On 17 November 2022, we hosted our annual HOSPACE conference, which serves to unite the industry and offer expert insight into the challenges and opportunities facing hospitality. This year we saw a record number of attendees, with over 500 delegates descending on the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London to join us for a range of panel discussions, workshops and networking opportunities. Each year, we are reminded of the importance of face-to-face interactions and the need to unite an industry, which continues to show resilience in light of new challenges.

"We are always grateful for the opportunity to bring hospitality professionals together and there really is no substitute for face-to-face engagement."

The event played host to an array of high profile contributors, including Kate Nicholls OBE, CEO of UKHospitality, who has consistently acted as a voice of the industry to ensure it receives the support it undeniably deserves. In a 'Leadership Panel' alongside Andrew Stembridge from Iconic Luxury Hotels and Thomas Greenall from Bespoke Hotels, she discussed how current inflationary pressures have a significant impact on consumer confidence and how governmental announcements can have a massive influence on consumer behaviour, almost instantly.

She also explored the broad realms of sustainability and how businesses with a strong green agenda could find themselves in a better position to recruit younger people with a carbon-conscious mindset — something that could really help hotels to battle the ongoing staffing crisis.

People and planet

Veteran hotelier, Harry Murray MBE, HOSPA’s president, also addressed our delegates this year, highlighting that "our people are our most valuable asset", when discussing the current staffing crisis. Harry also spoke of the importance of creating a culture of diversity and inclusion and how this is always something to be proud of. This is something we always look to champion at HOSPA and something we believe should be on the agenda of every business, not just those in the hospitality industry. He also reflected on his own personal journey as an apprentice and how the relationship between education and hospitality will likely play a huge role in dismantling the stereotypes around a career in hospitality and educate young people about how progressive and dynamic the sector can be.

Sustainability was a key theme throughout this year's event and was explored further in a panel discussion hosted by our sustainability expert, Sarah Duncan, which saw Danny Pecorelli from Exclusive Collection and Louise Carr-Merino from Green Key discuss the environmental management, it's about people". The panel also explored how sustainability and the guest experience intersect — concluding that guests love to know about the sustainable actions a hotel is taking and, therefore, information is key and proves a great way to engage and motivate both staff and guests. Sustainability is something that we must start taking seriously and thanks to the help of Duncan, we have created a sustainability toolkit that offers digestible and actionable advice for those hoteliers looking to better understand their carbon footprint and make positive strides towards a greener future for the industry.

Getaway 2.0

The metaverse, although an alien term to many of us, was also a key talking point of the day, with a discussion between Peter Gould from RendezVerse and Jon Davis from the Ivy Collection proving a particular talking point on the day. This highlighted the rate of technological development and the impact this will likely have on the guest experience in the future. It was discussed that the metaverse and education are naturally compatible spheres, something that tied in with Harry Murray’s sentiment about education being paramount for encouraging young people to enter the industry – perhaps the metaverse could be a vessel to do so?

Pigi Mattaiou and Weirong Zheng from Google were also among the speakers, who revealed that 29% of customers are more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with a more detailed profile, for example, offering free Wi-Fi or being dog friendly. They also suggested that interest in intra-European travel has reached its highest point (62%) since 2020 and that it’s never been more important to optimise your Google presence. To truly optimise your online presence as a hotelier, it’s so important to understand how your guest is likely to encounter your business – which will become increasingly significant as we continue into a digital age.

Other notable contributors throughout the day included Michael Clitheroe, the general manager of Balmer Lawn Hotel, who was part of a panel discussion on building a strong work culture, and when reflecting on his own experience of the pandemic at Balmer Lawn Hotel, said “coming out of Covid-19, no one had a recovery manual”. This was echoed by all the delegates in the room and highlighted just how versatile we are as an industry to have faced what is arguably the biggest challenge in the history of hospitality and still be back, bigger and better than ever.

Matt Broom, the head of customer technology at Pizza Express also shared innovative ways that businesses can encourage repeat custom and loyalty – something that is traditionally difficult to achieve in hospitality, especially as we see more and more guests seeking new and unique experiences.

Onwards to prosperity

We can confidently say that this year’s HOSPACE event was our most successful to date. Not only did we have a record number of delegates in attendance but we also had a fantastic array of contributors, who relayed their expertise and engagingly tackled some of the biggest issues facing the industry. Of course, no HOSPACE would be complete without our highly anticipated Gala Dinner, which once again saw us celebrate some of the best leaders in our sector through our Inspirational Leader awards. This shone a light on those hospitality professionals that have continued to go above and beyond during what has been yet another challenging year in hospitality. As much as this was a recognition of individual brilliance there was a residual feeling of collective celebration for what the industry as a whole has achieved and how it has continued to bounce back following the pandemic.

We are always grateful for the opportunity to bring hospitality professionals together and there really is no substitute for face-to-face engagement. The team at The Royal Lancaster were fantastic once again, and their efforts are the backbone of a successful HOSPACE — for which we are all very grateful.