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Meet the manager behind our Novotel and Adagio hotels Leicester

12th November 2020 interview by NICHE Magazine

“A boy who grew up in what was known as Europe’s most bombed town might not have believed he’d grow up to run one of the continent’s flagship hotels. Kerry Smith at NICH Magazine, interviews James Conaghan to find out more about his personal life and professional career.”

As part of the Accor hospitality brand and managed by Interstate Hotels International, James Conaghan’s Novotel and Adagio hotels opened in Leicester this year. We spoke to him about growing up in Ireland, his hotel career, family life, and guiding his hotels through the pandemic.

NICHE: What was it about the hotel industry that made you want to pursue your career in it?
JAMES: I just love working with people and seeing them progress. Happy teams, make happy guests.

Tell us more about where you grew up.
I grew up in Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Having been a child during the troubles in Northern Ireland and lived in the most bombed place in Europe from 1973 to 1990, you learn very quickly to have a strong character and to look after the people around you, whether that be family, friends, school mates or your community.

Have you found it difficult juggling business and family life?
This has been a challenge over the years, however, my family is in a great place at present as we live in close proximity to work and schools.

Have you hit any stumbling blocks in your career?
Running hotels you hit stumbling blocks daily. The biggest challenge we have all faced is the current situation with Covid-19. I have had some business coaching a few years ago that helped me clear my mind. I am a firm believer that a thought is just that, and if you change that thought, your mind becomes clear and you make better decisions.

What characteristics do you think are most important in a businessperson?
Listen to your team and never give up. I’ve seen my team come together from a group of individuals to a force to be reckoned with.

Tell us about your role as General Manager for Interstate Hotels International.
Interstate has a great ethos: look after your people, empower them to make their own decisions and the results will follow. Having worked as a GM for over 23 years, this is the best group of people I have had the pleasure of working with.

What makes Novotel and Adagio different?
The Novotel is stunning in design, attention to detail is second to none and by far the best hotel I have had the pleasure to manage. It also has independent restaurant and bar, NineB. It serves good modern British cuisine in an amazing environment. The Adagio is an aparthotel. All rooms have fully fitted kitchens and are geared towards the mid to long stay guest.
Having opened this year, how have you contended with the coronavirus crisis?

We met this head-on, strictly adhering to Government guidelines, which in itself has been fun, as they seem to change on a regular basis. We kept the Adagio open for key workers and reopened the Novotel on May 26. We haven’t looked back, and have had numerous high profile football and rugby teams staying with us. As I stated earlier, “change the thought, you make better decisions”.

If you would like to take a read of the full Magazine issued by NICHE Magazine, including the above interview, then you can have a read of the online version here


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