Hoteliers urged to experiment more, stand for something and adapt to the future at the Hotel Leadership Conference

Hoteliers were encouraged to challenge their perspective throughout the 27th Hotel Leadership Conference’s stimulating and energetic programme this week.

Created and organised by the Master Innholders, the event saw over 450 hotel professionals converge at Hilton London Bankside for two days of leading educational sessions and unparalleled networking opportunities. The theme of the 2020 agenda aimed to challenge hoteliers’ perceptions and provide them with a framework on how they can utilise local and global opportunities to deliver innovation.

Experiment and lean into risk

Motivational speaker and entrepreneur Shed Simove opened the conference with a session designed to get delegates thinking creatively. Simove challenged hoteliers to look outside the hotel industry to be inspired and encouraged operators to set up a ‘failure fund’ to help develop ideas. “Set aside money you can afford to lose that you and your team can experiment. Let them play with new ideas and see if it brings in a new revenue stream.”

Award-winning speaker Nigel Risner inspired delegates to make an impact in both their careers and personal lives with his unapologetically direct keynote. Risner shared how to understand different personalities of hotel teams and guests to become a better communicator and the importance of setting a goal and leaning into risk to become successful. “No one can go back and make a brand-new start, but anyone can start right now and make a brand-new ending.”

In the session titled ‘How Brands and Businesses can become Disruptors’, Suzanne Robinson, managing director of Happen part of Accenture Group gave an insight into how hotels could disrupt the market and change the way they operate. Robinson believes that it isn’t that humans aren’t changing – they still have the same needs – but the situation we’re in is changing. “There is inspiration all around us. Look at everything in your daily lives and ask why it’s successful and how can you learn from that?” 

Stand for something

Across many of the sessions within the programme, delegates were emboldened to stand for something they believe in and work together to achieve it.

Details of the first ever Hoteliers’ Charter were shared by Sally Beck FIH MI, general manager of Royal Lancaster London, who gave a passionate plea to delegates to look at the latest draft of the initiative and pledge their support. Beck has partnered with trade association UKHospitality and plans to launch the charter in April 2020.

Brand strategist Mark Radda looked at how brands are perceived and their value before suggesting ways in which hotel companies should strengthen their brands, as well as create a brand that sets them apart. “If you don’t control your brand it will control you and as hoteliers it is something that is even more true. People will control it if you’re not clear about what your brand stands for.”

Adapt to the future

Being able to utilise the upcoming trends and adapt to future movements ahead of time was a key message shared throughout the Hotel Leadership Conference.

Leadership expert Keith Coats told hoteliers to keep asking questions and continue learning – ‘Be a learner – unlearn to change and entertain ridiculous ideas.’  He told leaders to ‘spend time on the balcony’ overlooking the dancefloor to see the bigger picture, rather than immersing themselves too deeply in the day-to-day. “When you can see the sweep of the dancefloor you can see what’s coming. Too many leaders are on the dancefloor and don’t get perspective.” 

FutureFoodService founder Simon Stenning gave an in-depth analysis of the drivers of change, key elements and macro-factors that will shape the UK foodservice and hospitality market through to 2030. He forecasted that the UK foodservice market will grow from £91bn in 2019 to £106bn by 2030 and said that hotels will need to adapt for the future if they want to grab a bigger slice of the projected growth. “It’s only going to get more competitive. The pub market is already snapping at the heels of hotels,” he said.

The inspirational agenda was supported by sessions outlining the true state of the industry, both politically and economically. Kate Nicholls gave an overview of the work being done by UKHospitality to strengthen the industry, while Professor Joe Nellis provided an in-depth and pragmatic view on the UK economy and the global opportunities the hotel industry should take advantage of, including the advances in technology and Africa’s growing and young population.

Chairman of the Master Innholders and managing director of Exclusive Collection, Danny Pecorelli FIH MI, said: “Our aim for this year’s Hotel Leadership Conference was to broaden its position in the industry and become an inclusive platform for hoteliers to learn, be inspired and network.

“The sold-out event has provided a plethora of dynamic leadership tactics and strategies for hoteliers to take back to their teams and businesses, and I was thrilled to see so many members of our incredible industry bring their senior management teams to make the most of the opportunity and take time away from the business to develop.”

The two-day event was expertly chaired by Pride of Britain Hotels chief executive Peter Hancock FIH MI.

The theme of ‘Challenge Your Perspective’ was fed through all elements of the event, including Hilton London Bankside’s introduction of future foods, such as insects, into the Gala Dinner menu and lunches, and putting in place sustainable initiatives, including crockery made from recycled bamboo and bespoke Hotel Leadership Conference reusable cups for each of the delegates.

During the much-anticipated annual Gala Dinner on the Monday evening, guests raised nearly £8,000 for Hospitality Action, Springboard UK and Master Innholders Charitable Trust.

For more information on the Hotel Leadership Conference or to register for the 2021 event please visit