in the border city of Hereford, where he attended the Hereford Cathederal School. In 1957 he started a four-year diploma course in hotel management at the Battersea College of Technology, a forerunner of Surrey University.

However, after deciding that an operational role in hotels was not for him, Quest, having always loved writing, decided to apply his knowledge of the hospitality industry as a contributor to a number of trade publications including Caterer & Hotelkeeper (the forerunner of The Caterer), Hotel Review and Catering Times.

In 1966 he was appointed head of information services at the Hotel and Catering Industry Training Board. Two years later he became editor of the Catering Times, a role he held until 1981.

Quest then set up his PR consultancy business Wordsmith & Co, where he was eventually joined by two partners Alan Sutton and Diane Needham (who later became his third wife). Wordsmith & Co had many clients in hospitality and tourism, including Jersey Tourism, with which Quest was involved in advising on setting a statutory hotel grading scheme on the island, and InterContinental Hotels Group.

Wordsmith & Co's most notable client was the BHA, during which time he worked closely with the organisation's chief executive Bob Cotton. Quest and Cotton had met in 1967, when Cotton was a first-year degree student at Battersea College of Technology, where Quest was visiting as a former student. Contact between them continued when Quest was editor of Catering Times and Cotton worked for Trusthouse Forte and Gardner Merchant.

Cotton described Quest as "the best hospitality journalist of his generation". He added: "Having studied the subject he had a real understanding of the issues impacting the industry, whether it was training policies or how the changing ownership of hotels impacted guests. Miles had a real insight into the sector and always got to the nub of the story."

Quest's role as PR consultant to the BHA ended soon after Cotton stepped as chief executive in 2010. However, the friends and colleagues continued to work together, writing a variety of article on the hospitality industry for numerous publications.

"Miles' advice on handling the press was invaluable. He was someone who believed in facing the press and not hiding and knew which battles to fight. He provided an enormous contribution to the industry from the sidelines via his journalism and books."

Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain, reviewed How to buy and manage your own hotel for The Caterer in 2015, when he wrote: "Miles Quest has observed and commented on the hotel scene for four decades and his close involvement with the British Hospitality Association in recent years has made him unusually well-informed."

He told The Caterer: "When I started going to events organised by the BHA, Miles was always there, making sure the press got the right story and the photographer got perfect shots. But it was his books and articles that will last as proof of his deep understanding of the business of hospitality."

Miles Quest is survived by his third wife Diane, who he married in 2015 after they had been together 29 years, two children Katie and Stephen, and four grand-sons.

Quest's funeral will take place on 4 October at 11.30am at Chilterns Crematorium in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. Anyone who knew Quest is welcome to attend.

Bob Cotton looks back at his decade at the helm of the BHA >>

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