Head of Event Management Leon Hughes recalls a special few days and a landmark year in this Q&A.
What was your main responsibility during the event?
Overseeing the project management of
the summit and ensuring that that there was clear communication between the
client and the resort team. I worked more or less exclusively on the
NATO Summit for the 10 months after it was announced that Celtic Manor would be
staging the event until the summit
itself. All the other events I would normally manage in that period were
assigned to other Event Managers in the team.
Overall how did the event go from your perspective? Did
it all go to plan?
It did, it did. Lots of the work
really ramped up over the last few weeks before the summit; despite all the
planning that we put in place, we were still planning up until the very day
really, but this is normal for any big event.
What was the greatest challenge that you had to overcome - if any?
The difference with NATO was the fact that it involved everybody,
every area of the resort was in use, every meeting room, every function room, every
space that we could possibly give them was taken up. We had to build huge
temporary marquees on site for media centres and contractor catering. We had to
move people out of offices, and we converted 100 bedrooms into offices, and
also provided and serviced another 300 bedrooms as guest accommodation. Every
space was required, and every space was used!
Another challenge was getting
answers to things that we really needed. We had to wait for the escalation of
authorisation all the way up to Number 10 and all the way back down again.
This was the most challenging, but understandable given the importance of
the event and the guests.
How many staff worked across the summit?
We had pretty much our entire full
time staff of 800 engaged in some way. Not necessarily in their normal day job.
For example, the golf courses were closed but the greenkeepers were still busy
ensuring the gardens and other areas of the estate looked absolutely perfect.
They even had to assist with the parking of tanks and fighter jets on the
How many extra staff were drafted in?
There were a lot of external contractors
on site during the Summit but we didn’t need to bring in any additional staff
of our own. We were able to use our work force and deploy it to other areas so
we didn’t have a need to bring in temporary staff at all.
How did it compare on an event scale to the Ryder Cup?
Well for me, I wasn’t as involved
operationally in the Ryder Cup. So personally I was a lot closer to the NATO
Summit. But in terms of the excitement, just the same, the buzz that everyone
has, and the buy-in from every member of the team. That's the best thing to see
- everyone doing their little bit to bring it all together.
What were the main changes in your daily routine?
There was no routine!
Did you have to deal with any special requests?
Steak and chips at 1 am in the
morning- that was about it really. A few bits of gym equipment delivered to the
bedrooms- not too bad, they were a sensible bunch. They didn’t have much chance
to enjoy themselves.
Are there any key stats?
In the 2 day period, we served 34,260
meals, across media catering, bedrooms, delegate catering, all over. The team
worked insanely to get that out. We also got through 28,000 bottles of
water, 20,000 cups of coffee, and it took 50 people to serve tea to 70 world
leaders in under two minutes!
What have you learnt from hosting such a major event?
To focus on one thing, it's teamwork
really. Teamwork can deliver anything. Everyone has to pull together and buy in
to an event on this scale for it to really work.