Monday, March 22, 2010

Baaathing sheep and straining dogs!

Apologies for being late with this but the weekend raced by and Monday arrived before I had time to hit the keyboard! Part of the explanation may also lie behind the fact that we were out at a party on Friday night (yes I can still party even at my age!) and out for dinner on Saturday night (to The Crazy Bear in Stadhampton for a delicious thai meal with old friends from Hertfordshire) and driving children around to parties and sleepovers for any spare time in-between!

Highlights from last week included the CLA Oxfordshire Branch 'Question Time' event at Millets Farm near Witney which I was asked to chair! I think the event was a success and it was interesting to co-ordinate the questions and answers (some planted!) amongst the panel which included the CLA President plus four prospective parliamentary candidates from Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green parties - and to make sure that everyone had a equal slice of the action! Feedback has been positive (but I don't think David Dimbleby need lose any sleep!) and hopefully those who attended went home happy - they certainly went home well fed and watered after a delicious spread was provided for everyone by the team at Millets Farm. As to whether it will influence voting tendancies in Wantage or nationally only time will tell - frightening to think that the election in all probability is a little over 6 weeks away!

Fresh from Question Time success, it was into London on Wednesday to visit the first day of the "Best of Britain and Ireland Travel Trade Forum" at Olympia where we were sharing a stand with colleagues from Bicester Village and Bicester Hotel, Golf and Spa - this show was previously the British Travel Trade Fair ("BTTF") held at the NEC in Birmingham and this was the second year of the re-born/re-branded event. It was far too quiet and I was grateful for the fact that we were sharing our stand with two other partners as this helped to spread the cost (but hopefully not to dilute the message) and I do think we will need to analyse the event costs and the event returns carefully to support such decisions for the future. As I have said before, I think people are working differently and using other channels to source and secure business - the days of such events could be numbered unless we and others can see good leads, capture good enquiries and real firm business arising from our time and effort to be there. Interesting to chat to colleagues and to see what others think as there is a risk of a "me to" attitude being taken to attend rather than a decision based on sound business logic.

All of this was wrapped around British Tourism Week ("BTW") which seemed to come and go with very little fuss - not sure whether anyone would have really noticed it was BTW but hopefully messages reached the appropriate corridors of power (e.g, Westminster) and hopefully awareness surrounding tourism and it's importance will have been rammed home where it matters!

The week ahead is dominated by Staff Briefings - this round is on a team-by-team basis so Roger File (our Property guru) and I will attend 10 presentations to update all staff on how we have performed and our targets going forward - a very useful opportunity to get out and talk to everyone face to face, to answer any questions and concerns, and to hopefully inspire everyone on the opportunities that lie ahead.

The weeks always start with an Operations meeting on a Monday morning which is attended by all customer facing teams - highlights this morning included the figures for the weekend which were "just about OK" given the horrible weather on Saturday but also anything "out of the ordinary" is raised. The report from Sunday included the following incidents (i) One of our sheep diving into the Lake and needing to be rescued!; (ii) A dead rabbit in the Secret Garden that needed to be quickly and discretely removed and (iii) some hot tea being poured onto a dog - which was fine after some first aid and some TLC.

Another entertaining day at Blenheim Palace!

The staff briefings finish with a line which says "......and above all ENJOY working in this remarkable place!" We are very fortunate to have an excellent team across all areas and I believe we are very fortunate to work here - Blenheim Palace, with all it challenges and excentricities, gets inside you and no two days are ever the same!

Through all the high's and the occasional low's we are helping to keep this priceless world heritage site standing and vibrant for future generations to enjoy - not a bad task even on a wet day or on a day when sheep are trying to drown themselves and dogs are trying to bathe in hot tea!

Onwards and upwards!

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