11 memorable quotes from 2016 UK conferences
11 memorable quotes from 2016 UK conferences
05 DECEMBER 2016 8:16 AM

For reasons of space or maintaining strength of prose, not every line from every U.K. hospitality conference gets into Hotel News Now’s coverage. Here are some of the memorable quotes left on our equivalent of the cutting-room floor.

We are close to the end of this year’s hotel industry conference season. There seems to be an ever-growing number of events, which, one could argue, underlines some form of healthiness in the sector.

Here at Hotel News Now, we attempt to attend them all, to try to further the conversation about where the hotel industry is heading on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and beyond, and to isolate and analyze the trends affecting all of us.

Many of the notes we jot down do not get into our final copy—the articles we hope you enjoy on our news pages. As journalists, we always have our ears perked up for that memorable and/or funny quote from the experts at these conferences. But, for whatever reason, not every line makes it into our coverage.

Those memorable lines should not be lost, though, so I am reviving some here, with a few details to give them context. The quotes have been categorized to reflect similar subjects or trains of thought that carried throughout 2016.

What comes after Brexit
“(United Kingdom) government ministers cannot see the need to reduce value-added tax, as they look out of their windows in Westminster and see tourism doing rather well. We need to change tack.”

That was Dermot King, managing director of U.K. holiday accommodations camps firm Butlins, speaking at a panel titled “Connected to Europe: The economy post-referendum” on continued efforts to provide U.K. lodgings with a level playing field in terms of taxation with other countries in the European Union. King made the remark on 27 June at the Hospitality & Tourism Summit 2016, less than four days after British voters decided to leave the European Union.

“What will happen? It is very murky, I have to say.”

The speaker was Andrew Sentance, senior economic adviser at business consultancy PwC, speaking about the U.K. economic landscape post-Brexit. Sentance’s thoughts mirror my own.

“I have spent a heck of a lot of other people’s money on successful hotels, but far more frightening was when I spent half a million of my own.”

David Michels, chairman of hotel management and advisory company Michels & Taylor, spoke about investment and what scared him most about the post-Brexit U.K. hotel landscape during a panel titled “Opportunities in the U.K.” at Hotel Investment Conference Europe.

Hotel operations
“When asked how our day is going, all we ever say is ‘good’ and ‘busy,’ without ever sitting back and seeing what is going on around us.”

Thomas Dubaere, managing director of the U.K. for AccorHotels, shared the above wisdom at the October Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester. His point was that hoteliers should get out of their offices once in a while to smell the coffee.

“Training (spa) therapists is costly, but it is your business. It is vital to create a culture, a team energy, a spirit and a culture. Guests are immediately cognizant of whether a spa has a good atmosphere. We have an expression in (my native) Portugal, which is ‘the sardine always smells from the head.’”

Nuno César de Sá, hotel manager at Rudding Park Hotel, Spa & Golf, used the sardine metaphor at London’s Independent Hotel Show on a panel titled “Spa business masterclass,” which was focused on how independent hotels can develop spas into major profit centers.

“Recruit slowly. I’d rather be behind on budget and get the right person. If we recruit to our charter, we’ve never gone wrong.”

Victoria Rickett, spa manager at Rockcliffe Hall, spoke about the hiring process during the same Independent Hotel Show panel, but after first humorously looking around to make sure her revenue manager was not in the audience.

“Our hotel comes with huge windows, so people can engage with us straight away. My six-year-old said, ‘Dad, this is not a hotel, it’s a coffee shop.’ We want that vibe, but one ticking all the service elements.”

PJ Kenny, GM of The Hoxton, Holborn, spoke during an Independent Hotel Show panel titled “Hotels for Locals” about how to create the right local and social atmosphere in hotel lobbies while not alienating staying guests.

“Our locals are vitally important to us, too, but we’re a rural hotel. Our locals are dog walkers.”

That quote by David Timmis, managing director of Aubrey Park Hotel, came during the same “Hotels for Locals” panel.

Forward-looking statements
“Tourism demand remains resilient. … ‘resilient’ is a word we have used much over the last few years, but despite its prevalent use, everyone in this room is in the right business.”

David Goodger, director of Europe for Tourism Economics, talked about resiliency during his opening keynote speech at September’s Hotel Investment Conference Europe in London, casting his eye over the European and global economic year and outlook.

“The hotel industry has a ‘fantastic’ downside scenario in 2008 and 2009, so (in 2016) we do look at operators who survived that period.”

Tim Helliwell, head of hotels for Barclays Bank, said that is one aspect the banking industry looks for in analyzing what might be sensible conduit for debt. The subject came up during Deloitte’s 28th European Hotel Investment Conference in early November.

“I do sense a lot of positivity out there, and if that transpires, the finance follows that.”

Hilton Foster, head of hotels at Santander, spoke about the industry’s persistent positive vibes at Deloitte’s conference. I couldn’t agree more.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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