Baerbel Moehrle began her career as an event coordinator for Marriott Hotels in Hamburg, before making the transition to London as an event executive for the Chancery Court Hotel. There, she rose to senior event manager before landing her current role at Park Plaza Victoria.
With less than a month to go until the London 2012 Olympics, Park Plaza Victoria is gearing up for one of the busiest summers in recent years, and Moehrle is focusing on implementing the right strategy to capitalise on meetings and events sales.
How I got where I am now:
I was always fascinated by hotels and the hospitality industry, so as soon as I finished school I started an internship at a hotel in my hometown in the south of Germany. I did pretty much everything from peeling potatoes to cleaning hotel rooms.
I immediately enjoyed the atmosphere of the hotel environment but decided to further my knowledge by studying economics with a focus on event management. During my degree, I worked for an event agency in Hamburg, Germany, where I planned and set up exhibitions and conferences.
After finishing my degree, I decided to go back to the hotel industry, where I worked my way up from events coordinator in Hamburg to meetings and events sales manager at Park Plaza Victoria in London.
My biggest challenge:
At the beginning of my career the working hours and the salary were undeniably a bit of a struggle. Especially at entry-level, the salary and hours in the hospitality industry are not very attractive.
It does pay off in the end, however, as with hard work and effort you can scale the career ladder quite quickly compared to other industries, but it does require a bit of patience and perseverance at the beginning!
My greatest achievement:
My greatest career achievement is definitely my development in the UK over the last few years, as I pretty much arrived here with two bags and very average business English.
I’ve been really proud of my progression since then, as within five years I have worked my way up from events executive as part of a planning team to where I am today at Park Plaza Victoria, as M&E sales manager, heading a planning and re-active sales team.
What I love about the industry:
I think everyone that has ever worked in the hospitality industry will agree that it’s a very unique working environment; the diversity that comes from colleagues from all over the world, their stories and their experience gives hotels that very cosmopolitan flair.
What I love about working for Park Plaza Victoria, and the hospitality industry in general, is that no day is quite the same and the variety of challenges that we face every day makes it an exciting industry with great career opportunities.
What I don’t like:
I think that with the recession, unsociable hours are becoming a challenge for an increasing number of companies - not just within the hospitality sector, as redundancies create extra work and longer working hours for employees in businesses across the board.
Far more frustrating for me however is that young people seem to hold back from starting a career within the hotel industry based on the assumption that hotel jobs have to involve waiting tables and cleaning hotel rooms.
They don’t really get to see the bigger picture of exciting jobs further down the line, such as revenue manager, rooms division manager and meeting and events manager.
My view on women in hospitality:
I have to say I’ve been lucky as I have mostly worked for international hotel chains with very strict equality policies. At Park Plaza there’s zero tolerance on any type of discrimination, gender or otherwise. But I have heard of privately owned hotels and hotel chains that still make it harder for women to progress.
On a positive note, women have definitely started to dominate the senior positions in hotel sales departments. I’m not sure about exact statistics, but there is certainly a large female presence at director level in the sales and marketing departments.
Could more be done to help women progress?
I do believe that having a female chief executive can give many hotels around the world a special edge. Looking at the London market for example, there are at least five highly hyped hotel openings every year and it’s no longer enough to just offer a centrally located bedroom with a nice view.
Extraordinary ideas and creativity are increasingly required, and I think the female touch can be of great help for hoteliers and investors.
What I like about working in events:
Working on both the events and sales side means I get to interact with all the hotel departments, which I love doing. At Park Plaza Victoria, I’m involved with pretty much everything that goes on behind and in front of the scenes at the hotel.
I also enjoy having the opportunity to build great relationships with the clients. You really get to know them through all the event planning stages and I find it very satisfying to go out of my way to meet and exceed their expectations.
Starting from drawing a picture of their event for them to the actual day when the event takes place is a very exciting and rewarding process.
With less than a month to go before the Olympics…
We are all very excited at Park Plaza Victoria! I previously worked in hospitality during the World Cup in Germany and can say from that experience that large sporting events are definitely something to look forward to.
All the departments are busily working together to create rotas and action plans throughout the Olympic period. All employees will be working on flexible rotas and shifts and might have to help out other departments where they can.
I think the Olympics are a great opportunity to show the hotel’s spirit with additional promotions and incorporating all the great ideas that have come from the staff.
My teams are already looking forward to getting involved in the operational side of the hotel and assist with tasks out of their daily work routine. It will be great for us to show how Park Plaza stands up as a team with true Olympic spirit!
Have the Games increased business?
At Park Plaza Victoria, the Olympics have certainly increased business for July and August. We’ve confirmed a large booking from a German travel agency throughout the Olympics that has secured us additional revenue for both months.
We are of course hoping that due to having a booked out hotel for over two weeks, we will gain additional revenue from individual hotel guests as well.
We have several promotions and special offers in place, such as opportunities to book last minute parties once an athlete or team has won, to ensure that we are accommodating our guests’ requirements and are not losing out on extra business.
My advice for young entrepreneurs:
The hospitality industry offers great opportunities to climb the career ladder and my advice is always not to be scared to start from the bottom.
Most of the General Managers that I have met throughout my career have worked in kitchens, bars, restaurants and housekeeping. I will never forget my first few years in the hotel industry and will always appreciate the hard work that every member of staff in each department puts in.
Once you have experienced the passion for individual service at different levels in the industry you will be hooked and determined to keep achieving every day.