Attracted to the glamour and glitz of the hotels he’d seen in the movies, a young Sir Garry was inspired to go against his father’s wish to see him enter the civil service and instead head for the hospitality industry. Following the advice of his careers teacher Sir Garry enrolled at college in Huddersfield on a three year hospitality management course.
Sir Garry soon found himself working for Peter Merchant Ltd where he stayed for 38 years. Peter Merchant became Gardner Merchant, part of the Trust House Forte empire, and when he was just 37, Sir Garry became Managing Director. During his time in charge the size of the workforce tripled to 60,000 and the number of countries they operated in rose from three to 30. Passionate about staff development he also built a company training centre with 35 beds plus kitchens and labs.
In 1994 Sir Garry helped organise a management buy-out of the company for 380 million, before selling it on only two years later for 780 million. It was the biggest ever management buy-out, involving 1,000 manager shareholders, and turned quite a few people into millionaires.
Since his retirement Sir Garry has followed his passion for education and training, first chairing Edexcel and the Basic Skills Agency and then founding the Edge Foundation in 2004.
Garry’s proudest achievement at Edge was seeing his idea for an English hotel school to rival the Swiss come to fruition. In 2012 the Edge Hotel School opened for business and education, offering a two year hotel management degree in a real 4* country house hotel.
Sir Garry gained the CBE in 1999 for services to tourism and the catering industry followed by a knighthood in the Queen’s 2009 Birthday Honours for his contribution to vocational training and business.
‘Good careers advice is critical. Young people should follow the path best suited to them; they should do what they want to do, and what they feel passionate about. If you want to go to university, that’s fine, but so many students drop out without completing their courses and that’s a tragic waste of their time. I’m a trustee of Edge now so of course I think Career Footsteps is a good idea but even if I wasn’t, there is so much right about it that I would be first in line to offer my support.’