As this iconic city-centre venue enters a new era, director of sales Louise Gee has been setting her sights on the international market for The Grand, York in light of a rebrand, new cookery school, and a strengthened focus on inbound tourism. Built by North Eastern Railway, one of the most powerful railway companies in Edwardian England, the ‘Palace of Business’, as The Grand, York was commonly known, was its headquarters for a century. Louise has been part of the team since the property’s transition to York’s only five-star hotel in 2010. During this period, Louise notes; “It has been a joy to experience the journey that the team have been on during my nearly nine years at The Grand, York. We’ve developed so much in that time, focusing on more proactive sales, recruiting new team members that are already delivering against our targets, and seeing great results from an early stage.” A York native, Louise is proud of her home city and savours the opportunity to shine a spotlight on its unique heritage. Despite a good degree of awareness of the city, its reputation as a leisure destination has been challenging for Louise and her team to overcome when educating prospective domestic and international clients about the excellent corporate services at the venue. “We have a deep desire to play in the global field but being an independent hotel, we have to work even harder to strengthen awareness within the market. Contacts regularly gush about the historic beauty and charm of our city but are unaware of it on the corporate side, leading us to approach sales from an educational perspective, and helping to change opinion with clients. I’m often in America and throughout Europe making connections and building business opportunities in just this vein.” With the recent addition of 100 new bedrooms, doubling the capacity for accommodation, as part of a £15 million refurbishment, and a new cookery school opening in March 2019, Louise has plenty to entice clients to the venue. “The new school, with its city centre location and state of the art equipment, should be an incredible experience. Knowing how engaging and personable head chef tutor Andrew Dixon is, I personally would throw myself in to the different courses. Being a useless cook can only be a good thing with the opening of the cookery school!” Proof of her success and influence, Louise was awarded the Young Business Woman of the Year at the Women in Business Awards. Yet her focus remains on her team and their own development opportunities. “I personally coach and train the sales team, ensuring their development is a priority. I’ve also brought on a specialist sales coach to add depth to the learning sessions we hold internally.” Staying connected with the community has been an important part of her work, ensuring the support of Kitchen for Everyone York, a charity dedicated to helping the local homeless and vulnerable through providing meals and outreach programmes and fundraising in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice. The continued evolvement and reinvention of the venue means that clients’ expectations are often exceeded. Louise concludes; “Our wide range of products and services make us incredibly flexible. We can do such a lot and rarely are we unable to accommodate requests. Particularly when our talented concierge team are involved. They have a supreme network and the exclusive arrangements they can make are impressive to say the least.” Day delegate rates, meeting and event packages, private festive celebrations, incentive travel, and residential conferences are all available at The Grand, York with tailor-made quotes produced by the hotel’s events specialists. To book your stay or for more information, visit www.thegrandyork.co.uk or call 01904 380038.