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Stewart Selbie – My Life in Hospitality

16 October 2009 by
Stewart Selbie – My Life in Hospitality

Stewart Selbie is the general manager of the Turnberry Resort hotel, in Ayrshire.

Stewart Selbie may be in his 10th year as general manager of the 200-bedroom Turnberry hotel in Ayrshire, but during his 20-year-long career he has worked in six countries across three continents. "I've always been interested in the workings of hotels, and I never really wanted to do anything else. I grew up in Glasgow but I've always been excited about not staying in the same place, and it is more by coincidence than design that I'm back on the west coast," he says.

After graduating from the British Transport Hotels management training programme, Selbie joined Starwood Hotels & Resorts at the Carlton in Johannesburg as assistant banqueting manager. Over the ensuing five years he learnt the fundamentals in hospitality as he progressed up to assistant director of food and beverage before transferring to the Westin Stamford in Connecticut as food and beverage director.

After further stints in South Africa with Southern Sun Hotels and in Edinburgh as resident manager of the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa, Selbie transferred to the Sheraton Skyline in Heathrow and finally to the Sheraton in Stockholm. It was from here that he was lured back to the UK to take up the general manager position at the Turnberry Resort hotel - an offer he said was "too good to turn down".

In 2006 Selbie led the hotel through its centenary celebrations with a series of events and, more recently, he worked closely with Turnberry's new owners, Leisurecorp, to oversee its renovation programme ahead of this summer's golf Open Championship.

If strong people skills are useful for getting ahead in the hospitality industry, Selbie stresses that strong leadership is essential. "You have to like people to succeed in hospitality, but leadership is fundamentally important. People are really important. Never forget that. You can have a fantastic physical product but without great people it won't work, and vice versa," he says.

HIGHS… Hosting the golf Open Championship at Turnberry was a real high. We were closed for eight months for refurbishment leading up to the event, and the project ran on longer than it should have.

We were so close to the wire and most people were saying it couldn't be done. We literally had 200 builders in the hotel on Friday working at 100mph and then we opened on Saturday for the beginning of the event. There was a great sense of teamwork and it was very stressful, but we definitely pulled it off against all the odds with a fantastically smooth opening.

LOWS…When we opened the Turnberry for the Open Championship we were running on pure adrenalin, but a week later there was this huge sense of anticlimax. It was a huge low and a real effort to keep the team motivated. We were still pretty busy, though, so we had to keep going.

I spoke to my immediate executive committee to make sure they were completely focused and, in turn, sending the right messages to their staff, encouraging them and thanking them for all their hard work.

Age 52
Family Married with twin daughters
Drives Mercedes
Favourite holiday Skiing in Whistler, Canada
Working motto Never forget how important the people in the business are, as they make all the difference


  • 2009 Golf Open Championship at Turnberry - "the most important tournament in the world of golf"
  • 1994 General manager, Sheraton Skyline, London


We're all trying to manage our costs but do not lose sight of maintaining quality, as you will find yourself on a downward spiral and it will come back to bite you.

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