The Hospitality Professionals Association (HOSPA) has brought together more than 600 leading industry professionals for its annual HOSPACE conference — which explored the current challenges and opportunities facing the sector.
Following months of preparation, last week’s HOSPACE saw its numbers, once again, surpass last year’s attendance, offering a range of panel discussions, workshops and networking opportunities at the Royal Lancaster London.
Among the high profile contributors was Kate Nicholls OBE, CEO of UK Hospitality, who discussed current industry trends and outlined her continued work with the government. Whilst within the same ‘leaders panel’, chaired by Robin Sheppard from Bespoke, Joanne Taylor-Stagg from The Athenaeum discussed the importance of professional support, saying “In the same way our guests want a bespoke experience, our team want bespoke learning and development”.
Veteran hotelier, Harry Murray MBE, HOSPA’s president, also addressed this year's delegates where he remarked that “Global tourism is growing at an enormous pace” and reiterated his sentiments from last year that “people are the heartbeat of the sector” — with inspiring the next generation of talent remaining a key focus point for UK hospitality.
One of the conference’s most popular panels was titled ‘How long until AI gets a personality?’ and saw Gavin Allison from Lore Group, Graham Pope from Cvent and Adrian Bingham from Leonardo explore the latest AI developments in hospitality. Moderated by Carson Booth of HFTP, the consensus of the panel, summarised by Gavin, was that: “The earlier you begin the AI journey, the better off you will be in the future.” Considering AI from the guests perspective, Adrian said: “Guests don’t tend to care whether it’s human or AI, they just want the least possible error and best possible service”.
Daniel Sprung from Peloton, Emlyn Brown from Accor, and expert speaker and author Daniel Fryer also discussed the relationship between hospitality and wellness. This shone a light on the growing importance of routine and healthy habits, and how hotels can attract a new market by prioritising their health and wellness offering.
Other notable contributors included Hollie McHugh from Net Affinity, Inna Nekrassova from The Lanesborough, Kathrin Cockhill from HotStats, Thomas Pugh from RSM, William Gibbs from Sir Richard Sutton Hotels, who is also the latest member of the HOSPA board, and many more leading minds in hospitality.
The educational element of the conference was topped off with its traditional gala dinner, which also saw a record number of attendees and offered a collective celebration of yet another challenging year in hospitality. During the dinner, HOSPA announced the winners of its Inspirational Leader awards, which recognise those going above and beyond in the industry and included:
Declan Gallagher, Group Management Accountant at Leonardo Hotels UK & Ireland, winner of Inspirational Leader - Finance Leader of the Year - Sponsored by BDO
Jodie Wilson, Commercial Director at Crerar Hotels, winner of Inspirational Leader - Revenue Manager of the Year - Sponsored by Edwards & Finn
Laura Golder, Marketing Director at Marriott International Hotels, winner of Inspirational Leader - Marketer of the Year - Sponsored by For-Sight
Shane Doyle, Group Information Technology Manager at Leonardo Hotels UK & Ireland, winner of Inspirational Leader - Technology Leader of the Year - Sponsored by BT
Sally Beck, General Manager at the Royal Lancaster London, winner of Inspirational Leader - Sustainability Leader of the Year - Sponsored by Nicholls Boreholes & Ground Source
Commenting on the winners and the success of the event, Jane said: “This year’s HOSPACE event was the biggest we have ever hosted. Not only did we have a record number of delegates in attendance, we had some fantastic and diverse contributors, who imparted their expertise around some of the most pressing topics impacting our industry. As well as the educational talks, panels and workshops, we, once again, celebrated some of the best leaders in our sector through our Inspirational Leader awards.
“At HOSPA, we always strive to connect hospitality professionals from across the UK and overseas and events like this truly demonstrate what a dynamic sector we are. The team at the Royal Lancaster London were fantastic once again, and their efforts are the backbone of a successful HOSPACE — for which we are all very grateful.”
Some of the key sessions from the programme are set to be housed on the HOSPACE website within the next few weeks, allowing non-attendees to gain an insight into the topics discussed, while additional information about the event is also available. Please visit www.hospace.org for more.