22 August 2014

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Meet the GM - Derek Howe


Derek Howe, general manager of East Sussex National Golf Resort, introduces himself

Meet the GM - Derek Howe - golf_hotel.jpgI first became interested in hotels via my love of golf. I started working life as a quantity surveyor. When the golf club I was vice captain of needed to build an extension, I oversaw it and subsequently became a self-employed leisure consultant for the next 30 years.

My first job in the industry was about 15 years ago, when I was asked to develop and build a hotel complex on a golf club I was consulting on. Hotel management seemed the natural next step.

I ended up at East Sussex National Golf Resort in 2002, having worked for the group that owns it since the early 1990s.

The best part of my job is the challenge of keeping up our high standards of service so that the hotel retains its reputation as one of the leading golf resorts in Europe.
Not many people know that at Horsted Place Hotel, which is owned by and lies within the grounds of the East Sussex National, the Neville family once entertained the Queen and Prince Philip. You can now stay in the two suites they spent the night in: the Edinburgh and the Windsor. A special path was also created through the gardens so the Queen could visit the local church, which still exists and is known as the Queen’s Walk.

My favourite room is the National Suite. It’s a function room with a spectacular ceiling incorporating mood lighting that can be set to any colour. Under the stage there is a Wurlitzer organ, which belongs to the owner of the hotel (he collects Wurlitzers). It’s special because it is the largest in the world outside the US.
The ideal event to hold here would be a sales conference followed by a golf tournament for a spot of teambuilding.

My top tip to event organisers is to trust the in-house event team and leave nothing to chance.

To escape from it all, perhaps not unsurprisingly, I play golf. My handicap used to be a flattering eight but now it’s gone back up to 14. My wife is of the opinion that ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ and now beats me on a regular basis! Apart from the East Sussex National (of course!) the King’s Course at Gleneagles is my favourite.
My favourite hotel in the world is Mark Hopkins San Francisco – the Top of the Mark bar there on the 19th floor has amazing 360-degree views of the city. But for winding down, you can’t beat Harmony Hall in Antigua.

This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, autumn 2009

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