The Alexander Hotels Family: James Perry, General Manager, Rowhill Grange
James Perry, General Manager at Rowhill Grange, has been part of the Alexander Hotels Family for many moons and is our longest serving General Manager. He leads the first property in the Alexander Hotels Collection, Rowhill Grange, and we caught up with him to learn more about his journey to the AHC, his favourite industry trends, how he sees the industry rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic and more.
Tell us why you started working in hospitality and what you journey has been to your current position as General Manager with Alexander Hotels?
I started working in hotels as a part – time Waiter in order to fund my way through University. At the time I had no intention of pursuing a career in hotels, but was quickly bitten by the hospitality bug and loved the fact that every day was different.
After completing my studies, I moved into full time roles and was promoted into a Restaurant Supervisor position and subsequently a Restaurant Manager role.
In 2000, I moved away from Kent and spent the next 8 years working as a Deputy General Manager and Hotel Manager in several large-scale Conference and Wedding venues across the Midlands.
In 2008 and wanting to return to Kent, I took on a General Manager role in Canterbury and then moved to the General Manager role at Rowhill Grange in the summer of 2012.
The Main House of Rowhill Grange
What are your top tips for people thinking of joining the industry?
If you remain open minded and are willing to learn new skills, the hospitality industry really can provide a whole range of career opportunities.
Of course the trade is going to change seismically in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the industry is known for being rapidly moving and adaptable. How has the industry changed over the years that you have seen?
During my time in the industry the biggest change I’ve seen is the advent of all the various channels people are now able to book through and communicate with us via.
The digital world is continually evolving and to stay competitive we have to stay abreast of these developments.
What do you see being the main changes in the industry in light of the pandemic?
For the immediate and foreseeable future, there will be significant changes in the way we operate. This will range from things such as removing cash handling, introducing designated entrances and exits for our restaurants and being able to place an order for various hotel services from a new app we are currently in the process of developing.
Above all else, we need to instil confidence in our guests that our protocols are robust and our hotels provide a safe environment for them to visit.
What’s been your favourite industry trend that you have seen in your career so far?
Believe it or not, I think social channels and websites such as Trip Advisor have had a really positive effect on the industry. Whilst a very small percentage of guests may not utilise these channels in a way we’d like, the vast majority of people use them to provide balanced and constructive views, which has led to improvement in the quality of services provided by hotels and other hospitality businesses alike.
If you could take a step back to heading a department again, which would it be and why?
It’s a very difficult question to answer. I’ve enjoyed many aspects of every department I’ve worked in, but if I had to choose one, it would probably be Sales & Events.
Tell us about how you motivate and inspire your teams?
I’ve always tried to be fair and open minded. I’m a firm believer in treating every member of the team with the same level of respect and courtesy they deserve, no matter what role they are performing within the business.
Wherever possible I offer the opportunity to develop and progress members of the team that show loyalty and commitment by setting clear and achievable goals and am incredibly proud of some of the long standing members of the team and their achievements during my time at Rowhill Grange.
The purpose built Pavilion at Rowhill Grange, ideal for conferencing and events
How does being a General Manager influence your home-life?
I’m very fortunate to have met my wife in the hospitality industry. Having someone who understands the demands of my role is great and she’s always there as my voice of reason.
What do you do to relax?
I like to spending time with my family. I’m a keen cyclist and also enjoy travelling and exploring European cities.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m a big fan of Architecture and finding inspiration in building design. Most recently I was lucky enough to spend several days in Barcelona visiting many of Antoni Gaudi’s stunning buildings.
What’s your favourite meal?
Moroccan Chicken – My family and I love this meal. The ingredients are always readily available, it’s very simple to make, but it’s no ordinary Chicken Dinner!
2 AA Rosette Dining from RG’s at Rowhill Grange
What have you and your family been doing to stay positive during the lockdown?
From a personal perspective, I feel incredibly lucky to have kept working throughout this period. Being mentally stimulated has helped me keep a positive outlook on life.
From a family perspective, my wife and I have recently taken on two new Foster Children. Settling them into the Perry household and establishing a routine in these very strange times has been challenging to say the least, but we’ve also found this to be an incredibly rewarding experience.
What do you like the most about your property and about the AHC?
There are too many things to list. I love the hotel and gardens and feel incredibly privileged to have been afforded the opportunity to run what I consider to be the best hotel in Kent – I know I’m biased!
What’s your favourite destination and hotel in the world?
My absolute favourite destination is the Lake District and in particular a small village called Grasmere, which is perfectly located for some fantastic walks. William Wordsworth called Grasmere “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”.
Favourite hotel – “The House” in Barbados – An Adults only Hideaway!
Rowhill Grange and Utopia Spa is our 4-star 38 bedroom hotel, spa & event venue in Kent.