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Q&A with Event Sales Manager, Chris Norris

With the news that Warner Leisure Hotels are investing in The Runnymede on Thames, we speak to Event Sales Manager, Chris Norris to cover everything you need to know about booking future events at the property. Expect everything from frequently asked questions to why The Runnymede is such a unique venue.

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How long have you worked in the industry and what has been your biggest achievement to date?

I’ve been working within hotels for 25 years now, the last 17 years have been here at The Runnymede on Thames, although my plan back in 2005 was to come here for a maximum two years!

I would say my biggest achievement to date would be the level of repeat business I’ve managed to maintain over the years from some wonderful clients…  I really enjoy getting to know our bookers, and have a very good relationship with the majority that I deal with on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy the customer interaction; getting to know our clients and listening to what they would like is so important and it makes the job easier…  nine times out of ten, when speaking to a client they are already giving me all the ideas I need for the proposal. It must also be said that I enjoy working as part of a team, and not just within Meeting and Event Sales. We’ve always been like one big family here at The Runnymede on Thames, which is why I think I have been here so long!

Are you finding that business is picking up now post-covid?

Most definitely! We are almost back to how we were in 2018/2019, in fact we are slightly busier, as many bookings moved from 2020 and 2021 to this year.  It is lovely to see our regular clients back in the hotel. Many have commented on how good it is to be back in familiar surroundings and to see so many familiar faces… I think many thought that we’d have had countless team changes, which we haven’t.

What’s the most common question you are asked?

At the moment, that would be “are you still open for business”. The hotel has recently been sold to Warner Leisure Hotels, and as many people know the brand, they assumed that we would not be hosting any meetings or events anymore.  The team and I are reassuring our bookers that we are indeed still open, and would very much like to assist them with their enquiries. We are currently taking meetings and events bookings until the end of May 2023 and all other business for the entirety of 2023.

With the above in mind, are you starting to receive any enquiries for Christmas yet?

Absolutely! We have loyal guests who are already booked in for their parties this year, some have been booking with me for the past 17 years.  We also have our regular Christmas package group with us again, arriving on Christmas Eve. This particular group have been with us for well over 20 years!  We still have some dates available in December, and have an excellent private party package for 50+ guests. We will also have festive lunches and dinners in our Leftbank restaurant as well as festive afternoon tea in The Lock Bar & Kitchen, so as always, lots going on!

There are lots of competitors in the area, what are the top five reasons you believe that organisers choose The Runnymede on Thames?

This is quite easy to answer, as our guests tell us within their feedback:

  1. Location; we are easy to find and can be accessed from the M25, M3, M4, Heathrow and London via various rail links. The bonus is the hotel is set on the banks of the Thames, so a very tranquil setting!
  2. “Us”; the feedback we receive from our customers is great. It is always nice to have a positive review written about the hotel, but to receive as many emails, cards and letters as we do is very much appreciated and it means a lot.  We hear time and time again how impressed customers are with our team members’ retention, they love seeing the same faces and are often very surprised that we have all been here as long as we have. They say “you must be doing something right” and I agree with them…
  3. The food; we always receive such positive feedback about the quality and choice of food available – many bookers say that this is what their delegates rave about the most!
  4. Value for money; we offer many packages that are excellent value for money. Whether it is a 24 hour delegate rate, a day delegate rate, a charity package or a Christmas party package, we will always try to assist with a client’s realistic budget.
  5. Endless options; from grounds for team building to dragon boat racing, ample dining options to the spa facilities for those who are residing with us, there are so many ways to create a bespoke experience incorporating our light and spacious rooms and private outdoor spaces.

What is your key focus at the moment?

Firstly, to keep on top of all of the enquiries we have coming in. We have lots of residential conferences coming in over the next few weeks, so we are currently in the planning stages with them, which is an enjoyable part of the booking process. We also have a very busy autumn approaching, kick-starting with the PGA in early September. Finally, Christmas very much starts to pop into potential bookers’ minds from July onwards, so I will be trying to fill our December diary with lots of festive merriment!

Do you have a selling strategy?

My strategy is very simple… I listen! We always offer tours of the hotel – this helps as we can see our customers face to face and the property often sells itself once clients get to see it. I also work closely with other members of the team to ensure we are offering what our clients need. We are very fortunate to have Lisa Rose, Director of Sales, who is often out and about with our corporate clients and hosting FAM trips within the hotel for our potential customers.  Lisa helps me “fill in the gaps” by understanding what we need more of such as corporate bedrooms or social banqueting… we then work together to try and source new clients or contact some of our existing clients to see if we can welcome them back. It’s an ongoing process and keeping in touch with our valuable clients is key to our success.

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