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Meet the Boss – Leslie Hurst, Siblu

Leslie Hurst, Siblu      Siblu Villages

This week in Meet the Boss we talk to Leslie Hurst, CEO of Siblu Villages. Leslie started his professional career as a lawyer but felt the lure of the travel industry in the 1980s when he joined Laker Airways – the first low-cost scheduled airline. Siblu operates 15 holiday villages throughout France – Leslie has been at the helm for the last 9 years. He is married with 3 adult children and lives in west London – when not covering the ground in France with his work hat on.

* Where did you go on holiday in 2012, and why? Any plans for 2013?

“2012 saw me spending 3 weeks in the Cote d’Azur where I share a house in a ‘village perché’ (perched village) –  so called because they nestle on hill tops. I am usually there 2 or 3 times a year and make it my base because I can relax but also spend time managing business issues and travelling to Siblu’s holiday villages in the south of France.

For 2013 I am planning a trip farther away, probably to Asia, to give me a chance to escape the phone calls and to absorb some experiences which will feed my insatiable thirst for new ideas and ways of doing things.”

* What is your favourite bolthole in the UK and why?

“My favourite bolthole in the UK is North Yorkshire in general and Helmsley in particular. We have strong family connections and love to spend time there. Whilst my own family hails from the ‘other side’ – Lancashire – I have been seduced by North Yorkshire’s countryside coupled with the quality of the facilities and services on offer.”

* If you could spend a long weekend in any city abroad, which would you pick, and why?

“When someone finally produces a hyperjet which can get me there in 2 or 3 hours, I would pick Sydney for my long weekend. I haven’t been there for 30 years but the harbour views rank alongside the London Thamescape as the finest combination of man’s creativity and natural surroundings.”

* Please tell us three items that are always found in your luggage.

“I travel a lot for business and I always travel very light – carry-on bags only whenever possible. Sunglasses and a cap are critical as I am lucky enough to spend a lot of time outside often in the sun and am hair-challenged – I hate ‘bald’ – and have sun sensitive eyes. The 3rd item is the cabling for my portable communication devices.”

* What has been your worst holiday experience?

“It was almost certainly a trip to north west Wales. It wasn’t the region, which was lovely. It was the fact I had set off with my minimal packing philosophy in operation. That meant I had two pairs of shorts but had forgotten to pack any trousers. The weather turned on day 2 and it rapidly became very cold and wet. Determined not to buy any trousers I made it through 8 days – probably not my best plan.”

* Tell us your favourite hotel

In the UK: “I am not a huge fan of hotels. By nature, I am happiest slobbing around with a minimum of formality. That’s why I love what I do now because I can be myself when I am in a holiday village environment. If I have to choose, I would say The Atheneum in London’s Piccadilly because it combines luxury with cosiness in a great location.”

In Europe: “It would be Le Tsanteleina in Val D’Isère.”

Rest of the world: “For the rest of the world I will be boringly predictable and go for The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado. Both this hotel and Le Tsanteleina have similar characteristics to The Atheneum but with the added advantage of great snow on the doorstep.”

* What is the most exciting project your company is working on right now?

“I get criticised by my management team because I love new projects and am always pushing to change things. Luckily they are strong enough to rein me back from my wilder impulses! Right now we are working on an enhanced customer feedback system which will significantly speed up our ability to see ourselves through our customers’ eyes. I love it because it produces easy to understand graphics pointing us to places which, previously, we had not necessarily thought to look. It sounds trite to say it but getting the customer experience right is what we are here for and anything which helps us do that better is top of my list of things which excite me.”

* Thanks, Leslie.

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