At just 29 years of age, Bradley Garnett is setting an excellent example for all young New Zealanders who want to pursue a career in the highly competitive hospitality industry. “It all comes down to hard work,” he said. And having gone from part-time porter to SKYCITY’s Hotels Revenue Manager in the space of very few years, this self-defined ‘hotel geek’ speaks from experience.

It has been a huge year for Garnett, marked by winning two of the industry’s most coveted accolades; Emerging Tourism Leader at the 2016 Tourism Industry Awards, and Outstanding Young Hotel Executive of the Year at the 2016 New Zealand Hotel Industry Awards.

This double achievement was a dream come true for Garnett, who took his first steps in hospitality while attending high school in the small rural town of Maungaturoto.

But it wasn’t until moving to Auckland ten years ago that he got a foot on the career ladder, working as a part-time porter at the Crowne Plaza Hotel while completing a diploma in hospitality management at AUT. Within just two years Garnett was promoted twice, to guest service agent and reservation agent, and in 2008 he was off to Brisbane, Australia, to work as the reservations group coordinator at the Mercure and Ibis Hotels.

Ready to indulge his wanderlust, he embarked on a three-month trip across Europe, which opened his mind to a whole new world and left him with fond memories. More travels followed, including incredible experiences in Mexico and Indonesia, and when Garnett finally headed back home, in 2010, found the NZ tourism industry was in great shape.

“Our country has come a long way, and Auckland is a great place to be at the moment, with plenty of high-quality restaurants and services, although we should build more hotels to accommodate the rise in demand,” he said.

Upon his return, Garnett was employed as the reservations group coordinator for SKYCITY Hotel and SKYCITY Grand Hotel, and two years later seconded into a maternity cover role as the Hotels Revenue Manager, which was made permanent in 2013. At that point, he was also given the responsibility of managing the SKYCITY Contact Centre, with more than 2,000 daily customer interactions. He currently retains both positions, analysing hotel rates, availability and customer demographics, looking for potential issues and developing strategies with the sales and marketing teams.

“I love this diversity of roles,” Garnett said. “It’s not just about the numbers. I’ve also made a real point of getting ‘out and about’, keeping up with what’s happening in the city, in New Zealand and overseas.”

This year’s achievements have given him even more motivation to develop his staff. “We always learn from each other and, having started in their role, I think my story can inspire them. I encourage them to sell, but I also try to reward them and acknowledge them.”

At present, he’s focusing on a new, exciting and unprecedented challenge, as SKYCITY’s international convention centre and hotel are under construction and due to open in 2019—a development that is set to contribute $700 million to the Auckland economy.

“Hotels are where my passion is, and my end goal is to achieve a senior role either in hospitality or tourism,” he said. “I don’t rule out the possibility of moving overseas, at some point.”

For the time being, he’s just grateful for the opportunities at both SKYCITY and within the New Zealand Hospitality and Tourism sector and is eager to mentor other young people in the field.

“It’s an amazing industry, and opportunities really come down to hard work. What I’ve learnt along the way, from carrying bags to shift work, has paid off and helped me get to where I’m now,” he said. “There is no crystal ball—you have to try things out and learn, make the most of it.”