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Embrace the future whilst remembering the traditional says The AHC 2014

The 11th Annual Hotel Conference (AHC) brought over 600 delegates together for a day and a half of networking, education and inspiration at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate Hotel on the 15th & 16th October.

The conference theme – The Future is Now – ran throughout the event and included Tomorrow’s World, an area new for The AHC 2014 which showcased various examples of value adding technology for the hotel industry.  

The Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi, opened the event with an amusing key note speech outlining some of her industry experiences. She noted that “there is nothing new about innovation, it’s the pace of it that has changed”. Whilst acknowledging the benefits of technology, she felt that successful businesses are a marriage between the traditional creative marketing role and utilising digital platforms to reach your guests with the key messages.   

The economic and market landscapes were set by Sebastian Burnside of NatWest and David Bailey of CBRE Hotels respectively before the opening plenary CEO session moderated by Michael Hirst OBE took to the stage. Panellists included Michael Wale of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Steven Daines of Accor, Shane Harris of Jupiter Hotels and Tony Spencer of Shire Hotels. The panel were all in agreement that VAT reduction on the industry needs to be a priority for the Government and whilst current trading is good, an effort to strengthen the MICE business, particularly across the mid-market sector is important.  

The opening-night cocktail party, sponsored by JLL, saw an upbeat performance from The Manchester Chorale whilst drinks and canapés flowed amongst the networking in a relaxed atmosphere.  

Day 2 started with a spirited and engaging presentation from Simon Calder which included his 10 recommendations for the future of the sector including, amongst others, the absolute necessity for hotels to provide free Wi-Fi, the business continuity plans required for the possible next eruption of Mount Vesuvius as well as a murky future for AirBnB.

Breakout sessions followed on current as well as expected topics such as social media marketing, how to appeal to millennials, asset management, finance, national tourism, OTAs, development, branding and the challenges of being an owner/operator.  

Jonathan Langston, co-founder of The AHC and Senior Director at CBRE Hotels said of this year’s conference, “Our aim this year was to host an event which allowed multiple and varied opportunities for networking sewn together amongst an educational and inspiring conference programme. I believe we have delivered this and we will welcome feedback as we begin setting the foundations for 2015. We continued to embrace technology with the launch of The AHC App this year which provided all the delegate information required as well as facilitating peer-to-peer interaction in advance of, during and after the event. There is no doubt that The AHC is now the leading event for the UK hotel industry and the place to learn, network and be inspired”.  

The event concluded with a remarkable closing key note speech from Chris Moon MBE who having survived imprisonment by Khmer Rouge guerrillas, lost his lower right arm and leg after stepping on a land mine in 1995. However, within a year of leaving hospital, Chris ran the London Marathon and completed a Masters Degree in Security Management. He later became the first amputee to run the Marathon des Sables and the Badwater Death Valley Ultra Marathon. Chris urged the delegation to “make the best of everything” and reminded us that “the biggest limits in life are in our minds”.

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