Keeping the legacy of women in hospitality alive
The CEO of The Liz McGrath Collection, Jacqui Elliot is a hospitality veteran with a formidable career history spanning over 30-years. Having earned her stripes across inter-continental and local hotel brands, Jacqui joined The Collection by Liz McGrath as chief executive officer in May 2014 and carries responsibility for the group’s three hotels and overall company performance. Not only does Jacqui bring vast experience to The Liz McGrath Collection, she’s synonymous with excellent leadership qualities, outstanding communication skills, a dynamic personality and (a prerequisite for anyone in the hospitality industry), an unfailing sense of humour.
The Liz McGrath Collection was founded by its namesake Mrs Liz McGrath, one of the few women in the world to own three hotels. Since Elliot’s appointment, she’s been steadfast in keeping the legacy of the successful and powerful businesswomen alive. Commenting on her mentor she says, ‘I had the privilege of working for and learning from Mrs M for only eight months before she passed, but in that short time I was truly inspired by what she had achieved as a woman in the hospitality industry. It’s important to me that we maintain her standards of excellence across all our hotels’ operations.’
Elliot’s repertoire is firmly entrenched in launching and managing demanding hotel portfolios with her signature, considered touch. On the approach that a boutique hotel demands, she comments, ‘Small hotels give you the opportunity to go the extra mile and make magic for your guests. Fewer rooms mean that they vary and have unique character, and that you can offer more personal service and a more customised experience, which sets the experience apart from one you’d have at a large corporate venue.’
Over the course of her career, Elliot has seen much development across the continent. ‘Africa as a commercial and tourism hub continues to be very exciting. The number of hotel groups represented is constantly growing and with this comes expertise and the opportunity to develop and train local talent,’ she says. This bodes well too for more equitable gender representation, as more women are being appointed to senior positions. ‘During my time in central Africa, this was still mostly unheard of. I recall featuring on the front page of a local newspaper – my appointment clearly being newsworthy.’
Elliot has often been the only woman in a boardroom environment, and maintains that it comes down to exuding confidence. ‘It can be tricky to be a woman in that context, and I don’t believe it will ever change completely. I think it’s up to each individual to prove their own worth, and one way to ensure your standing is to know your subject very, very well.’
It’s not just determination and ambition that denotes success in her eyes, though. Elliot believes humility is one of the most powerful attributes you can possess. When it comes to dealing with colleagues, clients and customers, she feels emotional intelligence is absolutely crucial. ‘If you can master this and manage your team with well-developed EQ skills you will find that you enjoy your role so much more,’ she adds.
Job appreciation is essential in such a demanding role. ‘The industry does require long hours and one often has to forego special events in your personal life in order to manage the business well. But I’ve always been driven to land that next big position and most importantly, I’ve had heaps of fun on this journey,’ concludes Elliot.