Each we we give you the opportunity to quiz a leading figure in Sussex. This week Your Interview features Guy Hilton, the general manager of the Brighton Hilton Metropole in Kings Road He reveals the odd things guests leave behind, new plans for the hotel and what he thinks of the i360
PAUL YATES-SMITH: What’s the strangest item in your lost property department?
GUY HILTON (GH): We once found a set of false teeth – it’s amazing what people accidentally leave behind in their hotel rooms. Luckily, we managed to get in touch with the guest and safely return the item.
NICK MOSLEY: As a business leader who has worked extensively within a Destination Management Organisation (DMO) structure in north east England, do you think a DMO would be a positive step for tourism in Brighton and the surrounding region?
GH: During my time in the north east, I worked closely with Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI). NGI is the destination marketing agency for Newcastle and Gateshead, created by Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council as a publicly and privately funded business.
As well as working with NGI, I was a board member and chair of the Area Tourism Department for Tyne and Wear, and quickly realised the benefits to all parties who worked in partnership with the initiative. A combination of funding from both public and private sectors drives benefits and awareness of a region, as both a destination for business and leisure tourism.
With a DMO, I do believe that there would be benefits for a destination such as Brighton. Joining different sectors together would offer a combined focus, creating a greater experience for all, whether that be living, learning, working or visiting. It would certainly provide greater economic benefit across the city and surrounding regions.
There is currently a lot of great work done by a number of different organisations, but I do believe the overriding voice would be stronger if all or some of those organisations worked more closely together. However, I also believe that a decision should not be rushed into.
Brighton and the surrounding region has so much to offer and with the need to compete with so many other developing cities it is certainly not a time to be complacent or do nothing, but I also do not believe any decision can be rushed into, as any change must be sustainable for the long term and not a short term solution with no long term stability.
CAROLINE BROWN: When are you going to refurbish the rooms?
GH: We have a planning meeting scheduled for the end of the year to look at forward planning for the refurbishment of rooms. We recently also refurbished the hotel’s Waterhouse Terrace and Bar. We unveiled a dramatic renovation, using local award-winning interior designers and architects earlier this year. The new look, inspired by grand bistros, reflects and evokes the longstanding heritage of the hotel.
DAVID WALKER: What is your view on the Living Wage?
GH: Hilton Worldwide’s movement towards the Living Wage is something the company has been evaluating for some time. However, in the current market environment the focus has remained on the retention and creation of jobs within its hotels.
Hilton Worldwide continues to review its employee benefit proposition and understands that it has responsibility for all those working within its hotels. Across the country Hilton Worldwide continues to create thousands of new jobs, offers a wide range of development opportunities and remains actively involved in key issues affecting the industry, including youth unemployment.
A RESIDENT OF SUSSEX HEIGHTS: Why is there no agreement between the hotel and Sussex Heights over extending parking permits when a property is sold?
GH: The hotel car park is provided for the use of guests and customers of the hotel, whether they are hotel residents or attending meetings, events or visiting the restaurant or bar. There has never been an agreement – however, when Sussex Heights was first developed, owners were offered the opportunity to rent parking spaces and there are some Sussex Heights residents who still do this.
FROM THE WEB: How is your food waste managed? Do you contribute to a food bank?
GH: We manage our food waste through daily kitchen management, driven by our executive chef and his experienced team. Through analysing and reviewing the amount of produce prepared and cooked, we are able to naturally reduce wastage.
Food for banqueting is also cooked to order to cater for the exact number of guests attending the event. We are currently researching the benefits and value-add of food banks and continue to look at opportunities this could provide.
FROM THE ARGUS: What steps has the Hilton Brighton Metropole taken to reduce its carbon footprint?
GH: Across our portfolio of conservation-friendly hotels and corporate offices, Hilton Worldwide has made a five-year commitment, from 2009 to 2014, to reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions and waste output by 20%, and to reduce water consumption by 10%. Hilton Worldwide has already achieved its five-year goal to reduce total waste output by 20% - a full two years ahead of schedule.
Hilton Worldwide’s LightStay scheme has also been a great success. LightStay is the proprietary sustainability measurement system – it’s a brand standard across the Hilton Worldwide portfolio and helps improve hotel performance and profitability while decreasing the company's overall impact. Every brand and hotel globally is required by brand standards to measure and make continual improvements to their overall sustainability results as part of LightStay.
In September, Hilton Worldwide announced the 2011 results of LightStay. Overall, the programme has resulted in almost £92 million in cumulative savings from increased efficiency.
Hilton Brighton Metropole has contributed to the LightStay scheme in numerous ways, but most recently we have had the chandeliers in reception rewired with energy efficient light bulbs and we are in the process of changing all of the lights in the hotel to long life bulbs. We have also replaced the lights in the car park and back of house with LED lighting, further reducing our carbon emission. A member of our team has voluntarily taken on board a ‘switch off’ policy encouraging other team members to switch lights and computers off when not in use.
FROM THE WEB: Are you in favour of the i360?
GH: I believe the building of the i360 will offer an interesting and alternative tourism attraction that has the potential to generate increased footfall to businesses along the seafront, including Hilton Brighton Metropole. Any attraction that allows more of the seafront to be utilised and enjoyed by both residents and visitors is a good thing, especially if this generates further development that the whole of the city will benefit from.
FROM THE WEB: Does the Brighton Centre need improving urgently and is conference business suffering as a result?
GH: Since my appointment as general manager at Hilton Brighton Metropole, the Brighton Centre has invested millions of pounds to improve the venue. I believe this has attracted both new and repeat business. Likewise, Hilton Brighton Metropole also benefited from investment into improving facilities. It is this continued investment that allows Brighton to compete more favourably against cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London, which are natural hubs for Conference and Events.
I would certainly herald the success of the returning party political conferences, the union events and other large city-wide events as a success story. This has been driven by better products and improved marketing, as well as a focus from VisitBrighton and the team at the Brighton Centre. I don’t believe business is suffering.
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