The AHC 2021: Key takeaways from The Annual Hotel Conference

by | 25 Nov 2021 | Events

The Vision Stage at The AHC 2021 (imagery: © Richard Frost)

In an exclusive report, we round up the key insights shared in Manchester, featuring contributions from Marriott International, Accor, IHG, Goddard Littlefair and Gary Neville.

Leading lights from Europe’s hotel sector gathered in Manchester for two days of engaging debate and invaluable networking opportunities.

Change for Good

More than 800 hoteliers, owners, investors, developers, operators, designers and suppliers attended the Manchester Central convention complex in the heart of one of the UK’s biggest cities on 22 – 23 November 2021 to discuss the big issues facing hospitality. Organised by Questex, the packed programme of keynotes, panels and roundtables was complemented by an impressive exhibition space hosting stands from the likes of Marriott International, Accor, IHG, Radisson Hotel Group, Choice Hotels EMEA, Yotel and Interstate Hotels & Resorts – with plenty of opportunities to tour the city’s hotels and network over a few drinks afterwards.

Here are some of the key takeaways from this year’s conference programme, which was centred around the theme of ‘Change for Good’.

Hotels must improve working conditions

“Hospitality staff have been treated poorly for far too long – it’s time for a reset” – Gary Neville, director and co-owner of GG Hospitality, on how working conditions in hospitality must improve dramatically

“We’ve got to reset post-pandemic to the realities of 2021 – people want a better work / life balance” – Gary Neville, director and co-owner of GG Hospitality, on how employee expectations have changed

“We need to make our industry attractive again to the younger generation” – Dimitris Manikis, president, EMEA, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, on how going green can help hotels attract younger workers passionate about tackling climate change

“I look at all the labour shortage issues we’re facing and think we have to make our industry more attractive to work in” – David Kellett, senior director, hotel transactions, Invesco Real Estate, on how hotels must draw new workers into the industry

Guests increasingly demand sustainability

“What we’re clearly seeing in the luxury segment is that customers are becoming more conscious” – Satya Anand, president, EMEA at Marriott International, on how luxury travellers are becoming more and more interested in sustainability

“We have to win the hearts and minds of the guests of the future” – Karin Sheppard, SVP and managing director Europe at IHG, on how hotels must embrace sustainable practices in order to attract increasingly eco-conscious travellers

“There are lots of credible studies out there now showing that customers are willing to pay more for sustainable and eco projects, and that wasn’t the case a few years ago” – Daniel Johansson, director of development and acquisitions at Cheval Collection, on how hotels can achieve higher room rates by adopting eco-friendly practices

Hotels are working hard to cut emissions

“Cop26 has changed the goalposts and focused minds on ESG [environmental, social and governance]” – Karin Sheppard, SVP and managing director Europe at IHG, on how the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow has reinforced the need for hotels to cut carbon emissions

“The best we can do today won’t be the best we can do tomorrow, so we need to be humble enough to keep learning” – Karin Sheppard, SVP and managing director Europe at IHG, on how the hotel industry must continually adapt as our understanding of the climate crisis develops

The hotel market is evolving fast

“You’ll see a consolidation of third-party operators because a lot of them are quite small. Over time, the UK will start looking a lot more like the US I think” – David Kellett, senior director, hotel transactions, Invesco Real Estate, on how UK hotel operators will increasingly achieve the economies of scale enjoyed by their US counterparts

“The franchise model works well because you need the global systems, the loyalty programmes and the relationships with OTAs [online travel agents]” – Rustom Vickers, head of development, Choice Hotels EMEA, on how franchising an established brand looks more and more attractive to many hotel owners

It’s not one side against the other, we’re working together towards a common goal” – Philip Lassman, vice president, development, Northern Europe, Accor, on how genuine collaboration between hotel owners and brands is vital

Hotel interiors must reflect changing market conditions

“If you design something overly fashionable, it dates quickly and gets ripped out in five years’ time, which just isn’t sustainable” – Martin Goddard, co-founder and director of Goddard Littlefair, on how sustainable hotel design means thinking long term

“Even on five-star projects, there’s not the same size of budget as there was 20 years ago” – Martin Goddard, co-founder and director of Goddard Littlefair, on how the amount being spent on hotel interiors is getting squeezed

Hospitality must stand together

“If we’re going to get more support from government, we all need to contribute, we can’t just leave the trade associations to do all the heavy lifting” – Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, on how everyone working in hospitality needs to lobby government to take the sector’s concerns seriously

“I had a manager [Sir Alex Ferguson] who drummed into us every day the importance of working hard, but it always amazes me the amount of work people in hospitality put in” – Gary Neville, director and co-owner of GG Hospitality, on how the industry must do more to recognise the extraordinary dedication shown by its workers

The next edition of The AHC is due to take place at Manchester Central on 3 – 4 October 2022.

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