Hoteliers Gather for the Hotel Leadership Conference 2024

Over 500 delegates descended on Park Plaza London Riverbank last week for the annual Hotel Leadership Conference to learn more about how hoteliers can break boundaries and improve their hotel offerings in 2024 and beyond.

Kicking things off on day one of the conference was Senior Innovation Editor of WIRED, Jeremy White, who provided an overview of what is now possible for hoteliers with technology.

Jeremy said: “A lot of technology isn’t new – it has just become a lot easier and accessible to all. You should be using some of your marketing budget to dip your toes in these waters.”

Next up was Business Futures Strategy Director and Consultant at GDR, Ella Sy, who spoke on the latest trends in hospitality and tourism that hoteliers should be aware of.

Among the many trends, Ella noted the importance of regenerative travel, alternative destinations and providing frictionless experiences for your guests.

After a short break, Broadcaster and Journalist Naga Munchetty was joined by CEO and Founder of Journey, Simon Bullingham, Hotelier and Sustainability Advisor Sue Williams FIH MI and Managing Director of The Goring, David Morgan-Hewitt FIH MI to discuss their perspectives on the guest journey, hospitality and sustainability.

The advancement of AI became a common thread of discussion throughout the panel, with many focusing on how AI should be used to better support our teams – not replace them.

The afternoon of day one also featured presentations from the CEO of UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls OBE MI, who spoke on the changes to both domestic and international tourism, as well as an exploration of the metaverse from Principal at Wellbrook Hospitality and Co-founder of LEVEN Hotels, Timothy Griffin SJS.

Speaking on the rise of the metaverse, Timothy said: “The metaverse is already being used by 400 million people, it’s time to appeal to that audience, those are the consumers that will spend with us in the future.”

Attendees enjoyed a black-tie dinner in the evening of the first day, in which the awards of General Manager of the Future and Hotelier of the Year were presented to Chris Bancroft and Conor O’Leary MI respectively.

A prize draw was also held in the evening, with many exciting prizes on offer while also helping to raise money for the various charities the Master Innholders support. Over £6500 was raised on the night, with the money raised going to Hospitality Action, Springboard and the Master Innholders Charitable Trust.

Day two of the conference began with a talk from Hospitality Consultant at InterGlobe Enterprises, Simon Maguire SJS, highlighting the importance of trust for successful leaders.

Following Simon was Senior Manager in PwC’s Workforce Transformation team, Leanne Walters-Hawke, who explained that 51% of HR leaders say their workforce planning is limited to headcount planning and that recruitment needs to move beyond this.

Leanne said: “Treat employee experience like the customer experience – use employee data like you would your customer data – what does my workforce want and value?”

That valuable talk was followed by Professor of Global Economy, Joe Nellis CBE, who spoke on current economic trends, as well as those we can expect in the future.

Joe explained that while the UK is gradually recovering from the impact of the pandemic and invasion of Ukraine, we are likely to see a ‘growth recession’ over the next few years – growth that is below the expected trend.

Professor in Computational Intelligence at Manchester Metropolitan University, Keeley Crockett followed with her talk on the key principles of ethical AI.

Keeley said: “We must maximise the benefits of AI tools, whilst being transparent to our guests about how we are using their information.”

Rounding out day two of the conference was keynote speaker and leadership expert Keith Coates, who spoke on thinking like a futurist and the need for hoteliers to build a culture of initiative.

Keith said: “When the world changes then the workplace also needs to change. We are dealing with a changing workforce.

“We need to know the tools in which we need to put our ideas into practice but also be unafraid to break things up in order to learn how to make them better.”

Commenting on the success of the conference, Chairman of the Master Innholders, Dan Rose-Bristow MI said:

“It’s been clear from our talks these past few days that the status quo has changed. Hospitality has always been an industry where we go above and beyond for our guests and staff – in 2024 and beyond, we must look to go even further, breaking our boundaries once again.”

Next year's Hotel Leadership Conference will be held on 20-21 January at London Hilton Bankside. Be sure to register for our emails to be the first to know when more information is announced.