Conference recap: Plastic perception, Olympic lessons
Conference recap: Plastic perception, Olympic lessons
22 JANUARY 2018 8:15 AM

Plastic is bad. Sporting excellence is praiseworthy. Here are some lessons learned at the 2018 edition of the 25th annual Master Innholders Conference in London.

Last week’s Master Innholders Conference in London is the foremost gathering of United Kingdom hotel GMs.

Now, I like to think I am on the good side when it comes to being ecologically and environmentally sensitive; my non-work interests generally put me outdoors.

My father used to rant against rubbish bins being placed anywhere, especially in the countryside. “Rubbish bins attract rubbish,” he would say, his meaning being that rubbish should be taken home and binned—and now recycled—there.

So, as I poured a coffee, inadvertently into a polystyrene cub, the hotelier in the queue behind me graciously ribbed me for not putting it in a china cup.

He’s right, of course. I followed his advice, and I hope I will continue to do so. Thank you, sir.

As my colleague, Robert McCune, wrote last week, hoteliers are at the forefront of efforts to reduce plastic and other waste. That makes sense from an economic and revenue-per-available-room angle, but such noble causes have a far greater ability to help the general good.

I will not come over, hopefully, all sanctimonious—how could I after being chastised in public?—but images of plastic floating around oceans documented on Sir David Attenborough’s recent TV series Blue Planet 2 more than shocked a few people who knew there was a problem but not exactly what it translated out to in the field, or, in this case, the sea.

Hotel guests also realize these renewed efforts from hoteliers are not merely cash exercises. Yes, we guests probably all thought that the first few hundred times we saw the sign in the bathroom asking us to reuse towels, rather than expect fresh ones every day, but hopefully such cynicism is a thing of the past.

Athletic acumen
I admit to being a sucker for any keynote speeches featuring athletes trying to relate sporting excellence with corporate attitudes and success.

Yes, there is plenty of room for cynicism here, too, but having run a few races, I adore hearing speakers who have risen to the very top of their sporting field.

The gold medalist is most definitely to the right of this photo, not the left. Crista Cullen graciously lets a hotel industry journalist wear her 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics’ gold medal. (Photo: Terence Baker)

Take Crista Cullen, who closed the Master Innholders conference with anecdotes, inspiration, team-building strategies and self-belief from her career in the Great Britain women’s field hockey team. Her team won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics and a gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.

Some of Cullen’s points translated well to the audience’s own experience of running a team:

  • The squad has 31 members, but only 16 make the Olympics team. Thus, 13 are disappointed and the remaining two travel with the main squad as alternates in the event someone sustains a serious injury.
  • These 15 “second-squad” players still go through four years of rigorous training, though, and are expected to be an opposition team to the main squad in preparation games. They remain a fundamental part of the entire effort to bring back gold, even though they have not a single chance of getting a medal.
  • At various points before Rio success, the team was ranked seventh in the world, and in the tournament before Rio, the team came second-last. The team, Cullen said, only had Rio in mind. “Consider the process, not the results,” she said.
  • When you suffer defeats and failure, that is, Cullen added, when you learn the most and know who it is you’d want in the trenches with you the next time around. Those four years of sweat and toil precede any chance of competing in a gold-medal game.

I felt it was all very inspirational. Cullen is also a trained pilot, and her father is the managing director of the luxury Hemingways Hotel in Watamu on the coast of Kenya, where Cullen grew up, despite being born in Boston, England.

I can also report that gold medals are heavy. Cullen brought hers in for show and tell—and “wear and dream” as the above photo shows.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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