The European Hotel Managers Association’s (EHMA) 41st Annual General Meeting congregated in late March against a backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea and Monte Carlo skyline. This event has always been a wonderful opportunity for catching up with old friends, making new acquaintances and sharing war stories from hospitality’s front lines, but there is also a serious edge to proceedings, with a carefully curated selection of guest speakers and presentations tailored to bringing all members up to speed with the latest technologies and trends available to today’s hoteliers.

Titled ‘Hospitality, Sustainability…What’s Next?’, this year’s event dedicated itself to assessing the sector’s sustainability on a global scale, from theory to practice. Running 28-30 March, it was organised by a committee composed of renowned figures in the Monegasque and French hospitality sector: Manuel de Vasconcelos of Le Méridien Beach Plaza and chairman of the organising committee, Sergio Mangini of the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort, Pascal Camia of Hotel Hermitage, Richard Duvauchelle of the Jesta Capital France and Sigfried Poppe of the Riviera Marriott Hotel La Porte de Monaco.

Upon arrival, guests were greeted to a cocktail reception and gourmet buffet, after which they were given the opportunity to take an open-bus tour of Monaco, visiting the Villa Rotschild and Musée Nationale.

Friday’s business sessions started with the ‘University Day’, a joint presentation at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel, where the discussion centred on a theme of sustainability. It was organised in collaboration with Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), Diversey Care (DC) and Sealed Air Corp, as well as EHL’s adviser for sustainability strategy, Professor Michael Hartmann, and Dr Ilham Kadri, DC’s president.

Environmental factors

The ‘Educational Day’ commenced the next day at Le Méridien Beach Plaza and was opened by committee president, Manuel De Vasconcelos, and the secretary of state of the principality of Monaco, HE Jacques Boisson, who welcomed guests on behalf of HSH Prince Albert II.

It was an opportunity for industry professionals and green economy experts to look at sustainability strategies throughout the sector. Robbie Bargh, founder of hospitality consultancy Gorgeous Group, spoke of the fundamental importance of creating and preserving conditions in which human beings and nature can thrive and coexist for future generations, and how this can be translated to food, drink and guests. His team reiterated the need for tailor-made services that took into account the environment, ethics, and experience.

Among other keynote speakers was Andrea Pinabell, director of sustainability at Starwood Hotels, who discussed how fundamental global changes were impacting land and agriculture. Pinabell emphasised the need to embed a company culture that was committed to sustainability, the role of Starwood’s own global sustainability programme and the economic benefits reducing water and energy. The session was closed by Deloitte’s Robin Rossmann, with a presentation that covered realising the value of hotels.

Later that day, the general assembly involved 17 EHMA members, including the winners of the Professional Development Programme courses offered by Ithaca’s Cornell University: Emmy Stoel (from Hotel Okura Amsterdam, Netherlands), Philippe Clarinval (The Omnia, Zermatt) and Michele Pani (Regina Hotel Baglioni, Rome).

Proceedings were led by Kent Nystrom, president of the Association of Hotels, Restaurants and Cafés in Europe (HOTREC), who presented the very latest news to guests and reiterated the organisation’s work in representing the hospitality sector before the EU and promoting a favourable policy environment.

Awards went to hotel directors Helena Tomsen, of Denmark’s Rolighed, and Robert Herr, of IHG Berlin, who were offered École hôtelière de Lausanne’s and Lausanne Hospitality Consulting’s programme modules on ‘Women in Leadership in the 21st Century’ and ‘Executive Education Summer Programme’ respectively.

The prizes were presented to their recipients by EHL’s Dr Ray F Iunius, director of business development.

And the winner is…

Following a casino cocktail reception, Saturday’s gala dinner was held inside the iconic Salle Empire of the Hotel de Paris, with entertainment provided by diabolo juggling, a laser show and an orchestra. The evening climaxed with the presentation of numerous awards, including one for Fabrice Moizan, general manager of Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière in Paris, who took home the EHMA Sustainability Award by Diversey 2014 accolade.

The most prestigious prize of the evening was presented to François Delahaye, CEO of the Dorchester Collection and general manager of the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris, by EHMA president Hans Koch.

The EHMA Hotel Manager of the Year 2013 was in recognition of an outstanding career in the luxury hospitality business.

On receiving the award, Delahaye said he was impressed by the recognition from an association that represents managers of the highest quality establishments in Europe.

That quality has not dipped since EHMA’s earliest days. Founded in Rome in 1974 by a small group of high-profile hoteliers, admission requires a minimum of ten years’ experience in the hotel sector and three operating as general manager to international luxury properties. A total of 350 hotels, which corresponds to 72,000 employees and 92,000 rooms, were represented at this year’s event.

In 2015, the general meeting moves to Geneva. Running 17-19 April, it will be led by an organising committee containing Thierry Lavalley of the Grand Hotel Kempinski, Hotel Le Richemond’s Klaus Kabelitz, Jacques Mayer of the Beau Rivage, Nicolas Meylan from the city’s Mövenpick Hotel & Casino and José Silva of the Four Seasons des Bergues. Technology and guest trends will be at its heart, with the education day running under the banner of ‘Communication Revolution – Understanding Digital, Social and Generational Changes’.