Held on 4 November at the Landmark London hotel, Hotel Management International’s European Hospitality Awards 2012 attracted leaders and dignitaries from across the hotel industry. Now into its third year, the event has gone from strength to strength, a truth underlined by the quality of shortlisted candidates competing across 11 categories. The judging panel was not lacking in star power either, including such luminaries as Leading Hotels of the World CEO Ted Teng, CEO and president of Design Hotels Claus Sendlinger, multi- Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Heinz Beck, and European Hotel Managers Association president Peter Bierwirth.

The top hotels in Europe

As the approximately 300 attendees took their seats for the gala dinner and awards ceremony, following a cocktail party hosted by TV5Monde, the compère for the evening summarised the rationale behind the event neatly: "The idea is simple: to recognise the top hotels in Europe and beyond, and to celebrate the fresh thinking and exemplary levels of service that create truly special memories for our guests."

On the night, there was one property that extolled those values with particular aplomb. As well as picking up awards for best restaurant and best spa, Hotel Le Bristol in Paris received the prestigious overall prize – recognition as the standout property from across all categories. The judges felt that the combination of owner Maja Oetker and designer Pierre-Yves Rochon’s artistic vision, along with exceptional spa and culinary facilities and the faultless work of general manager Didier Le Calvez and his team, had established this worldfamous hotel as the standard-bearer for European luxury hospitality. But the European Hospitality Awards are as much about people as they are about property and there were two individuals who received special commendations on the night. Beatrice Tollman, president and founder of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, was declared Hotelier of the Year. In the words of the judging panel, she "personified the value of having a genuine hotelier running the show" and had never lost sight of the guiding principle of hospitality: service.

"Hotel Le Bristol in Paris received the prestigious overall prize – recognition as the standout property from across all categories."

"I’m humbled and honoured to have been recognised for doing something that I truly love, each and every day," Tollman said on receiving the award. "My driving passion is to make every stay memorable for every single guest, to make them feel truly welcomed and special, and I believe having this at the heart of everything we do is what has led to this award and many of the others we are lucky to have received."

Born into the hotel industry

Arguably the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the announcement that Kurt Ritter, president and CEO of Rezidor Hotel Group, was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award. Ritter was literally born into the industry, at his parents’ hotel in Interlaken, joined his present employers as general manager in 1976, and finally steps down at the end of this year. The remarkable rise of Rezidor is inseparable from his own and it is difficult to think of anyone in the business today who has dedicated more of his or her life to the hospitality industry.

Receiving his award from judge Heinz Beck, and having waited patiently for a heartfelt standing ovation to run its course, Ritter addressed the audience.

"I am very honoured, and yet very humble," he said. "Without my family and my team, my success would not have been possible. I would like to thank my family and all Rezidorians; they have made me the man and leader I am."

Ritter’s famed ‘Yes I Can!’ philosophy would be recognisable to the team at Hotel Hessischer Hof, Frankfurt, winner of the award for best hotel service. Judges felt that the length of employment undertaken by a large proportion of staff in what can be such a transient industry was indicative of a fine working environment and a fundamental ingredient in creating the most welcoming of hotels.

An escapist’s paradise

But this was a night for new arrivals as well as old stalwarts. The awards for recent openings in the new build and refurbishment categories went to Morocco’s Palais Namaskar and Ballyfin Demesne in Ireland respectively. The judges felt that Palais Namaskar showcased a wonderful marriage of modern flourishes with a true sense of place and heritage that completely avoids any pitfalls of pastiche. Its architecture, interiors, location, amenities and overall service philosophy combine to create an escapist’s paradise and a model for culturally sensitive developments worldwide.

At Ballyfin, a painstaking restoration process that lasted more than a decade, with a huge amount of research, work and refinement invested, has successfully brought what was once Ireland’s most lavish Regency mansion back to its former glories. Images of this work projected onto the stage drew gasps of appreciation from throughout the room. It was a popular and deserved winner.

High-tech wizardry

Another project based firmly in the now is Poland’s Blow Up Hall 50 50, winner of the award for best use of technology. Gadgets and gizmos have been integrated across every aspect of this project, heightening the guest experience and underpinning its core philosophies. The judges felt it was a great example of the intelligent use of high-tech wizardry within the hospitality space.

"Kurt Ritter, president and CEO of Rezidor Hotel Group, was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award."

Hotel TOPAZZ in Vienna was victorious in the interior design category. Judges felt that its unconventional lines, natural tones, ecologically sound furnishings, dark wooden panelling and cream textures had combined to generate a much grander, more spacious feel than one could have any right to expect of a 153m² site. Owners, general managers and operators had come from far and wide, but perhaps none had travelled further than the owner of Jumeirah Himalayas, Dai Zhikang, who had flown in from Shanghai to receive the International Hotel of the Year award, which was described by the judging panel as "a great all-rounder". Somewhat closer to home, the Dorchester Collection, recipient of two awards in 2011, triumphed again, with London’s 45 Park Lane being recognised for best suite. Sustainable Hotel of the Year went to Hotels van Oranje in the Netherlands. Judges were impressed by the way its owners had clearly recognised that a fully integrated sustainability programme should do more than just improve hotel performance, with comprehensive efforts made to educate staff and reach out to the wider community.

With awards presented and dinner finished, attendees retired to the bar for further refreshments and socialising. The old mantra that it’s the taking part that counts might not always ring true, but, judging by the jovial mood in the room, and the lateness of the hour, it soon became clear that winning wasn’t everything. Roll on 2013.


Award winners

– Green Hotel of the Year
(sponsored by Airangel)
Hotels van Oranje, Noordwijk, Netherlands
– New Build of the Year Construction
(sponsored by Virgin Roof Gardens)
Palais Namaskar, Marrakech, Morocco
– New Build of the Year Refurbishment & Renovation
(sponsored by Crown Outdoor)
Ballyfin Demesne, Ballyfin, Ireland
– International Hotel of the Year
(sponsored by TV5Monde)
Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel, Shanghai, China
– Best Hotel Suite
(sponsored by Teleadapt)
Dorchester Collection – 45 Park Lane, London, UK
– Interior Design of the Year
(sponsored by Porcelanosa)
Hotel TOPAZZ, Vienna, Austria
– Hotel Technology of the Year
(sponsored by CNN Partner Hotels)
Blow Up Hall 50 50, Poznan, Poland
– Hotelier of the Year
(sponsored by RT & CCTV)
Beatrice Tollman, Red Carnation
– Hotel Spa of the Year
(sponsored by Dornbracht)
Hotel Le Bristol, Paris, France
– Best Hotel Restaurant
(sponsored by Franke Coffee Systems)
Epicure, Hotel Le Bristol
– Hotel Service of the Year
(sponsored by Pacific Direct)
Hotel Hessischer Hof, Frankfurt, Germany
– EH Awards Overall Winner
Hotel Le Bristol
– Lifetime Achievement Award
Kurt Ritter, Rezidor Hotel Group