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Corstorphine & Wright – Hotels Conference Preview

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By Derek Reid – 19th November 2021

Derek Reid heads to the Annual Hotel Conference

We have spent the last 18 months living through an entirely new situation that has turned many industries on their head. After almost two years of the Coronavirus pandemic, we are thankfully beginning to see the return of in-person events.

One of the events I’ve been most looking forward to getting back to is the Annual Hotel Conference (AHC), which is coming up on 22 and 23 November 2021 at Manchester Central. While the conference did manage to run in a digital format in 2020, I cannot wait to get back to the event in a face-to-face capacity, seeing over 1000 attendees discussing the most important issues the hospitality industry faces right now.

The hospitality industry post-Covid

I’m incredibly excited to be meeting with colleagues from across the global hospitality industry to discuss the issues that are affecting us most – and what the potential creative and innovative solutions could be. I’m always delighted to hear important insights from the leading professionals in the field, and with so much happening across the landscape not just of the hospitality industry, but the professional world in general, this year will be ripe with hot topics and passionate discussions. I can’t wait!

Central to discussion will, of course, will be the impact of Coronavirus. Hospitality and hotels were hugely impacted by Covid – but despite now being allowed to reopen, many hotels are still facing a series of challenges. In a number of cases, we’re still seeing occupancies sitting as low as 25% where pre-pandemic they may have been reaching 75-80% on a regular basis.

Restrictions may have lifted – but along with them, we have lost the support structures put in place by the government such as business grants and furlough. While the country has been allowed to open back up, the success of the hospitality businesses in particular is hugely influenced by the public’s confidence in travel – and that affects both tourism and business travel.

We’ve all been operating in a new way for nearly two years, and a lot of individuals have been exploring new ways of working that remove the need for the regular pre-pandemic travel.

No doubt conference discussion will look to uncover how – and if – we can return to our previous idea of ‘normal’.

Staffing hotels after Brexit

Other important conversation topics include the current issue around attracting and retaining the best and most talented hospitality staff. Against the background of Brexit, hospitality in the wider context relied heavily on international staffing. Brexit has had an enormous impact on this, and we now appear to have a recruitment deficit in the industry. Great hotel experiences begin and end with great staff, so this is an incredibly important issue.

I’m looking forward to meeting with colleagues and experts to discuss how we can address issues such as these, from repositioning the hotel landscape to looking at which stakeholders are viewing them as investment opportunities.

Industry leading experts

One of the really engaging aspects of the conference has always been the high-calibre speakers that attend the event.

One panel of speakers brings together leading experts from T5 Strategies, UKHospitality, Hilton, and Scottish Tourism Alliance to deep-dive on ‘Accelerating Re-birth of UK Travel & Hospitality’. The session will be uncovering the reality of the ‘double-whammy’ that is Coronavirus and Brexit, discussing how the UK hospitality industry can combat these challenges.

With learning sessions on wellness and sustainability, and panel discussions on balancing sustainability and profit, the event is stacked with hot-button issues. It feels like an opportunity to get the industry’s best minds together, face-to-face, to work out what happens next in the industry – and I for one can’t wait to see what new ideas and discussions come out of it!

Head back to the Corstorphine & Wright website next week to see my thoughts on the conference programme, and my biggest takeaways.

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