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Industry leaders look to the future of hospitality at 
Master Innholders Conference 2017

Master Innholders Conference 2017
The Master Innholders welcomed 450 of the industry’s finest to Hilton London Bankside on 16 and 17 January for its Annual General Managers’ Conference. The conference titled ‘The Next Generation. An Industry Revolution.’ is the highest attended event of its 24 year history.
This year’s conference was designed to inspire and educate the delegates on the future of the industry and the cyclical evolvement of the hospitality industry and the generations of strategies, design, leadership, staff and customers.

The two-day event was expertly chaired by Peter Hancock FIH MI, Chief Executive of Pride of Britain Hotels, who entertained guests with his witty anecdotes and infinite expertise.

Speaking on the future, sustainability expert Leo Johnson, discussed how empowering local communities will help to futureproof the hotel sector for future guests. He went on to explain that all future technology won’t disrupt the industry and some will help to boost tourism by creating experiences including virtual reality and using mega drones as transport.

Ufi Ibrahim FIH, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association, provided insight into the future of the economy and industry landscape. Outlining the upcoming challenges and opportunities for the industry after the Brexit vote and she urged the Government not to damage our industry with immigration caps. “Out of 700,000 estimated EU nationals employed in the hospitality industry, 96% would not receive a working visa after Brexit has been enforced based on current stipulations. Any decision that restricts the movement of people is a huge threat for the industry.”

Focusing on the future of industry talent, Tiffany St. James, Co-Founder of Transmute, informed delegates that devising a digital strategy and utilising different platforms can help to attract and retain the next generation of talent. Using dedicated social media channels can help to reach audiences that are better suited to the positions hotels have available.

An interesting panel discussion on ‘Stretching the Boundaries’ saw past Master Innholder Scholarship winners, Aspiring Leader Diploma (MIALD) students and employers discuss the benefits of nurturing talent and providing staff the opportunity to develop themselves further. Session chair and Managing Director of Red Carnation Hotels Jonathan Raggett FIH MI champions further learning and asked hoteliers to put their team members forward for the upcoming MIALD. The diploma is aimed at junior managers and focuses on leadership and management training. Deadline for applications is 17 February 2017 -

Dr Dorian Dugmore explored the benefits of wellness in business and how “looking after your staff is important, but looking after your leaders is just as vital”. Taking regular ‘brain breaks’, drinking 1.5 litres of water and spending time to focus on physical fitness everyday can reduce stress and illness. Dorian went on to outline the key actions that help to keep staff happy and motivated: share success, practice three random acts of kindness and smile and laugh every day.

On Monday evening, a glittering Moët & Chandon Champagne reception was followed by a four-course dinner designed by Hilton London Bankside’s Executive Chef, Paul Bates. Executive Secretary of the Master Innholders Philippe Rossiter FIH, who will retire in the spring, was made an honorary Master Innholder by Chairman of the Master Innholders Stuart Bowery FIH MI in recognition of all his support over the years. Amanda Afyia, Editor of The Caterer, then introduced the Hotelier of the Year winner, Craig Bancroft FIH MI, Managing Director of Northcote. Craig took this opportunity to invite members of the hospitality industry to unite in the wake of Brexit challenges mentioned by Ufi Ibrahim FIH earlier in the day. Guests all dug deep and took part in a prize draw to raise vital funds for the Master Innholders chosen charities, Springboard and Hospitality Action, raising over £8,000. After dinner speaker Dr David Bryon entertained guests with his witty anecdotes of his time as Managing Director of bmi baby and comedic sketches of his experience within the travel industry.

On day two, Foresight Factory’s Director of Content Dominic Harrison shared insight into food cultures and how the “rate of innovation and disruption in food cultures is huge and truly global". Dominic explained that consumer trends have momentum and reshape attitudes and behaviours towards food. Hotels that can offer a range of food experiences and choices are more likely to find a returning audience. "Food is a key marker of an individual’s personal brand for Generation Y, where one in four will share images of food and 71% say that food is important to their identity.”

Professor Peter O’Connor chaired a panel discussion on disruptors to the industry and how using data can help improve services. The panellists advised delegates that hoteliers are ‘bad at using data efficiently’ and urged them to utilise disruptors to create experience and personalisation. TripAdvisor’s Industry Outreach and Strategy Manager Gavin Greene explained: “There needs to be a more savvy approach from hoteliers to retaining customers who book direct.” Jonathan Langston FIH, Co-Founder of HotStats followed on and said: "Once a guest comes through your door, never let them come through a third party again. Hoteliers are naturally discreet, they know everything about their guests but they're not going to use it to their advantage - let's take back the customer.”

Olga Polizzi CBE, Deputy Chairman and Director of Design at Rocco Forte Hotels, reminded delegates that today’s traveller has changed little in terms of their desires. Olga explained that technology is there to serve hospitality, not to demolish it: “only your staff can read a guest, there is no app that can do that.”

A breakdown of supply and demand of the global hotel industry was provided by Sarah Duignan, Director of Client Relationships at STR Global. According to reports by STR Global, RevPar has risen the highest in South Africa and the Middle East, with the Middle East experiencing a 4% rise in supply – Dubai holding 100,000 rooms alone. RevPAR for London in 2016 compared with 2015 is down with 15,000 new hotel rooms in the pipeline. Manchester has planned for 3,000 new hotel rooms and currently has the highest occupancy in the UK for its luxury and upscale hotels.

The closing keynote speaker was Geoff Ramm, the creator and author of Celebrity Service and OMG Marketing. Geoff entertained and inspired guests with his uplifting stories and celebrity service strategy, which is the gap in service most people don’t know is there. Geoff explained the three fundamentals to offering celebrity level service to every guests: build excitement into every customer touchpoint and go the extra mile to put a smile on your guests face; engage more with your guests and ask questions to enable you to provide a more personal service and create an experience that guests can’t get anywhere else.

Stuart Bowery FIH MI, Chairman of the Master Innholders and General Manager of Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel, concluded the conference and extended his gratitude to all those who made the conference possible: “Thank you to all of the delegates, our valued sponsors, the brilliant team at Hilton London Bankside and Conference Committee led by Debbie Taylor FIH MI for all of their support. This year’s conference has been a brilliant stepping stone for 2018 which is the 40th anniversary of the Master Innholders and the 25th Annual General Managers’ Conference. I have no doubt we will utilise the insight and strategy we have learnt over the last two days to continue to evolve and revolutionise this brilliant industry. Funds raised from conference ticket sales will now go towards funding the Master Innholder Scholarships and Aspiring Leaders Diploma, helping the next generation of hospitality leaders learn and develop in their careers.”

The 25th Annual General Managers’ Conference will be held at Principal’s De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms on 15 – 16 January 2018.

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