Day in the Life: Events Account Manager
After joining Travel Places in March 2014, Rob has spent the last 6 years as one of our Events Account Managers, working on events including the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda and The 2016 Paralympics in Rio. In the last few years Rob has begun working on Formula E, managing their travel arrangements to ensure a smooth and successful journey to their race destinations in locations across the world.
Learn what a day in the life of one of our team is like, as we get the low down from Rob.
TRAVEL PLACES: What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?
ROB GILBERT: It depends on the time of year. When February comes round, we’re into the first quarter of the Formula E season and then, by August when the season has finished, I’m busy contracting hotels for the next year. A normal day would probably consist of reacting to our clients’ travel requests, whilst juggling two or three races at a time. It could mean sending an updated transportation report to our local DMC (Destination Management Company) for the next race in the FE calendar, or I could be doing the final reconciliation on the previous race, whilst updating room allocations for hotel blocks for races later in the year. As the saying goes, you could be spinning different plates throughout the day, whilst also working on different time zones for your suppliers in each country.
TP: Is there ever such thing as a ‘normal day’?
RG: Certainly not! The last six months have been quite challenging for the Formula E department. The 2019/20 calendar was not ratified until early October, causing us delays in contracting hotels in each race city for Season 6. The first race in Riyadh, changed dates three times, which caused us to amend hotel contracts for each client. Unfortunately, the Hong Kong race was cancelled due to the political unrest in the city and had to wait for Formula E to announce a replacement city, which was eventually announced as Marrakesh. This meant a mad scramble around trying to procure hotel blocks that were close to the track. With the announcement of the new race calendar, it brought a new race destination – Jakarta, which also meant having to reach out to new suppliers for hotels and transportation options. As you will see, Formula E does go to some quite diverse cities around the world, so our existing portfolio of overseas travel suppliers certainly gets used, and we do plan inspection trips for both us a company and as well as our clients. As with anything in the events industry, you do have to be adaptable and look out for external curveballs that may be coming your way. From dealing with unplanned construction works outside a hotel to applying for visa permissions to work in an overseas country, there is never a dull moment!
TP: You’ve recently got back from Saudi, how was that?
RG: Challenging! Saudi Arabia is relatively new to hosting sports events so we had to work closely with our suppliers to fulfil our clients’ expectations. When operating in a different in countries, we do have to be aware of local cultures and traditions. Operating in Saudi is certainly a country that restricts western traditions and influences. For example, we had to delete social media from our phones, not bring newspapers and magazines into the country, and make sure that men and woman didn’t sit together in the same restaurants. More and more sporting events are going to Saudi Arabia each year, with the Saudi government willing to spend huge amounts to bring the biggest sporting events to their country. Formula E has signed a ten year deal for the opening races to go to Saudi Arabia each season. The country is developing at a speed of knots, with many hotels, shopping malls and a metro train system being built in the city. I believe the country is shaping to be next ‘Abu Dhabi’ in the next few years, it will only be a matter of time until the alcohol restriction is lifted within the country, as this inclusion will only attract new tourists to the country.
TP: There has been a lot in the press about the increase in global sporting events being held in Saudi Arabia, do you think it’s ready for it?
RG: It’s wonderful to see sporting events going to different countries around the world and refreshing to see the likes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar bidding and hosting major sporting events. Ultimately it’s good for the tourism of the hosting country, whilst allowing athletes and spectators to experience new cultures and atmospheres of these new destinations. In Saudi the sporting facilities and arenas are built to the highest specifications, often with no expense spared! We’ve now operated three sporting events (Two Formula E races and the Joshua vs Ruiz Boxing fight) in Riyadh and we’ve built some excellent relationships in that time with hotel and transportation suppliers in the city – giving us stronger relationships, whilst allowing us better buying power for our clients in future years.
TP: Looking back over 2019 what was your favourite event you worked on?
RG: I would say working on the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna. I felt very lucky to be involved in such a rewarding and record-breaking event. Our team were asked to assist with the travel needs of 150 senior INEOS stakeholders and guests for the weekend in October, supporting the record-breaking attempt by Eliud Kipchoge to run 26.2 miles in under two hours. The planning for the event started four months prior to the actual event date as the INEOS planning team had to forecast and predict the optimal date for the challenge, taking into considerations weather climates and locations. The actual event took place on the 12th October 2019, when the weather gods delivered a dry and windless day for Kipchoge to run 1hr 59mins 40secs, thus breaking the long-standing two-hour barrier! As company, we’re very lucky to travel the world to ensure our clients can perform to the maximum abilities to achieve their required outcomes. For me witnessing this sporting feat was very memorable day and I’ll always remember the day when Kipchoge broke the 2hr barrier!
TP: What events have you got coming up in 2020?
RG: Currently I am working on Season 6 of 2019/2020 ABB FIA Formula E Championship. Formula E does go to some alternative cities such as Sanya and Marrakesh as well as more traditional cities like Paris, New York and London. With the season finishing in July, the team will then begin the process of preparing and contracting for the next Formula E season, making sure that we are organised and able to accommodate any new cities bidding to be part of season 7.
Tender documents to assist with sporting events often come in to the team with very short notice, so I have to be reactive to those requests and ensure client’s needs are met. Hopefully we will be asked to support clients with further sporting events across the globe for 2020 that may not already be in our calendar of events.
TP: What’s your favourite thing about your job?
RG: Being able to combine my love for sport with travel. During my time at Travel Places I have been very fortunate to travel the world to see a great mix of high-profile sporting events. England retain the Ashes in Melbourne, The British Lions Tour in South Africa, the Joe Calzaghe fight at Madison Square Gardens are just a few of my favourite sporting events I’ve worked on. My friends always comment on what a great job I have when they hear of the countries and events I get to go to, all in the name of ‘work’!
Would you like to join the TP team? We’re hiring now – check out our current vacancies here.
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