The Big Cheese

Life in the time of COVID-19 with Marriott’s Will Blakelock

This week, we caught up with Will Blakelock, Marriott International’s new area director of revenue strategy for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, to find out how he’s been faring amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are you reading?

I’m really enjoying reading non-fiction at the moment and recently finished 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a book that really makes you think about what the future holds for us all.

What are you watching?

The competitive side of me is really enjoying watching Survivor at the moment. I think it’s great that, despite border closures, shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race have been able to take place and showcase the beauty Australia has to offer.

What are you listening to?

I love musical theatre; it pains me to think how this industry, like the hospitality industry, has also been hit hard during the pandemic. I’ve been listening to lots of soundtracks and can’t wait to get back to see some live theatre.

What are you cooking?

Having lived in Prague for five years and having a Czech partner, I have a real soft spot for Czech desserts and pastries. Two years ago, we both became vegan, so we’ve been trying to adapt some traditional recipes (the recent lockdowns have given us a little extra time to do this).

How are you staying fit both physically and mentally?

I’ve been lucky enough to still be able to train with my personal trainer during COVID. This has helped to keep me both physically and mentally fit.

What’s the one thing keeping you sane?

I’m a strong believer in the mantra ‘healthy body, healthy mind’. Exercise, whether it be training in the park, going for a run or just simply a walk, has been key for me.

What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the coronavirus hit?

The one positive thing to come out of this is to see how much this has brought communities together. Living in Sydney’s Inner West, my community does a lot to support each other, including food banks and just simply looking out for each other. It’s been great to be a part of this community.

What have you learned about yourself amid the crisis?

The importance of routine in my life. Even whilst working from home during lockdown, I have found that maintaining a routine even down to simple things like popping out to get a takeaway coffee on my morning before work or exercising has helped keep routine and keep me motivated.

What’s your advice for others in the MICE industry on coping with the crisis?

Having worked in revenue management for 16-plus years, change management is nothing new to me, but one thing this crisis has taught me is how important it is for us all to constantly adapt and adjust quickly and calmly to new situations without making a knee-jerk reaction.