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In the world of modern hotel business, where financial figures and "the bottom line" are sometimes all that seems to matter, it is easy to forget that old-fashioned hospitality and strength of personality are still two of the most powerful drivers of commercial success.
The winner of this year's Tourism Award is one hotelier who proves the point perfectly. Terry Holmes's charm, humour and affection for the industry have not only made him a popular figure in Britain, but have given him an international reputation which extends well beyond the walls of his hotels, which included the Stafford, where he worked for 37 years, and the Ritz. He is now executive director of Red Carnation Hotels. As judge Peter Lederer commented: "Go to any number of countries and ask which British hotelier they know most and it will be Terry Holmes."
All the judges agreed that Holmes had helped raise the profile of British hospitality. And although he retired this year as the Stafford's executive director, this year's award is given in recognition of Holmes's hard work promoting Britain throughout his
45 years in the industry.
In particular, all the judges commented on Holmes's commitment to British tourism over the past five years in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Both in the immediate aftermath and for the years following, tourist numbers - and particularly those from the USA - slumped. But while many hoteliers simply moaned, Holmes got to his feet and did something about it.
Holmes had flags delivered. He organised the making of lapel badges to encourage a sense of British solidarity with American visitors. He also went to trade shows in New York as an ambassador with VisitBritain. "He may have been in the industry for more than 40 years," said judge Christopher Cowdray, "but after 9/11 he still had the energy to get out there and support good relations with the USA. He was promoting Britain, and it wasn't for his own financial gain - it was belief."
The effect of these diplomatic missions was so great that another judge, Peter Lederer said: "I'd put his achievements above those of the London Tourist Board".
Holmes was also praised for his contribution to hotel training, buy ironically, Holmes never attended hotel school himself. He secured a job at the Stafford after his wife forged his signature on an application form he didn't know she was submitting. Before that he had worked his way up from the kitchens at the Dorchester to the reception desk. He was told back then he would never progress any further, on account of his background and lack of qualifications. Despite proving that wrong, he has gone on record to say that if he were in the same situation today, he probably wouldn't get the opportunity to achieve what he has.
The judges concluded by agreeing that now in his new role as executive director of Red Carnation Hotels, Holmes's energy, enthusiasm and patriotism would continue to see him actively promoting British tourism - for the benefit of the industry at large - wherever he could.