Convention Speakers



Nick Brooks-Sykes

Director of Tourism at Marketing Manchester

Nick Brooks-Sykes is Director of Tourism at Marketing Manchester and Vice Chairman of the Tourism Alliance.

He was educated at the University of Stirling and the Scottish Hotel School, having spent his formative years immersed in the hospitality industry at his parent’s 52-bedroom hotel. His early career began at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and, as a fluent French and German speaker, he has spent time working for tour operators in both Paris and Germany.

Nick has over thirty years’ experience in the tourism sector, having previously held a number of senior management roles at the North West Tourist Board and North West Regional Development Agency. Until 2014, he was Chief Executive of Bath Tourism Plus, recognised as one of the country’s leading destination management organisations.

Nick leads the tourism, insights and convention teams at Marketing Manchester, the agency charged with promoting Manchester on the national and international stage and the official tourist board for the city region.


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Richard Toomer 

Executive Director - Tourism Alliance

Richard Toomer is the Executive Director of The Tourism Alliance, the umbrella trade association for the whole tourism sector. The Alliance has more than 70 member associations which are all trade bodies, membership organisations or Destination Management Organisations. The Alliance’s main roles are to provide a unified voice for the tourism industry to government and parliament, to provide insight and coordination on policy matters to member organisations, and provide a forum for debate and discussion on important policy topics through its events programme.

Richard has been with the Tourism Alliance since 2022. He has previously had roles in communications, public affairs, policy, campaigning, and external relations with the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) and the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA). He previously worked as a parliamentary assistant for a Member of Parliament for five years.

Richard has a bachelor’s degree in politics from Durham University and a master’s degree in management from the Durham Business School. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (MCIPR).

Richard represents the tourism sector on a number of national boards and committees, including the Tourism Industry Council.


Kris Hall,

CEO - The Burnt Chef Project

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Kris founded The Burnt Chef Project in May 2019, a not-for-profit community interest focussed on people-focussed sustainability. After 12 years of working in hospitality and experiencing mental illness, Kris launched the Project to tackle the stigma of mental health within hospitality. Through corporate training sessions and merchandise sales the Project grew and now provides free-to-access 24/7 support services as well as health and wellbeing training across the globe.

Kevin Millington

Director, Acorn T-Stats Limited



Kevin has over 30 years’ experience in the tourism sector, building up a strong reputation for creating tourism solutions for public and private sector organisations, having worked in over 60 countries on more that 160 projects.

Kevin started his career working for the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) assisting countries develop research and statistics departments for the measurement and tracking of their tourism sectors.  Over 20 years he worked for a wide range of countries establishing visitor and business surveys, tracking visitor arrivals, trip characteristics, accommodation occupancy and other supply and demand indicators.

In 2010 he started to focus on destinations closer to home when Visit Bath engaged T-Stats to develop a tracking system for the City and wider North East Somerset area.  This led to the establishment, and increasing sophistication, of the T-Stats Solutions system that is today used by several destination management organisations and councils around the UK to track their visitor economies.

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Rachel McCaffery

Sustainability Lead – VisitEngland

Sustainability Lead at VisitEngland, Rachel McCaffery, has 20 years experience working with tourism businesses, governments and international organisations on sustainable and regenerative tourism development and practical implementation.

An international expert on sustainable tourism, Rachel has played a key role in the creation of a number of industry tools in use worldwide, including the European Travel Commission’s Handbook on Sustainable Tourism Implementation for NTOs, the Travelife Certification for Accommodations and ABTA’s Global Guidance on Animal Welfare.


Richard Veal

Managing Director - Simpleview Europe

Richard has been at the forefront of developing digital marketing platforms and services to destinations for over 20 years, initially as New Mind and now as Managing Director of Simpleview Europe. 

One of the differentiating factors behind Simpleview’s success is the significant investment they have made in software development for public sector tourism. Simpleview's Destination Management System was launched in 2001 and is now a mission-critical application used by over 900 destinations world-wide. 

Anna Hunt

Area Manager, South England,

Anna is the Area Manager for the South of England at She is responsible for the London and Bristol teams that account manage our accommodation partners across the counties that this covers. She has been at for almost 10 years and has been in the industry for over 17 years.

Steve Gill

Area Manager, UK/IE Chains and Home,

Steve is currently Area Manager for, overseeing Chains, Management Groups, Owner Groups and Home properties and has been at the company for 12 years.  He has managed various areas across the UK including Wales, the South West of England and Central London as well as spending 5 years in a Commercial Excellence role for EMEA.

Sadie Rowell

Head of Sales| AA Media & Visit England Assessment Services

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Sadie has extensive experience in hospitality sales having had a career spanning over 30 years. Over the years, Sadie has gained contacts and respect across the industry, enabling her to position hotel collections in front of some of the most influential MICE stakeholders and Business Travel agents in the UK.

Sadie has worked with some of the most recognised brands within IHG, Marriott and Accor. Having implemented key account development with Menzies, Downhall Country House Hotel and Sopwell House she went on to achieve Director of Sales with Chartridge Conference Company, Fairview Hotels and Wyboston Lakes. Her vast knowledge and connections are recognised across the travel industry.

Joining AA and Visit England in January 2023 Sadie is continually reconnecting with Small and medium-sized enterprises across our industry and re-introduce the value of our Quality Assessment Schemes within VisitEngland and AA Media Group.

Earlier this year saw the launch of Scheme Modernisation and simplification, introducing 3 levels of accreditation from Star Rated, Quality Assessed to Visitor Ready - a brand-new entry-level scheme that is FREE of charge and has been created to drive compliance across all eat, sleep and visit establishments across the UK.

Robin Barker

Director - Services for Tourism

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Robin has a very broad experience in tourism management, delivery, marketing, and consultancy, following six years as Head of Direct Marketing for Saga Group, nine years running his own marketing services company, two years at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, and five years at South West Tourism as Marketing Director and Deputy CEO.

He is a Fellow of the Tourism Management Institute (FTMI), was TMI President from 2016 to 2019 and remains an active Director. He is also a spokesperson for the South West Tourism Alliance and has served on the Boards of both the Tourism Alliance and Tourism Society.

Robin received an Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards 2016/17.

Laura Wakelin

Director -  Blue Sail


Laura is a Director at Blue Sail, a tourism and destination consultancy established 17 years ago and working with clients including destination management organisations, local authorities, visitor attractions and events.

She is an experienced, visitor-focused marketing and communications specialist with over 15 years’ experience in the tourism, museums and heritage sectors. Prior to Blue Sail, Laura was Marketing Director and Deputy Chief Executive at the Black Country Living Museum, a large industrial heritage attraction in the West Midlands and previously held communications and management roles in a range of organisations including 5 years at English Heritage, developing marketing plans and audience development strategies .

Laura has worked across the UK and Ireland advising on destination marketing and positioning, product & visitor experience development, and destination management. Recently she has worked with clients including Visit West, Experience Wakefield, Belfast City Council, and Visit Worcestershire. She often takes a strategic lead on Blue Sail’s visitor attractions work having recently managed projects with clients including Irish National Heritage Park, World Heritage UK and Russell-Cotes Museum & Art Gallery.

Laura is also a guest lecturer and industry advisor for University College Birmingham’s tourism and attractions management undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes.

Duncan Stewart,

Managing Partner - 56 Degree Insight


Duncan is joint founding partner of 56 Degree Insight, a consumer insights consultancy based in Edinburgh but serving clients across the UK and overseas.

He has worked in research and insights consultancy for over 25 years, across a range of private and public sectors including numerous consumer and B2B projects for a range of well known brands and organisations across many different sectors. Prior to setting up 56 Degree Insight he was a Director at global market research agency Kantar and previously worked in market research roles at the Scottish and Yorkshire Tourist Boards.

During his career Duncan has developed expertise in a number of key areas including the measurement of population behaviours and attitudes, customer experience and evaluating brand and communications. 

Duncan’s main areas of experience is in travel and tourism related research. Whilst at Kantar he was account manager for brand tracking projects undertaken for major travel sector clients including TUI and Center Parcs. More recently while at 56 Degree Insight he has managed projects for a wide range organisations operating in the UK tourism sector including many Scottish and English DMOs, VisitScotland, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries, Edinburgh Bus Tours and a number of hotel groups.

With thanks to our event speakers.