Michael Hewson—GM of the Hilton Garden Inn Emirates Old Trafford—is excited to bring to his guests a new brand for the U.K. in a unique setting in his home region in northern England.
MANCHESTER, England—Michael Hewson abandoned a potential legal career for the hotel industry when he decided that would allow him to help people in a far more direct, satisfying manner.
That said, a good knowledge of all those statutes and laws comes in handy in his current role as GM of the Hilton Garden Inn Emirates Old Trafford.
“Law helps when new, juicy contracts land on my desk, but I cannot see myself behind a desk. I wanted to help people but in a different way,” Hewson said.
The 150-room hotel*—which officially opened on 19 September in Manchester, England, just before the first ball of the international one-day cricket series between England and the West Indies—is Hewson’s third GM role, and it is one he relishes and believes all his experience is tailored for.
“I wanted the opportunity to be part of a new, emerging brand, to lead a project at a major sports stadium and to be involved in all the aspects of its operation,” Hewson said.
Eighty-five of the hotel’s rooms overlook the pitch, which hosts county and international cricket and pop concerts, including the recent One Love Manchester event on 4 June to benefit those affected by the May bombing of the nearby Manchester Arena.
Owned by Lancashire County Cricket Club, the hotel is part of the LCCC’s Old Trafford stadium—a five-minute walk from Manchester United’s separate Old Trafford facility—that includes numerous conference and event facilities that cater to a large, adjacent corporate base.
A train station is immediately adjacent, and Manchester city center is 10 minutes away.
Hilton Garden Inn is a new brand for the United Kingdom. There are only eight Hilton Garden Inn properties in the country, including others connected with sports stadiums, such as the ones in Sunderland and the Twickenham area of London.
Tennis stars and bed linen
Hewson started his career in Preston, also in Lancashire, where in 1999 he started as a porter at the Preston Marriott, which remains in operation. Following that, in the age-old fashion, Hewson held several formative roles at various hotels over the years.
His first GM position in 2013 was at Threadneedles in London, a boutique property that is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Later, he joined Whitbread PLC, the parent company of economy brand Premier Inn, and then transitioned to the 5-star market with the London Marriott Hotel County Hall beside the River Thames in the heart of London.
Hewson was exposed to Hilton via Westmont Hospitality Group, which owns several Hilton assets and—when Hewson was GM there—also Threadneedles.
“I was at a point in life when I wanted to move back to the north,” he said. “Originally, I said I’d be in London for five years, but that turned into 17. So, I wanted to relocate back, but it was important for me to be in a powerhouse northern city, so Manchester was an obvious choice.”
All that experience across owned and franchised properties have adequately prepared Hewson for his current role, which he said has the greatest number of moving parts.
Hewson said he is particularly proud of the quality of Hilton Garden Inn Emirates Old Trafford. He joined the property in December.
“There are no suites, no executive lounges, but all guests get access to excellent, flexible accommodation with more room types and focused service in a unique setting,” Hewson said.
“We call it ‘bright-hearted hospitality,’ being individuals and ensuring guest comfort and attention. It is not management top-heavy,” Hewson said, who added on busy days—such as when international cricket matches are staged and those balcony rooms can be booked overnight but from the early morning—he often is in rooms changing bed linens.
On the other side of the equation, Hewson has also gained experience with large-scale events. He once dealt with players aligned with the Association of Tennis Professionals, and another time with contestants and stars from “The X Factor.”
“It is on that level that we want to establish this hotel in the north,” Hewson said.
*Correction, 25 September 2017: An earlier version of this story reported an incorrect number of rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn Emirates Old Trafford.