Last Word: Simon McGrath, chief operating officer AccorHotels Pacific

At 17, Simon McGrath wrote to all the top hotels in Sydney looking for a job, and landed one. He has worked his way up since then, and now oversees more than 210 Australian hotels and more
than 10,000 staff.

When did you start out in the travel industry?
At 17, my career started in the laundry of the Boulevard Hotel in Sydney. It was hard work, but allowed me to learn all facets of the industry in an accelerated way by completing a management traineeship. During this time, I observed and was intrigued by the complexities and various departments that hotels offered. Upon completing my traineeship, the doors opened up to so many opportunities, leading me to a career in international hotels.

What is it you love about working in the hotel industry?
Number one – the human element. It’s the most satisfying and the most complex. It’s the part that really tests how good you are – the ability to build human relationships. Secondly, to put it quite simply, the hospitality industry is a very kind, caring and an enjoyable sector to work in.

What is it that sets AccorHotels apart?
For over 25 years in Australia, our 10,000 employees demonstrate on a daily basis our commitment to providing a warm welcome and excellent hospitality for all our guests. AccorHotels is uniquely positioned in the Australian hospitality market with a presence in every state and territory and every market segment from luxury to economy to meet every traveller’s desires.

Do you have a favourite hotel in the group and if so, what makes it special?
Choosing a favourite hotel would be like choosing a favourite child. The anticipation is building for Sydney’s newest jewel to arrive in November 2017 with the opening of Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour – the first internationally-branded luxury hotel to be developed in the city in more than 15 years. It is shaping up to be a vibrant and sophisticated waterside addition to the city.

What is your favourite city to visit and why?
When most people think of passionate cities, you immediately think of Paris and the French. From its myriad of fine art and, of course, cuisine, it’s one of the most attractive and enlivening cities in the world. We have some magnificent hotels there such as Hotel Molitor, Hotel Bastille Boutet and The Baltimore, all part of the MGallery by Sofitel collection which captures the spirit of Paris beautifully, and icons like the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, The Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower are waiting outside, mere blocks away.

You live in Sydney – which three places do you love showing off to international visitors?
You can’t beat a day on the water cruising past Sydney Harbour’s icons, a scenic flight over Palm Beach and the northern beaches, and of course taking in the laid back, beachside café culture in my local suburb of Manly.

What are your favourite restaurants to take guests to in Sydney?
As a big fan of Neil Perry, Rockpool Bar & Grill and Spice Temple are two consistent favourites, and Mr Wong would be my other top pick. For a pre-dinner drink or nightcap, Hacienda Bar at Pullman Quay Grand has incredible views to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Which places in the world would you love to visit that you haven’t been to before?
Canada is definitely on my wish list but it’s so vast, much like Australia, that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Visiting Lake Louise and the Rocky Mountains during winter would be spectacular, as would experiencing an ice hockey match or the Calgary Stampede. Following AccorHotels’ recent acquisition with Fairmont Raffles and Swissôtel, I now have the perfect excuse to go and road-test our new hotels. The Fairmont Banff Springs looks like a good place to start.

When not travelling for work, where do you like to go?
It’s really special just to stay home with my family and relax. We love cooking, so on Sunday nights we always have a family dinner.

What tips do you have for people starting out in the hotel industry?
It’s an unbelievably satisfying industry, and it’s becoming more and more prominent as a key economic driver. Be consistent, work hard and don’t give up, because when you break through it’s such a rewarding industry to be a leader in.

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