I found Carey Duckworth, Head of Global Sales for Corinthia Hotels, a most professional and well-versed gentleman. He has a command of sales data at his fingertips, however, what’s more, he has a deep-rooted intuition and foresight of the complex forces which affect sales in the multifaceted hospitality world.
“The current appetite for luxury travel has returned at pace since the reduction of restrictions after the pandemic. I can assure you the demand for high-end luxury travel remains, and the top-producing markets, including the UK and the USA, clearly echo this demand. They’re all eyes when the product or service is of a level which is expected by high-network luxury leisure and corporate clients.
“Travel in these post-pandemic times with family members has also gained momentum with some different nuances. For example, in pre-pandemic times, people were also travelling with nannies. Now it’s a multi-generational family using time to explore and do things which were not prevalent in pre-pandemic.
“I have just prepared a six-monthly report where I assert all this appetite for luxury travel. And we have high hopes of a favourable scenario for our new openings, which will fit nicely within the luxury segment.
“The corporate scene is now improving, but slower than the blue-chip companies than we expected, since they are reviewing their travel programmes to balance raises on costs, of high tech or energy and are re-assessing the way their teams travel around the world. Face to face client engagement is still essential in the way corporate clients conduct business.”
Carey’s excitement about Corinthia’s new openings next year in New York, Rome, Brussels, and Bucharest was palpable. He speaks with an evident passion which reflects his interest and love for his work.
“Our new products will elevate us further in their respective markets and strengthen our Corinthia brand. We are working on a stronger, wider, and more consistent room product. If we expect people to pay high-end prices, we must supplement a better room product. An example is our Lisbon hotel which offers a sensational product, but sometimes we need to change perceptions since a hotel which has an established name as an events or conference venue may suffer to present itself for other services and market segments, which it would certainly be able to assume. Changing our clients’ perceptions is sometimes like walking on thin ice since one must avoid the pitfall that instead of widening the area of choice, one could risk failing the established perception and losing that as well.”
I wanted to test a formula with Carey: Growing interest = growing sales = growing demands = increase in personnel = increase in labour costs and difficulty finding new personnel.
Is this a path which could be managed to arrive at milder increases in costs?
“When you invest in a product, you must keep deeply rooted in your mind that the most essential thing in the organisation is the human element: people. But are people a cost? Or are they value to the business or an investment to drive additional or incremental revenue?
“I believe we should have the best people in the industry, in market and in the most fitting role. Remunerating the right people financially and with proper training and development. This has been one of Corinthia’s cornerstones—a firm belief in the value of people and their potential. Our new openings will be a further testing ground. We need to have a flow of people and cultural values to ensure that our new openings will contain and reflect the values of the Spirit of Corinthia. Of course, all this creates a heavy labour expense, but it is urgent to do it now, not when we open our new hotels. These new personnel must join our new ventures already versed in the Corinthia Spirit. Returns will follow if we have the best and invest in terms of people. As I said, rather than cost, it’s an investment. It’s the only way to compete in the highest market.”
Carey must keep his finger on the pulse of what’s going on. His job as Head of Global Sales is to keep the sales office aligned with Corinthia’s goals across the multiple market segments; generate opportunities through preferred partnerships, programmes, consortia, and corporate clients; and ensure that they are supportive of the on-property teams, individual plans, and strategies of robust communication plans, sales processes, and revenue delivery.
“I am here to ensure retention and acceleration of a drive to strategy and revenue into each of our locations, work with our sales and marketing plans to align and ensure we have the right people in the right market, that we are not missing any opportunity, that we are driving the brand and brand story into as many markets as we can whilst aligning ourselves to set budget parameters and achievable KPI’s (key performance indicators) of the hotels and our teams.”
Effective and clear communication seems to be the cornerstone of this drive.
“Absolutely! You learn this through experience and internally through the way the company operates. It is key to the right presentation, representation, and sale. We ensure our communication plan is crystal clear on what we are doing, what the hotels are doing and the alignment to what is coming from the centre, the topmost relevant people around a project. We coordinate with our PR and Marketing teams and offer a consistent message at the right time with the most effective impact and the best coverage to ensure the turning of the best opportunity into maximum revenue.”
Carey had mentioned goals several times, so I referred him to a saying that setting goals has become a minefield, given the current international scenario. There are a few who claim that COVID-19 has taught us a lesson that goals cannot be taken seriously. Others passionately disagree with this. Carey smiled broadly.
“You cannot seriously believe goals are unnecessary. On the contrary, they are essential to ensure a drive within a studied and pre-set vision and well-informed parameters. They serve as guiding lines, milestones, and finishing lines and strive us forth in the right direction at the right speed. I would say an adverse economic climate does not rule out goals but, on the contrary, render realistic goals more essential.”
And he speaks from a challenging experience. Before joining Corinthia in September 2011, he worked in London and Asia. He was well-versed in the corporate, consortia and the travel management world. So, how did Corinthia enter his life?
“I was asked to go for an interview. Naturally, I did my homework and had heard of Corinthia’s adventure to embark into a major gateway city. I was given a pre-opening look at Corinthia London Hotel, and I was blown away by what I saw and heard. Mr. Simon Naudi, Corinthia CEO, and Mr. Alfred Pisani, Corinthia Chairman, are incredible ambassadors of the Corinthia dream. Their vision, professionalism and entrepreneurial skills are second to none. I vividly recall our chairman telling me that if we build the right hotel, the right people will come. Simple but very sharp and incisive. And what’s more, he was completely right…as usual. However, allow me to add something. The way Corinthia treated its staff during the tough COVID days is exemplary. The respect and fairness were praiseworthy, and I shall never forget it.”
“I joined Corinthia in September 2011 and came to look after the partnerships, corporate and consortia side of our business that would be growing in London and across the portfolio.
“Within a brief period, I took on the corporate and events side and the incentive market. Then I was asked to form our GSO (Global Sales Office) network under Corinthia when it had several third parties that were not exclusive to Corinthia or were working across multiple market segments. We wanted to be able to drill down and have market segment specialists and have our own people that were dedicated and exclusive to Corinthia.
“So, for the past seven years, I have headed the GSO network, and I enjoy each and every moment.”
How a person speaks, explains matters and expounds his views and feelings often serves as the best verbal self-portrait. I could easily trace Carey’s strong traits: honesty, pragmatic, diligent, enthusiastic in his work and unquestionably loyal. Plus, a solid constant effort to obtain better results through better workings. A man of good values.
The way he quickly responded to my invitation for an interview suggested he was an easily accessible person. He readily admitted to this and added, “I am always open to suggestions and ready to try new things and mentor good new ideas.”
He had faintly hinted about his family once, so I asked if he wanted to speak about them. It was at this moment that the solid and professional Carey suddenly melted, and his face formed into a most loving expression.
“I would love to. They are the reason for my life. They make me view my work with a purpose. My wife, Laura, is a Criminal Research Analyst. She is a column of strength for me and is the smart one of the family,” Carey quipped. “She works on several projects for the Metropolitan Police in London.”
“I have two children. Daisy was born when I joined Corinthia. She is 12 years old and has hinted she wants to work in Public Relations.” Carey chuckled. “She may have changed her mind though as recently she informed me, she would like Thomas’s job.” Thomas Kochs is the Managing Director of Corinthia London. “No harm in aiming high! Then there is Max, who is eight years old—a great son, with a cheeky smile and profound sense of independence, he can also be a stubborn character. Both Laura and I try to instill the right values in them.”
I am sure they are also managing this cum laude.