14 September 2020
If advance planning is the name of your game, predicting future arrangements has become twice as hard with changes in necessary government guidance happening almost every day.
“Our Christmas bookings are through the roof,” said Gleneagles Commercial Director, Jane McGee, “but trying to organise family and group tables and social arrangements when rules are fluid can be quite a challenge!”
All part of the business day as pupils from Kilgraston learnt when the Perthshire resort’s staff member visited to give a talk as part of the school’s Women in Business lecture series.
“Lockdown was the first time Gleneagles has been shut since the Second World War, when it was used as a hospital,” Jane told senior pupils, “so reopening after nearly four months in the middle of July, already mid-summer season, with autumn and Christmas beckoning, required all hands to the decks.”
Thankfully, every one of the thousand plus staff have been retained, with the Hotel, once again, pulsating with life: “The trick is being constantly agile,” emphasised Jane to attentive Fifth and Sixth Form ears, “since the start of the pandemic, there has been a huge shift away from corporate gatherings and overseas visitors and a far greater focus from domestic visitors. We have to be constantly vigilant, ensuring our customer offer is appropriate and consistent with demand.”
Having grown-up in Tayside, Jane told the girls how she attended Dundee University, achieving a Masters in Hotel Management, which included a four-month stint at a huge hotel on Florida’s International Drive: “I couldn’t believe my luck being so close to Mickey Mouse.”
Girls learnt how Jane came to the decision about her career having consolidated many subjects in which she was interested: “I wanted to be in a people-facing job and knew I’d like to travel,” she continued, “Hotels are massive concerns, the economics and customer journey really interested me from the outset.”
Her career has seen her working in many exotic locations with one of her favourites being Bangkok’s luxurious Mandarin Oriental: “The level of customer service is phenomenal with several members of staff to every guest. You can just sit high above this amazing city and calmly watch the huge city gyrate before you.”
But after over twenty years based in London, Jane felt the call to come back to her native homeland becoming Director of Sales & Marketing at Fairmont St Andrews, where she was responsible for repositioning the hotel after a multi-million pound refurbishment programme.
Five years later, in 2018, Jane was appointed Gleneagle’s Commercial Director, bringing with her 25 years’ experience and taking responsibility for all aspects of the hotel’s revenue and sales strategies. Her appointment came at a crucial time for the brand as it looked to strengthen its position on the global stage, following the completion of the biggest investment project in the hotel’s almost 100-year history.
“My career has taken me all around the world,” she said, “but there’s nowhere like Scotland and I passionately believe in the relaxed luxury offered by Gleneagles and its drive to promote local goods and suppliers. I really do live and breathe my job!”
This enthusiasm was clearly evident with a number of pupils asking questions and requesting further information about the Hotel’s graduate trainee programme: “I had no idea there were so many aspects to the industry,” said one 16 year old, “It’s an incredibly diverse job.”
Commenting on the visit, Kilgraston Headmistress, Dorothy MacGinty, said: “Having the opportunity to hear from someone of Jane’s calibre was a treat indeed. Her global experience and obvious love for her chosen career was a great chance for girls to hear, first hand, about this fascinating path. We’d all like to say a very big thank you to Jane for giving up her valuable time at this extremely busy time.”
The School’s Women in Business series will welcome an engineer from SSE, an orthodontist from Dundee and a stem cell expert from Ninewells Hospital during the next four months.