2019 winner: Karen Tyson, Rudding Park
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Karen Tyson has made it her job to predict what guests of Rudding Park in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, want – down to the last detail.
With an innate ability to interpret analytics and forecast guests' behaviour, she has helped the independent hotel, spa, restaurant, golf, wedding and events venue grow to an annual revenue of £19.5m since she joined as revenue manager in 2007. As head of sales and revenue, she now leads a team of 26 people, incorporating reservations, events, sales and account development. And while Rudding Park has undoubtedly benefited from considerable investment over the years, including the launch of the £9.5m spa in 2017, Tyson is credited with being a critical factor in its success.
An advocate of ‘total revenue management', Tyson has introduced a holistic approach, incorporating reactive and proactive sales. She understands the most profitable revenue streams and is responsible for the sales budget, forecasts and analysis. Tyson isn't afraid to make difficult decisions.
For example, while she recognised the benefits of automated revenue management systems, the complexity of Rudding Park's business meant that they could prove restrictive. Instead, she opted for individual systems, led by selling strategies for each area of the business, which allows the team to be more agile, maximising all the individual room revenue opportunities. She has introduced clever measures, such as dynamic pricing, and spotted opportunities to drive more covers in the restaurant in the quieter early evening time with the ‘Supper and Spa' – a restaurant and spa access package – which has generated impressive revenue.
She has also been quick to recognise slowing demand in the crowded wedding venue market and reviewed and relaunched Rudding Park's offering with the support of the marketing team – the result has been 19 more weddings booked for 2020 versus this time last year.
When it comes to innovation, Tyson has worked with technology provider Avvio to create a spa web booking engine tailored to Rudding Park's needs after demand outstripped expectation and left staff fielding 14,000 calls per month at peak times. Another new initiative has been a Black Friday sale to event bookers, offering a 15% discount to high-value enquiries or unconfirmed business on the books, provided it was contracted by the end of the month. The result was a significant upswing in bookings, with one high-value client rebooking for 2020.
This and many other initiatives – not to mention Tyson's involvement with Rudding Park's charitable work, which raised £265,000 for Barnardo's last year – made her a clear winner.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
"Karen's embrace of total revenue management pushed her entry beyond that of other candidates. Her achievements have helped build a property of outstanding growth and performance."
Ally Northfield, managing director, Revenue by Design
"Karen is the epitome of commercial success at Rudding Park. Her ability to see the whole picture made the decision to choose her as the winner much easier."
Jane Pendlebury, chief executive, HOSPA
Danielle Blank Dalata Hotel Group Marie Boyez InterContinental London Park Lane, London Daniela Corasaniti Longueville Manor, St Saviour, Jersey Yash Taneja Crowne Plaza London Docklands Karen Tyson Rudding Park, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
2018 Amy Ayers, Holiday Inn Winchester 2017 Rachel Perry, Radisson Blu Edinburgh 2016 Olga Sommer, Ham Yard hotel, London 2015 Catherine Bernard, Lancaster London 2014 Helle Nørgaard Beattie, Hyatt Regency London – the Churchill
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