People are the lifeblood of the hotel industry and to celebrate its 20th anniversary the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) recognised twenty hotel heroes at a special awards ceremony in the Observatory at Grand Central Hotel, Belfast, on Tuesday 10th September.
The excitement was palpable as the heroes were welcomed by host Pamela Ballantine and their significant contribution to the industry was recognised.
Hotel Hero, Paul Sharkey, Executive Chef at Bishop’s Gate Hotel said: “This event recognises the talented individuals who have contributed so much to their hotel and the hospitality sector over the years. I have worked as a Hotel Chef for 35 years in Northern Ireland and I enjoy every aspect of the role. I am delighted to be part of an award-winning team who strive to offer a genuine welcome to all our guests.
“Bishop’s Gate Hotel recently won Northern Ireland’s ‘Best Hotel Stay’ category at the prestigious NI Tourism Awards. We aim to ensure every visit is special, whether you are joining us to celebrate a formal occasion such as a wedding or if you simply want to enjoy lunch with family and friends or afternoon tea in The Gown Restaurant.”
“For many years, I have lectured at the North West Regional College encouraging young people to consider a career in hospitality. I am very proud of the talent that we have locally and I am committed to developing and maintaining professionalism within this fantastic sector. To be nominated for a NIHF Hotel Hero award is wonderful.”
Hotel Hero, Clare Campbell, Guest Services Manager at City Hotel Derry said: “I have been working at City Hotel Derry for over 17 years and I am a member of the senior management team. In my role as Guest Services Manager, I lead the accommodation team. With 30 members, it’s important that I invest time working alongside employees to bring out the very best in every individual. I am committed to ensuring a happy work environment and have introduced a number of quirky incentives to ensure staff have the opportunity to network and build positive relationships. For example, on ‘Cool Fridays’ staff receive cool drinks and ice cream on a Friday and enjoy lunch on our rooftop garden.
“I am also the Green Leader and I have been instrumental in driving the green vision within the hotel. Working with Invest NI and Carbon Trust to deliver energy saving initiatives, the hotel’s green endeavours have saved approximately £350K. Invest NI currently use City Hotel as a case study to inspire other businesses to follow best practice.
“A firm believer in giving back, I am an ambassador for local charities and continue to drive the ‘recycling our waste’ agenda locally. I am delighted to receive the NIHF Hotel Hero award.”
Hotel Hero, Sean Kavanagh, Kitchen Porter at Everglades Hotel said: “I have been working with the team in the Everglades for a decade so it’s an honour to be nominated as a NIHF Hotel Hero. I started working in the hotel with the support of Mencap through the Workable (NI) Programme and I progressed from a placement, to a casual post, to a full-time permanent role as Kitchen Porter.
“Over the years, I have overcome many challenges and I am now recognised as a true team player. I work closely with the chefs and with other kitchen porters, helping to make sure everything is in the right place and that our food, service and hygiene standards are maintained and indeed surpassed. I have been complimented for my friendliness and dedication and I enjoy every day in my role.”
Hotel Hero, Emma Davis, Reservations Manager at the White Horse Hotel said: “I have worked at the White Horse Hotel for 16 years. I started working in the restaurant, progressing to supervisor positions before becoming a receptionist. I was fortunate to secure the post of Head Receptionist before taking on the Reservations Manager role. My career path is an inspiration to others and demonstrates that the hospitality sector provides a variety of roles for those who are considering choosing this pathway.
“I am delighted to have been instrumental in growing room occupancy rates by tapping into key booking platforms and building relationships with key stakeholders. Teamwork is critical. I keep in regular contact with staff to ensure we make every hotel guest’s stay a pleasant one. To be nominated for the NIHF Hotel Hero award is testament to the hard work and dedication of the team.”
Congratulating the recipients Gavin Carroll, President of the NIHF, said: “As an organisation, we felt it was fitting to celebrate our people. They are unique and it is their individuality that gives our industry its personality. We know that the commitment of our staff and the passion that they have for the industry ensures that guests have a great stay. We were delighted with the response and we had a diverse range of nominations.
“The industry has grown dramatically over the last two decades and our staff remain central to our success. We asked members to nominate someone within their business who has really made a difference. The person may have been performing a valuable ‘back of house’ role or meeting customers each day. Either way their contribution has been noted as enhancing the overall hotel experience.”
The twenty hotel heroes received an individual trophy on the night and have been invited along as guests to this year’s Hospitality Exchange which takes place on 15th and 16th October in Crowne Plaza Belfast.
Discussing the employment opportunities that the industry holds Gavin added:”The hotel sector has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. The number of hotel rooms has doubled. We increased jobs by 100% and the roles that we have to offer have diversified. It is important that we attract more people into the industry and it is therefore imperative that we increase awareness of the opportunities available.”
“The excellent careers that we can provide in hotels and the wider hospitality industry need to be recognised and celebrated. Image has been an issue for the sector for some time. We are keen to play our part in addressing any misconceptions and highlighting the opportunities a career in hospitality presents.”