Liz Devaney sees aparthotel sales as something a bit like gambling.
“If you play blackjack and you get a 16 you might twist, but then you get an 18, you’re getting to the wire now.” For Aparthotels, it goes beyond the typical always-sell mentality that defines most hotels: it means balancing short term with longer-term business travellers. If that balance isn’t achieved, it could mean significant missed opportunities—on both sides.
“Do I play the rate game or do I hold what I can, because am I just going to cannibalise the business I have?” It’s a dangerous game to play, “and it changes month by month with what’s happening—that’s why I do it, it’s got that same excitement as gambling.”
It’s that excitement—and the satisfaction of winning big—that’s kept her job so interesting over the years. It hasn’t even been a full year since she started as Sales Director for Supercity, but the time of year and the pace the company was moving meant she had to jump straight in. For crafting last year’s budget, “I had maybe two weeks from my induction to literally analyse everything, come back with a budget. That amount of work, in that time frame, it was nuts.”
That included preparing for something no sales manager at the company had done before her: two new aparthotels, including the first outside of London. “Basically we did [the budget], and we’re now back at that point… It’s a never ending circle.”
But she says that with a proud smile.
Learning on the Go
Travel, speed, and learning on the fly have been a staple of her career since, essentially, the beginning. After deciding against pursuing law any further—“UK law was boring as hell, and I just had an epiphany [that] I’m not feeling it as a calling”—she found the pace in hotels to be more to her liking. Starting in reservations for the InterContinental Hotels Group, she ended up staying with the company for 14 years. She moved up into sales and eventually helped them launch their aparthotel business for Europe and the Middle East. “We were literally starting from scratch,” and that meant figuring it out as they went along, learning from mistakes as they discovered out what worked, and what didn’t.
For most of that time, she was field-based. Not having a permanent office, “one day you’d be in the office, next day in a hotel up north, the next day it’s a Starbucks.” That constant flux meant “you had to be quite strict, you pretty much set your own schedules.” But that came with its rewards, with business trips for places as far flung as St Petersburg.
That comfortability with change and on-the-fly learning started when she was nineteen, “taking what I thought was a gap year but which turned out to be my first year of uni.” Only she took that year in Wichita, Kansas, “which is the flattest place in the world, and the farthest place you can ever get from the sea.”
She went from having a lot of freedoms, going out with her friends in a diverse multicultural place, to living with a very strict host family in one of the country’s most conservative states. “The winters are cruel the summers are brutally hot.” And the tornados in the spring? “Anyone who thinks it’s cool, it’s not cool, it’s bloody petrifying.”
But she draws from the experience a lot. “It’s a point in your life when you’re learning who you are as an adult,” and then, “you have what you think of as every day, as normal, only to put yourself in another normal context that is so different.” It made her realize how much she loved the UK. “I came back and found the UK a lot more accepting a lot more multicultural. Better.”
And so as much as she’s travelled around the world and seen some incredible places, some of the best are places right here. “My favourite place is Snowdonia,” the national park near North Wales . “It’s a stunning place.”
5 Years, or 5 Minutes?
For all her business at work, after hours there’s nothing better than a quiet night in with her two girls. To just “get a big bowl of popcorn with them and watch a really cheesy movie— I’m a huge fan of sci-fi.” This new ease and comfort comes with now being based in Surrey—“I’m now a proper commuter”—and having a proper desk job.
And after years of growing on her own, she faces one of her biggest and most rewarding challenges as Sales Director yet: leading a team. “You spend years developing your career developing your working and as a leader it’s bringing that out of your team.” So now her job is divided between her duties, “the nitty-gritty analysis reports, revenue, and then it’s developing my team and bringing out the best in them, too.”
All the while Supercity keeps growing—there’s the Brighton property to come out later this year, and more on the horizon—and things keep accelerating. “There’s a lot to do, this year will go by very quickly—the last year went by very quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next 5 years feels like 5 minutes.”