Meet Sarah Seddon – Director of Sabre Collective.

What is your name?

Sarah Seddon


What is the name of your business?

Sabre Collective


Tell us about Sabre Collective:

Two years ago, I started my own business Sabre Collective, a boutique consultancy working across tourism, hospitality and property sectors. My clients are wide and varied. From large corporations where I work on business strategy plus advocacy and lobbying projects, to smaller clients with brand revitalisation and communication work. I am as passionate as it gets and fiercely loyal to my clients. My satisfaction is being the champion of the underdog, working with businesses to help them find their way. My other role that I am hugely passionate about is I am the Chair, Board of Directors of Destination Melbourne. The organisation’s strategic vision is to maximise Greater Melbourne’s visitor potential by working collaboratively with the tourism industry to build the city’s visitor capacity and continuously evolve the visitor experience.


Any social media handles for yourself or the venue? / @sarahseddon


Any social media handles for yourself or the venue?


Who do you see as a game changer or innovating in the hospitality industry and why?

It’s not the who but it’s the what for me. New and innovating technologies such as big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are reshaping the hospitality industry. Collecting and integrating large data sets from different sources can instantly personalize customer experiences and that is a game changer. Expect that new inspiration and booking sites will marry data with predictive analytics to tailor recommendations and provide concierge-style packages. Back-end technology tools will improve integration across modes and providers, creating a more integrated experience for the customer along every step of the journey- from search to experience. Those who embrace it in a small or big way, will be the winners.


Favourite cocktail or food recipe?

I am a classic girl in a lot of ways and love nothing better than a vesper martini with an olive, shaken not stirred ( with Grey Goose vodka, Lillet, Tanqueray 10 gin) I eat out a lot! My friends even call me ‘the domestic goddess’ because I am so not ! In terms of a recipe, I have been so lucky to work with some of the world’s best chefs and if there is one thing that has been engrained in me by these culinary geniuses, is to use the best and freshest ingredient and treat it as the hero and not overcomplicate it with flavours or cooking techniques. Less is more. Simple is best.


What made you get into the hospitality industry?

My dad was a lawyer and saw me joining his law practice. I was more free spirited than that ( translate rebel! ) After university, I wanted to see the world and landed a job with Treasure Island Enterprises in the Maldives ( my dad thought I was smuggling drugs in Asia ! ) I was given incredible opportunities over 3 ½ years and worked my way up in resort management and there developed my love for destination marketing and tourism. My career thus far has spanned working for a convention centre, luxury international hotel and resort chains, a public company services giant, a leading hospitality group plus caterers both big and small. I have been fortunate to be involved with the opening of restaurants, bakeries and bars, venues that hosted 1000+ events per year, major local and international events such as AFL Grand Final, PGA and Presidents Cup Golf, Melbourne Cup Carnival, Formula One Grand Prix, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games. What gives me the biggest kick is creating those first impressions and then the lasting memories – it’s the marketer in me that wants to create an exceptional customer experience that is true to the brand.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the industry?

The obvious is the chef shortage, the penalty rate structure and barriers to accessing skilled foreign workers. But seeing operators first hand in the trenches, it is simply the cost of doing business. High cost of labour with cost of goods, leaves no room for error resulting in small margins. This is coupled with a more educated customer with higher expectations on the quality of ingredients and its preparation, largely due to the food and lifestyle shows in our mainstream media. Everyone is a chef! Globally, there is a decline in fast food because customers are seeking healthier alternatives with better ingredients. The day of the fine dining restaurant with white tablecloths is largely over. The growth sector is definitely fast casual or full service casual. Savvy operators need to have a differentiated offer plus know and listen their customers !


What is the industry doing well?

The industry does a lot well. What I am pleased to see is that eco-friendly practices are becoming the norm, and the hospitality industry no longer think sustainability is just a buzz word. From hotels focusing on renewable energy resources and water scarcity by installing solar panels and updating systems so that air conditioners and lights automatically switch off when guests leave their rooms to food operators implementing sustainable food practices in terms supply chain and procurement. It is simply not enough to just have recycling in place anymore!


Any other comments?

There are two other important elements facing the hospitality industry: Catering to millennials. Millennials (those ages 18-34) account for 20% of the population in Australia and it’s the largest generation by population size globally. The hospitality industry need to consider their strategies based on this demographic group’s personality traits and habits—they travel a lot; are early adopters of technology; like personalized interactions and are spontaneous. Influx of international visitors And with my tourism hat on…..For those in capital cities – international leisure travel is on the rise. With the number of Chinese visitors to Australia now totaling almost 1.2 million, up more than 20 per cent on a year ago. 2017 will almost certainly see New Zealand, traditionally Australia’s largest tourism market, surpassed for the first time by China. Although Australia only receives 1.5 per cent or so of all Chinese tourists travelling abroad, the numbers are sufficient to have dramatically boosted record inbound tourism numbers. Chinese tourists, are set to contribute $13 billion to the national economy by 2020, up from the $9 billion contribution today. The tourism industry’s total contribution to Australia’s gross domestic product is now almost $53 billion with one in 20 Australians, or a total of 580,000 of us, now employed directly in tourism-related jobs. So with that thought, hospitality businesses should consider providing services in a multitude of languages ( particularly Chinese) , and tailor experiences suited to the culture and unique needs of their international visitors.