In the spotlight: Fiona McGrory

Susie HarwoodBlog

A dedicated SITE supporter and member of the incentive travel community, Fiona McGrory has been on the SITE GB board many years, including two years as chapter president in 2015 and 2016, making her one of the longest serving members of the board.

Fiona has been working in the hotel industry since she was 16, starting with a work experience placement leading to a trainee programme at Grosvenor House in London. It was there she discovered her interest in the groups, events and incentives sector. Today, as Key Account Director MICE, UK&I Managed Hotels at IHG, Fiona looks after the 16 IHG managed hotels within the UK, targeting all inbound market’s, and more recently looking after some key UK meeting and incentive agencies.

As the longest serving member of the SITE GB board, what’s your current role? 

I am the longest serving member of the current board although we do have other members who have been part of the community much longer than me. I have been on the board since 2007, however I did take a break for a couple of years when I took some time off with my family. My role on the board is primarily the finances, however because I have been involved with SITE for such a long time, I do quite a lot of work with the international board and wider community, volunteering for some of the global committees. 

What do you get out of being involved with SITE?

The community element is what I love so much about our association. I do a lot of business with other SITE members, but for me it’s about more than just the business side of things, it is about the friendships and strong relationships I have fostered all over the world. 

Like many people in our industry I was on furlough for some of last year and a lot of people from within the SITE community reached out to check on me and offer support, which was very gratefully received.

It really is a family of people that just want to help each other, whether that’s personally or professionally. It’s a great network of people that support each other in good times and bad.

What is SITE GB doing to support members as the industry recovers from the impact of the pandemic?

SITE GB have tried to do as much as we can to support our members throughout the pandemic. The recent mental health event we held, (which I can’t take the credit for), was one of the best events I have attended throughout this strange time. The openness of the people within our community who took part in the panel and shared their personal stories, will hopefully have helped a lot of people. I personally found it valuable to hear such honest accounts from people who have experienced and overcome their struggles. I think anyone listening to that who might have been struggling would have taken great strength from it and realised there are people out there who can help, and maybe even found the courage to talk to someone. 

The past year has been really tough on our industry, and an alarmingly high percentage of event professionals  are struggling with their mental health right now. 

My colleagues on the SITE GB board and the wider SITE community have definitely helped me get through this past year. As an association, we really do need to help our members, which is why we are planning events around the theme of “Tooling up” – how we can help people “tool up” for the way business has changed, and what can we do to support our partners, whether that’s hotels, DMCs, clients or venues. 

We also started a new initiative in 2021 where we helped some of our members retain their SITE membership, where budgets have changed or they are no longer working to help them continue to be part of the SITE community moving forward.

From an IHG perspective, what can and are you doing to try and boost client confidence and get them to commit to booking events and incentives?

IHG’s message to us was ‘do the right thing’ and we have tried to do that from the start with our customers. When we first went into this crisis over a year ago, none of us knew what was happening or for how long this was going to go on, however we have always tried to do the right thing for everybody involved. 

We have put in IHG Way of Clean, and with our Meet with Confidence program and Hybrid offerings we have tried to offer our customers what they need in order to meet and stay in hotels safely and with confidence.

We are in a great position in the UK in that we have hotels in all the major cities, so if someone does want to run a regional / hybrid event, we can do London, Manchester, Glasgow or Edinburgh, Oxford and York. 

Are you receiving many incentive enquiries right now?

We are receiving more and more as we get further into the recovery road map. We are very excited about events this year going ahead as well as preparing for 2022 and beyond.

We are still nowhere near back to normal levels but there is more talk and positivity around the incentive industry.

What do you think incentive trips will look like post-COVID? Will they go back to the way they were? 

There is a positive feel for the UK. We are perceived as a safe, tried and tested destination. I think people have a comfort level with certain destinations in the world and the UK is one of those places where they can feel comfortable and know that we have those processes and protocols in place.

In the longer term, I think incentives will go back to being as strong as they were pre-Covid. The whole point of incentives is bringing people together and having those one-of-a-kind experiences, that you can’t do on your own. 

The contracting will be a different, and I am sure there will be lots of additional clauses around global pandemics, but I think programme delivery will go back to normal as soon as possible because people need to incentivise their teams. 

What do you most love about being involved in the incentives market?

I love the people. We have so many great characters and really interesting people. I am also incredibly fortunate to have experienced many incentives trips in the UK and the world first-hand.

Describe your dream incentive…

It would have to be one of our sister properties – Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa in the Cayman Islands, which has butlers that swim out to you in the sea and bring your drinks to you as you lie on a raft in the ocean. I think I would enjoy that!

If you could get on a plane right now, where would you go and why?

Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa for all the reasons previously mentioned and I would love to explore the Islands. I have sat through the presentation so many times, I think I need to go and experience it for myself.

And finally, what are you most looking forward to once the threat of COVID has finally passed?

Seeing people and having more human connections. I am really lucky that I love what I do, and I want to get back to it. Like all of us in this industry travelling and meeting people is what I like most about my role so getting together at the soon to be announced SITE GB Summit, meeting up with our UK customers and then eventually getting on a plane is what I am most looking forward to.