Written By: Carl Weldon
I was recently honored to chair two panel sessions in the United Kingdom covering different aspects of the hospitality market.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016: Boutique Hotel and Lifestyle Summit
I chaired a panel at the Boutique Hotel and Lifestyle Summit in the stylish Montaclm Hotel in central London. This business summit was targeted for a niche part of the hotel market, and attracted an international gathering of industry leaders to discuss the challenges specific to the segment. My job was to chair a panel of industry leaders, as below, and discuss the future of the hospitality sector:
- Robin Sheppard, chairman at Bespoke Hotels
- Claus-Dieter Jandel, chief development officer at Steigenberger Hotels
- Ramesh Arora, managing director at Montcalm Luxury Hotels
My role was to get the leaders to share their views on areas such as branding and its importance (or not) to the boutique hotel segment. We discussed major brands that are starting to bring ‘boutique’ brands into this segment, the challenge of the sharing economy and social media, and predictions on future industry trends. There was lively debate around whether the UK market was in recession – the London market in particular.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016: The Caterer Digital Summit
The next day, I hosted the first main panel of the day at the Caterer Digital Summit which explored many different digital aspects in the hospitality industry. My panel in particular was there to discuss the ‘Connected Experience’ and what this means to hospitality guests and millennials in particular. Plus, how businesses should be approaching the challenge for their customers.
My panel at the Caterer Digital Summit, listed below, was made up of a hotel operator, an OTA/club online site, two technologists and a millennial (that would be Ben – a very young entrepreneur who prefers not to use labels, and instead uses the phrase ‘my younger generation’).
- Chris Hewertson, chief technology officer at glh. Hotels
- Alison Dolan, deputy managing director at Sky Business
- Stephen Kennedy, non-executive chairman at Wi-Q
- Richard Singer, president at Travelzoo Europe
- Ben Gateley, co-founder and chief operating officer at CharlieHR
We discussed various topics such areas: (good) Wi-Fi in the hospitality business and its importance to the connected guest experience; the types of offers and angles that the ‘younger generation’ prefer; the use or phasing out of the individual app; are hotels different to other hospitality businesses due to size and length of stay? We also discussed where the technology trends start – in stadia, airlines or the luxury segment – and what can we learn we learn from these new approaches.
On the topic of new technology and connected experience, this event featured a new interactive audience system that could be reached via a URL only (so no app to download) where the audience could respond to a survey or ask questions. The result of this was that instead of a stunned silence from the audience when we asked for any questions, the screen behind us changed to reveal about 10 questions for the panel – some for individual panelists and some for the whole panel. This certainly encouraged the discussion and moved it along nicely into areas the audience really wanted to know about.