ITCM meets Richard Fine who is newly responsible for the group’s MICE business sourced from the UK and IrelandPeople often cross over from hotel management to work in the (possibly more lucrative?) events agency sector. Someone who has bucked that trend is Richard Fine. His father being Harry Fine, UK representative for many prime overseas DMCs, the MICE sector was a natural career for Richard and he held some notable positions in event management companies.
Then he moved over to InterContinental Hotels Group, did a climb up a different ladder and is now responsible for a complex of jobs at Melia Hotels & Resorts. Based at the Melia White House Hotel in Regents Park, he is Head of Global Sales UK, feeding business into Melia properties worldwide and Head of MICE sales for Melia’s UK properties, including, of course, the White House.
‘Melia’s true strength on the hotel scene is just beginning to be recognised outside its home country, Spain’, suggests Richard. ‘We are the largest Spanish group, with 350 properties in over 30 countries. I can offer a choice of at least 100 hotels with top quality MICE facilities’.
He explains that the group has seven well-differentiated brands. ‘These are Gran Melia, Melia, Tryp, Sol, Paradisus, Innside and ME. The single most numerous brand is the 4-star Melia, whilst Gran Melia is 5-star and Tryp and Innside are more for the budget traveller. Sol and Paradisus are resorts in holiday locations, with Sol based on beaches in Europe, Middle East and Africa, whilst Paradisus is associated more with the Caribbean.
So that is Richard talking with his global sales hat on. When he swaps his headgear for MICE UK, he is lyrical about the Melia White House and also the new star on the horizon, ME on the Aldwych.
‘We have 581 rooms’, he says, ‘in the most convenient part of London. We are in Regent’s Park, a delightful area that is more easily accessible than most parts of central London and yet so close to anywhere that guests would wish to go.
'We can accommodate meetings up to 150 delegates and there are so many special venues close by, so that guests can attend events there and stay with us. Alongside Great Portland Street tube station and close to Paddington and St Pancras, we are convenient for delegates from overseas or anywhere in the UK. The Melia White House is very popular for incentive groups who want a comfortable and convenient base from which to explore London. We receive groups from around the UK and also from Europe and beyond’.
Our discussion was taking place in The Level, a large executive lounge on the ground floor of the White House. I asked Richard what distinguished the Melia product.
‘We acknowledge all the needs of our locality in London’, he said, ‘but we also offer the best of our Spanish heritage. We have Guest Experience Managers to ensure that everyone receives a warm, cultural, personal service. There are tapas and drinks to create that atmosphere.’
He then has to turn, of course, to the new hotel. The ME London is on the verge of opening as a 5-star luxury lifestyle hotel on the Aldwych at the top of the Strand, close to Waterloo Bridge. It will be Melia’s sixth ME property but the first in the UK and it has been designed by Lord Norman Foster’s company Foster+Partners and can offer rooms with balconies looking over the Thames. There is the 10th floor rooftop Radio Bar where everyone can take in those views. Its name derives from the fact that the hotel is on the site of Marconi House, which was the BBC’s first office and from which it first broadcast music.
‘ME has 157 individually designed rooms’, says Richard, ‘and seven meeting spaces, the largest for up to 300 delegates. This can allow access for vehicles for car launches.’