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Success Story: Irene Forte

Irene Forte joined Rocco Forte Hotels in 2013 as quality standards executive. Today, whilst still leading learning and development, Irene oversees the wellness proposition across the group, having launched Rocco Forte Spas in January 2016. There are four key pillars that form part of the wellness proposition: Rocco Forte Rituals, Rocco Forte Fitness, Rocco Forte Nourish and Rocco Forte Health.

Irene was also awarded government funding in 2015 to create a careers and training app for the hospitality industry. Map My Future launched at Rocco Forte Hotels in August 2016 and is now being pushed out to market.

How did you get your start in the spa industry?
My career is probably slightly different to most in the spa industry. Following a number of stints working in hotels, I joined the Rocco Forte Hotels central team in January 2013 as Quality Standards Executive. I was brought in to create Rocco Forte Brand Standards, including their new Service Philosophy, pillars and behaviours.

After a number of successful projects (including creating guest-facing Standard Operating Procedures for the group and securing £250k of government funding to create a career progression and training app called Map My Future), I was soon overseeing Learning & Development for Rocco Forte Hotels.

From late 2014, I started to take on projects outside of Learning & Development. I created our new family offering (Families R Forte) and then I finally created Rocco Forte Spas; wellness is something that I have always wanted to get involved in as it has always been a personal passion of mine. I saw the need to cater for the growing demand of health-conscious guests. In addition, I saw that city hotels were not being very inventive in finding ways to cater for them. Since launching Rocco Forte Spas, I have started to also oversee the spa operation for the group and I have fallen in love with the wellness world.

What's the hardest challenge you've had in your career, and what did you learn from it?
I think it has certainly been challenging to get buy in from the top (company board members and hotel General Managers) to invest in our spas. When I started creating Rocco Forte Spas, our spas were only making 2% of hotel revenue, and thus why should they invest more money in them? In addition, it is difficult to prove how having a strong wellness concept impacts upon room bookings (i.e. guests choosing your hotel over another). Whilst I am yet to succeed with everyone, I have learnt that it is about educating them, sharing what others are doing in the wellness space, as well as key industry stats. It is also about demonstrating that the industry is constantly changing and developing. It is about showing that it is simply not enough just to have a simple gym and one treatment bed.

Is there someone in the industry who has had a profound impact on your career? Why?
I have been inspired by a number of people in hospitality as a whole, and two family members in particular. My grandfather (Lord Charles Forte) was an amazing inspiration; he created a hotel empire from nothing- he was deeply passionate about looking after people (both his team and his guests). My father (Rocco Forte) is another inspiration to me. I believe that my passion for wellness stemmed from him, as he has always been a keen athlete and strong believer in looking after himself. In addition, he has empowered me to make change in his business and has always pushed me to be the best I can be.

I also found my first Global Wellness Summit extremely inspirational with the most amazing individuals leading the charge. Their enthusiasm and passion has pushed me to believe that we can truly make a difference and help people lead healthier futures.

What is the best part of working in the spa and wellness industry?
The spa and wellness world is truly fantastic. Firstly, it’s centred on looking after people, caring for them, and making them quite simply feel better. Secondly, the people that work in wellness are amazing because they are deeply passionate about caring for other people and creating a healthier future for everyone. Thirdly, the world of wellness is developing so quickly and this evolution is extremely dynamic and exciting. It never guests boring!

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Head of Active Health and Wellbeing

Your Trust Rochdale
Rochdale, UK
Salary: £44,625 - £49,969pa + pension + benefits