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Mark Watts spends most of his days at sea as GM of Spitbank Fort, but in another life he might have been speeding on dry land.
My first real job was as a parking valet at the Mercure Winchester Wessex. Parking Ferraris at seventeen years of age, albeit at 4mph, gave me the hospitality bug, and after finishing my design degree I went straight into training.
I began work at Spitbank Fort two years ago before it was even completed. For eight months, I put my degree to good use and helped to design several aspects of the hotel, including the kitchen and the boat we use to transport guests. It’s a great feeling to know that I had something to do with the product, and having been here from the beginning, I know it inside out.
A typical day is a very rare occurrence in my job. The only two constants are checking the weather first thing in the morning (it dictates my life) and the sabrage 9opening a Champagne bottle with a sabre) I carry out on board: it’s all a bit of theatre and adds to the experience. It makes my job just that bit more enjoyable.
In my spare time I like to stay by the water. Watersports are a huge hobby of mine, and if I can ever get the time, I try to do as much surfing as I can with the family.
My favourite time of year has to be spring. When we reach the back end of winter and I start to feel those first days of warm breezes, it makes me feel like I’ve made the right choice in life.
The biggest challenge in my career would have to be the final week before we opened. Trying to get an entire hotel up and ready from scratch is no mean feat and when the builders left we had five days before the opening events.
My advice to those looking to succeed is to be passionate. I know it sounds like a cliché, but this job has you working all hours and you will have to make sacrifices. I’m lucky enough to have a job I love and, if I have to work all through the night to succeed at it, then so be it.
In another life I would have loved to be a Formula 1 driver, perhaps harking back to my parking valet days. But I reckon Lewis Hamilton is doing a pretty good job of it (I have to say that, my son would be very upset if I didn’t).
I particularly admire the Bernie Ecclestones of this world, not only from a racing fan's point of view, but also in terms of business.
My motto is ‘trust, but check’. I trust everyone I work with, but it never hurts to cast an eye over matters myself, just in case.
Spitbank Fort, Gosport, PO12 1FX, tel: 01494 682 682
This article was first printed in Square Meal Venues & Events, summer 2013