For almost half a century, EHMA has chosen a different European location for its Annual General Assembly and this year, Lisbon becomes the backdrop for this important moment of networking and exchange. Held over two days in February at the iconic Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon – the only hotel in the world to bring together these two iconic names in the industry – it represents the height and importance of this year’s conference.

When members come from all over Europe to meet, they exchange experiences and listen to top level speakers. This year’s theme of ‘inspiring the future’ focused on our historical past and prestigious traditions, but also the challenges of the future. This is in order to commit, engage and inspire young people to enter our rewarding profession – one that is essentially about people, offering endless opportunities and a great sense of job satisfaction.

Among the many memorable moments of the meeting was the presentation of the European Hotel Manager of the Year Award to celebrate the person who has distinguished themselves, and the Hans Koch Lifetime Achievement Award that honours the outstanding retired general manager who has significantly contributed to the improvement of the industry and association over their lifetime.

New year, new challenges

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, we expect to see a recovery as demand and room revenue across the sector are predicted to rise. And as you know, people want to tell stories about quality, their experiences and wish to try new things. So, it is all about curated experiences and storytelling. We in the hospitality industry need to understand that anything related to authentic services, seamless processes and nurturing relations is the ticket to success. I feel that guest expectations are higher than ever – and will continue to remain that way.

As people continue to travel more, they demand increasing levels of great service. To do that, hotels will need to think of ways to retain our teams and shape them in order to cultivate communities that will continue to learn. Promoting from within and rewarding our team members are also fundamental as they will be the ones to drive success.

At the same time, I feel the social responsibility of environmentalism is very important to guests, and they will expect individual properties to commit to the same goal. Lastly, I would say that health and wellness remain integral in 2023 as there is greater focus on spiritual and mental well-being, along with sports and medical-based offerings. This is what I foresee at this stage for the year ahead

Evolving expectations

The expectations for what hotel leaders are responsible for are always evolving – which makes the rules increasingly complex. Today’s professional environment requires general managers to be more authentic, empathetic and adaptive – and these three elements represent a call for leadership.

So, my priority is to identify appropriate partnerships with associations that will help members deliver on the need for leadership, and prepare them for the future of work, the evolving trends and the changing environment.

‘Inspiring the Future’ is not just the theme in Lisbon, but it is EHMA’s promise to facilitate options for service enhancement and elevate guests’ experiences.