Interview with Katherine Fowler

The Hague Convention Bureau was given the fantastic opportunity to interview Katherine Fowler from Prestige. Katherine advises her clients about destinations and venue’s from all over the world.

Katherine, you are the first business partner we interview in this series. Let’s start with an introduction. Can you tell us something about yourself and Prestige?

“I started working at Prestige exactly four years ago this month. Prior to Prestige, I always worked on the supplier side. I worked for many hotels, conference centres and resorts in a sales capacity. I live in Texas and know the Texas market very well, I made the transition to Prestige which is a full service site selection company four years ago. We help our clients  find the perfect meeting or event location all over the world, domestically or internationally. I have been in the industry for quite a while and with my experience, I understand my clients needs and what they are looking for.  I can help them find the perfect home for their event.

With all your experience in the meeting and event industry, what do you think has changed over the past years?

“A lot of things have changed. Of course the technology and the way we do things. But I find it hard to mention one thing. It is a changing industry and each destination is different. You have to know what is going on in the world. You always need to be as knowledgeable as you can about a destination. So it is difficult to mention one specific change in the industry, but I can tell you what I wish would change. I always urge my clients to think long term and plan less short term. It is not happening yet, especially the clients in the technology sector. Associations do book early but a lot of my clients can’t plan that far out.  I would like to see it happen. There are a lot of benefits when they book early; venues will have more options, better rates, a bigger chance that the dates they want are still available. We are not there yet, but I would love that change.”

Another trend we see in Europe is the growth in second tier cities. What do you think is the main reason for this growth?

“Second Tier cities offer variety. A lot of destinations have been done before.  A little bit off the beaten path and not the norm sets clients apart from doing something other than their competitor set. Sometimes they have to stay in the big, often travelled cities, but for a more unique experience, it is a very good change.”

What type of locations appealed to you the most?

“Easy access to get to the destination is always important. For the clients I work with the function space is so important to them and the flow of the function space. The way the client can really brand themselves and take over the space. I think those are important aspects.”

Can you mention more important aspects for you and your clients?

Meeting space, airlift to the destination, transportation within the city, safety. All those things are important aspects for finding a good destination.”

You know a lot of destinations really well. What is your most favourite?

I don’t know all destinations very well (laughter), I try to, but I don’t know everything. There are some great cities….. I do a lot in London, because of the access. But I was in Stockholm recently; it is also a great destination. There are so many great venues and locations for different pieces of business and clients. I always like to present good options to my clients which help check “all the boxes”.

Do you think terroristic attacks - for example most recently in New York - affect the meeting and event market?

“Safety is always important. But you can’t avoid all the crazy things that happen in the world. It can happen anywhere and I encourage my clients to be aware of what is going on and to make the right decision for them.  I heard that a lot of meeting planners and suppliers experienced some difficulties after the horrible attack in Las Vegas. Some companies cancelled their event.  Things happen in the world and you never want to put your clients or attendees in danger, but anything can happen anywhere. There can be an earth quake or a hurricane, you never know. You have to think about everyone’s safety, but the world is ever changing and we have to continue to do business.”

Do you see clients cancel their event after what happened in Barcelona?

That is interesting. I have a client literally completing her program in Amsterdam and she was doing some post sight visits in Barcelona and then with all that is happening, we’re not sure what we are going to do.  I have been proactive in gathering information from the CVB and DMC’s that have their feet on the ground because I want to make my client aware and knowledgeable about what is happening.   I have a meeting with her tomorrow and it is going to be interesting to see what is her take. I feel like Barcelona is a great destination. One of the DMC’s I chatted with yesterday came back to me. They have a large congress that is happening in February. 17.000 people are attending. It is still business as usual, but we need to have all the information to a make a decision about Barcelona.”

Cancelling an event costs a lot of money. We heard that just one event has been cancelled in Barcelona, also because of the political upheaval. But they expect that people are less interested to book Barcelona when there are other location options which are really good.

“We haven’t signed a contract with our Barcelona hotel yet, we have space on hold. So I am very interested to see what their decision will be about booking it or looking for another destination. I really don’t know yet. I am going to be as informed as possible for my client, so they have as much as information to decide what is the right thing for them.”

Do you have some tips & tricks for junior meeting planners?

“You have to learn things on your own, but being knowledgeable and learning both sides of the business is a good thing. Understanding where the hotels or venues are coming from. You need to have understanding for the client needs but also for the venue and create a win-win for everybody. I do understand both sides because of my hotel experience background, but you learn a lot along the way.”

Young meeting planners have to learn and do make mistakes. Can you remember your biggest mistake in this work field?

“In the beginning when I started in the hotel business I came from a background of leasing high-end residential apartments and I thought there would be a natural transition from apartment rental to hotel sales.  I remember very early in my career, a client wanted to check into the room very early in the morning, but there is a check in time and a check out time. Being green, I said ‘sure, we can get you into the room’ and I learned that what I should have done is sell them the room the night before.  You learn a lot along the way. But mistakes happen every day. One thing I do at Prestige is to help my clients get out of any tricky or precarious situations that might occur.  I am here to offer assistance and to be an advocate for them and make sure we get the best outcome. 

What do you like so much about your job?

“There is a lot that I like about my job. The people that I deal with on both sides, my clients, venues, the hotels. I just meet some really great people. Of course also travelling. I see some really cool destinations and things. I love a lot of aspects of my job. Some more than others, obviously. But more than anything is the people that I have the opportunity to encounter all over the world. I know people from everywhere.”

What do you think is the biggest difference between the people in Europe and Texas?

“There are a lot of cultural differences, but there is not that much difference.  I was in Sweden recently and everybody there speaks English. There are some destinations easier to work with than others. Sometimes there is a language barrier and is it a little bit difficult to understand.

People aren’t that different. We are very similar and we all have a common passion for what we do in the workplace and for our families. That is universal.”

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