30 March 2022
The venue, operated by the Dalata Hotel Group, had only opened in December 2018 so it had only been open to guests for just over a year when the first lockdown happened.
However, undaunted by the challenge, the staff at the hotel on Newgate Street rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in to the vitally important job of housing and looking after key workers.
Director of sales, Jemma Cross, explains: “We didn’t close the hotel; we had about 20 rooms or so per night for key workers: people who were working at the hospital, rail workers and others.
“We had a core team of around 10 people who were the senior management team here and we worked in pairs in 12-hour shifts.
“It was quite a change from what we had been doing previously. It was eye-opening in many ways and something of a crash course in doing everything from duty management to being on reception, cleaning the bedrooms, cooking in the kitchens – I can cook you a mean sausage sandwich these days!
“It was difficult at times, but it’s your job – no-one ever refused to do something and because we opened the hotel as a team, in many respects it felt like it was ours so it didn’t feel like a chore, it was just a case of ‘what do we need to do to keep the hotel running and help our guests?’”
While non-core staff were furloughed, Jemma and her colleagues carried out throughout the course of the first lockdown.
She explains: “Originally the first lockdown was supposed to be for about three weeks, then it was six weeks, then 12, but we just got on with things.
“I spent time with people at the hotel that I’d not spent time with before because as a sales director I’m usually out and about on appointments.”
Jemma is full of praise for the way Dalata Hotel Group handled the situation – “they’ve been great with staff and they went above and beyond when it came to healthcare precautions around Covid” – and now sees the experience as a positive one for the development of the Maldron.
She says: “It was tough at times but I think we’ve come out of it as a stronger team and we all appreciate everyone else’s departments and work even more.
“We have taken a lot of pride out of what we have done and it’s stood us in very good stead now we are coming out of the pandemic.
“Because we stayed open during lockdowns, we really appreciate and understand the caution that some people feel about getting back to face to face events so it is no problem for us to do things like creating meeting rooms with larger spacing and provide hand sanitisers in every meeting space.
“We’re now really looking forward to returning to business events as they’re very important to the hotel. We’ve started seeing business events coming back over the past few weeks and it’s been wonderful.
“Business events are highly important to us at the Maldron – it’s not just a case of revenue from meeting room hire and meeting room spend, but also spend in other areas of the hotel.
“For example, we had a five-day training event here so we had five days of meeting room hire, meeting room spend and bedroom revenue and it gave the attendees five evenings in our fantastic city so that is putting money into a whole range of other city centre businesses.”
Jemma is enthusiastic about the Tyne to Get Back to Business campaign and sees potential new opportunities in the altered landscape when it comes to how companies do business post-Covid.
She says: “We were delighted to be told about the campaign and to get involved with it as we are very much part of the community and part of the city, we understand the region and it’s very important to be showing a united front as a destination as we want to encourage people back and welcome them again.
“I think there are going to be different opportunities now because a lot of businesses have moved to hybrid working so teams are only in the office two or three days a week at different times.
“Whilst Zoom and Teams are great, it’s so important in business to meet up so what better way to do that than to meet somewhere off site where people can all get round the table together?”
And in terms of destinations for business meetings and events, for Jemma there is only one choice.
“NewcastleGateshead is a fantastic place for any business event because we have so many different venues, there is so much to do, we have thousands of bars and restaurants, there’s a huge cultural history and then above everything there are the fantastic people we have here,” she says.
“I believe every business in the world should experience a business meeting in NewcastleGateshead!”