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HOSPA unites the industry once again at annual conference

Jane Pendlebury, CEO of HOSPA reflects on this year’s annual HOSPACE conference, which took place on the 16th November at the Royal Lancaster London.

On November 16th, we hosted our annual HOSPACE conference, which served to unite the industry and offer expert insight on the challenges and opportunities facing hospitality. This year, the event surpassed previous attendance records and delivered expert content to more than 600 leading industry professionals enabling the exploration of pressing challenges and exciting opportunities shaping the future of hospitality.

The Royal Lancaster, London, our chosen venue, played host to a diverse array of panel discussions, workshops, and invaluable networking opportunities. This year offered a high calibre of contributors, featuring key industry voices such as Kate Nicholls OBE, CEO of UK Hospitality. Alongside Kate were a range of other business leaders such as Joanne Taylor-Stagg from The Athenaeum, who emphasised the importance of learning and development opportunities during a ‘Leaders Panel’ moderated by industry stalwart, Robin Sheppard of Bespoke Hotels. Within this panel, ESG also took centre stage, highlighting that sustainability does not have to come at a cost and can actually help attract new customers.

Our president, Harry Murray MBE, shared insights into the exponential growth of global tourism, reiterating a timeless truth that "people are the heartbeat of the sector." Inspiring the next generation of talent remains a focal point for the UK hospitality industry, and his words resonated with a shared commitment to nurturing the future leaders of our field.

How long until AI gets a personality?

It comes as no surprise that artificial intelligence (AI) was a key theme on the day, with the panel discussion titled 'Preparing for the impact of AI on the hospitality industry’' stirring considerable interest among delegates. Experts Gavin Allison from Lore Group and Adrian Bingham from Leonardo were moderated by Carson Booth of HFTP, and explored the latest AI developments within hospitality, highlighting the importance of initiating the AI journey early for future benefits.

Adrian summarised the guests' perspective nicely by remarking: “Guests don’t tend to care whether it’s human or AI, they just want the least possible error and best possible service”. This statement highlighted the uncapped potential of using AI to optimise guest experience, as its very existence looks to eliminate human error.

The panel also expressed their concern that smaller independent hotels and smaller hotel companies are going to struggle to make the budgets needed to adopt the latest AI technology. Therefore, there is a growing demand for smaller applications to who can service those businesses. Concerns about losing the human touch were also addressed and it became clear that AI should be tailored to fit a hotel’s individual identity — with no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Are we entering a new ‘wellness era’?

A captivating session on the relationship between hospitality and wellness featured Daniel Sprung from Peloton, Emlyn Brown from Accor, and expert speaker and author Daniel Fryer. The group looked to shine a light on the growing significance of routine and healthy habits in attracting a new market segment and offered new horizons for hotels looking to prioritise health and wellness offerings. It was clear how important it is for hotels to allow routines with wellness, and guests are likely to come back when it's offered by a hotel.

Other notable contributors at the event 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.

Our traditional gala dinner, attended by a record number of participants, served as a collective celebration of another challenging year in hospitality. During this memorable evening, we had the honour of announcing the winners of our Inspirational Leader awards. These awards, recognising individuals going above and beyond in the industry, showcased exceptional talent in various categories, from finance to sustainability.

The HOSPA team and I are delighted to have organised the largest we have ever hosted and the Royal Lancaster, London once again played a pivotal role in our success – we are immensely grateful for their unwavering support. Of course, no HOSPACE would be possible without the support of our amazing sponsors, especially the headline sponsors Percipient and Ruckus who form an integral part of our growing hospitality community.

At HOSPA, our mission is to connect professionals from across the UK and beyond, and events like HOSPACE exemplify the dynamic spirit of our industry. Thomas Pugh from RSM mentioned on stage that he has renamed the ‘Misery Index’ to the ‘Happiness Index’ and this positive approach to the future encapsulates HOSPA’s view on the world.


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