Speaking with Grant MacGadie, Director of Sales in Entertainment at Hilton
Accommodation is always a key concern for any production, whether filming in a studio or on location, as cheaper rates can have an effect on where you choose to shoot. TLG sat down with Grant MacGadie, Hilton’s Director of Sales for the Entertainment industry, to find out how the internationally recognised company appeals to productions.
How did you become involved in the hotel business?
Completely by accident. I studied Italian at University and after a series of jobs in bars and Italian restaurants I joined Hilton at their contact centre to look after Italian speaking clients. I really enjoyed working in the hospitality industry and in hotels specifically I felt I had found something I could really make a career of as Hilton offered the potential to progress.
What has been your career path to get you to your current role as Director of Entertainment for Hilton?
Well as I said, I started in one of our contact centres, then progressed to launch a loyalty programme for PAs called Club Elite within the Hilton Marketing team. I then moved into Hilton Sales at a small townhouse hotel in Glasgow before joining the Hilton Glasgow to manage the Corporate segment. It’s seems odd now but about 12 years ago, the Public Sector was booming and so I took a role looking after all Government departments and all their accommodation and event needs across Scotland.
After that I had two successive roles as Director of Sales, firstly re-launching the DoubleTree by Hilton in Dunblane after a GBP12 million renovation and then back at Hilton Glasgow. Five years ago I created the Entertainment role with my boss at the time as we saw a gap in our sales structure for such a position, as the clientele were very different and needed a specialist type of account management. All in all I am still here after a varied 18 years!
What does your role involve exactly?
I am responsible for driving revenue into our hotels from the Entertainment sector – currently for us this is music, film, TV and theatre. We have a small team that handle all the group accommodation enquiries and I oversee all the relationships with the key customers, whether that be individuals or large specialist travel agencies.
How do you assist productions interested in using your hotels?
We have a “one-stop shop” service where clients can email or call our team and they will assist with any of our hotels all over the world. We liaise with hotels on their behalf to set up initial scouting site visits and get quotations on room rates as well as assist with contracting and concessions. When the group is ready to advance we hand it over to the hotel to take over as inevitably there are changes and at that stage we need a dedicated contact at the hotel to process amendments /changes.
What can you tell me about Hilton itself?
Hilton (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company, with a portfolio of 14 world-class brands comprising nearly 5,000 properties with more than 812,000 rooms in 103 countries and territories. Hilton is dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company by delivering exceptional experiences – every hotel, every guest, every time.
The company's portfolio includes Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Curio Collection by HiltonTM, DoubleTree by Hilton, Tapestry Collection by HiltonTM, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations.
The company also manages an award-winning customer loyalty programme, Hilton Honors. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose exactly how many Points to combine with money, an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else and free standard Wi-Fi.
Do you cover the whole world?
Yes we have representatives in different time zones to assist, and centrally we have two dedicated teams for Entertainment – one in the UK and one in the USA.
Producers are most interested in good quality affordable accommodation, ideally close to the studio or film location they are working at. Do you have hotels near film studios in the world’s major production hubs?
Indeed we do! We are expanding all the time in London and New York – where we now have over 40 hotels and many in the Los Angeles area too. We have 14 brands within our portfolio so we cater for different budget ranges too. Our hotel development is on the rise in Eastern Europe where many productions have been based in recent years.
Do you offer any ‘producer discount programmes’ or do you negotiate room rates on a production by production basis according to what’s needed?
We do this on a case by case basis – it very much depends on dates and rooms required.
Do you offer more favourable rates if a producer wants to use a hotel for a long duration in the off season?
Hotel pricing is driven by demand so we would always look to offer better rates in low season or in tough periods where hotels have inventory levels with more unoccupied rooms. A guaranteed block of long stay rooms can really impact a hotels performance.
Can a production shooting in multiple countries do an overall centralised deal with you for the use of a multiple Hilton hotels?
Again this is something we would look at case by case, but certainly something we are open to and have done in the past – being a global organisation we can often take these decisions at the level required to push through multi-location deals.
Is there a minimum number of crew members for which you would consider a discount on a reservation?
We usually say a minimum of 10 rooms per night to qualify for a group discount which for most production groups means they would qualify.
Major productions will have their own location caterers providing a full range of food on location. Depending on the crew call time this will include breakfast. Do Hilton offer room rates but without breakfast?
Yes, we do. We always work with the production groups as we know many cater on site. We can offer packed lunches too when required and can be flexible on catering after the shoot when they return to the bar for food and drinks!
Alternatively, producers might want crew and cast to breakfast at the hotel before travelling to the filming location. Are you equipped at Hilton to lay on special crew breakfasts?
As above we always work with the production teams to meet their needs – we can cater on site or offer packed breakfasts to take away.
Any producer testimonials about their experience of using Hilton?
Louise Rosner – Executive Producer (Baywatch): “the entire staff were exceptional, professional and helpful beyond a level I have experienced at any hotel. Shooting a movie is a complicated endeavor and when shooting at a fully operational location of any kind it adds a great deal of organizational requirements. The success of our shoot would not have been possible without these incredible people who went far beyond the call of duty not only to make the shoot a success but also to make the stay of the cast and crew that stayed on the premises for several weeks a great experience.”
What has been the strangest request you have had from production to date?
We did get a request for a separate bedroom to accommodate a hairless therapy cat.
What in your view makes Hilton a ‘film crew and cast’ friendly option for producers?
Firstly, I think having a team dedicated to Entertainment clients makes a huge difference as we are familiar with how the productions differ from the more regular corporate or leisure guests and we can educate the hotels on what to expect and how to adapt their style. This in turn means we can be more flexible when it comes to the proposal and then the contracting and attrition we can provide so that the experience is less stressful for the production team – both from a booking and payment perspective.
Hilton has exhibited for the past two years at our FOCUS event – the meeting place for international production. Please tell us about your FOCUS experience as an exhibitor and how it has enabled you to meet new client producers and production professionals from around the world.
It has been great for us really to raise our profile as “film friendly” more than anything. Almost everyone has heard of Hilton but many delegates we spoke to were initially bemused as to why we were exhibiting. When I explained it, it was a bit of a “light bulb” moment and they were all thinking of course! We all stay in hotels when we are away from home and shooting on location!
What do you do to relax after a busy film and TV production booking period at Hilton?
Go on holiday myself!
Grant, thank you for your time.
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