To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have been speaking to Helen Davenport about her impressive career journey to ‘Head of Commercial & Visitor Services’ at Lancaster University, and her recent appointment as a board member of the Academic Venue Solutions.
Helen’s goals include setting the strategic direction for her department, exceeding profit targets, developing her team members to reach their full potential, and delivering a fantastic experience to her conference, hospitality, and retail customers.
Helen has over 25 years' experience in both the commercial sector and the Academic venue world. She started her career as a Sales Coordinator in the European sales office of the American car hire company Alamo. In her first year she was recognised with an ‘Above and Beyond’ award and had the opportunity to live and work in Amsterdam for two months setting up their new European base. After returning to the UK she then swiftly progressed to become a Senior Sales Executive.
Helen then moved to the tour operating side of the travel sector and joined USAirtours, as a Regional Sales Manager, before being head hunted by one of her previous clients where she moved to take on the role of Sales Development Manager at Uniglobe Business Travel. Here she worked with the owners and sales teams of the franchises to develop their sales and customer partnerships.
In 1998, Helen started her career in hotels, joining Marriott Breadsall Priory Hotel and Country Club as Sales & Marketing Manager. The culture and ethos of the global Marriott brand reinforced her passion for superb customer service and the importance of making memorable guest experiences.
During her time at Marriott she held various roles including Director of Sales at the Preston Marriott and finally Head of UK Specialist Sales, managing a team of National Account Managers and delivering £19.6 million of revenue into the UK Hotels, a growth of £6 million in five years. Helen was presented with three awards during her time at Marriott, her proudest achievement being the Global Roger J. Dow Sales Excellence Award. She was the first person to have ever achieved this award outside of North America.
In between her first and second periods at Marriott Hotels, Helen also worked for Q Hotels and was Director of Sales at the De Vere Whites Hotel in Bolton.
Helen joined Lancaster University as Head of Conference & Events in 2016 to lead the conference and hospitality teams and last year took on the leadership of the retail team, becoming Head of Commercial & Visitor Services. The teams deliver conferences that support the engagement strand of the University’s vision and provide food for thousands of visitors, students and staff throughout the year in several campus bars and food outlets, during high profile events such as graduation and VIP dinners and for students living on campus.
Helen has previously been a Board member of UKInbound, the association that represents the voice of inbound tourism to the UK and is now a board member for Academic Venue Solutions, an organisation representing 40+ of the leading academic conference and events venues in the UK.
When Helen isn’t busy leading her teams, you can find her eating great food with her family and friends or training for an occasional sprint triathlon. She loves travelling and makes sure she makes time for rest and recovery, preferably on a hot sunny beach somewhere exotic.
Helen commented: “I love what I do and I am inspired when I can support and see team members developing and moving forward in their own careers. I’m really excited to see our Events business growing again post covid and am looking forward to a busy summer. Our biggest challenge, like many others in the hospitality sector, is recruitment and getting the right people with the right attitude who are passionate about delivering great service.”
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