The largest line-up of global Hoteliers in the nine year history of AHICE descended on Melbourne for the two-day event with more than 800 delegates attending the conference, including industry leaders, investors, consultants, developers, architects, designers and educators.
Boasting the strongest and most comprehensive speaker program ever produced for AHICE, world class industry members and speakers from around the globe joined the line-up to provide an informative and inspirational series of discussions and panels.
Early on the first day, former Starwood CEO, Frits van Paasschen, flew in from New York to give a keynote on the power of disruptors. This was a fascinating session looking at ‘change blindness’ and how a lack of agility and not focusing on potential disruptors can affect our strategic outcome as change in any complex system is inherently unpredictable!
Another major keynote speaker was London-based Professor Toby Walsh (Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales), talking about how Artificial Intelligence will impact the hotel industry. He said: “AI has the opportunity to make us happier, healthier and wealthier. The smartphone in your pocket has more power than the technology that took us to the moon.”
Other international key note speakers included Michael Issenberg – Chairman and CEO APac – Accor Hotels; Tony Ryan – Managing Director of Global Mergers & Acquisitions, Hotels & Hospitality, JLL and George Nicholas – Global head of hotels, Savills in London.
Over the course of the two days, a number of CEO’s inlcuding TFE Hotels Chief Executive Rachel Argaman and Far East Hospitality CEO Arthur Kiong gave an update on their brands and expansion plans, with a number of hotels in the pipeline for Australia in the near future.
Delegates experienced thought provoking updates and presentations by Tourism Australia Chair and Mantra Chief Executive Bob East; industry updates by organisations including Tourism Accommodation Australia chair Martin Ferguson and Q&A sessions with Travelodge Asia chairman Stephen Burt and Intrust Super Chief Executive Brendan O’Farrell.
With regards to F&B, Time Out Australia Managing Director Michael Rodrigues led a panel discussion on food and beverage issues and trends.
IHG Managing Director Leanne Harwood took to the stage next with HM editor-in-chief James Wilkinson to discuss her new role and ways to develop staff to take on leadership roles. Harwood said that the talent pool for top level jobs is getting smaller and smaller. “Hospitality isn’t just a part-time job, we do have great careers available for you,” she said.
Staying on the topic of innovation, B-Hive founder Tammy Marshall delivered an educational presentation on the ‘7 Deadly Sins of Innovation’, and how to embrace them and use them to your advantage. She implored the audience to make sure that the innovations they were implementing were meaningful to their customers. “Don’t just innovate for the sake of innovating,” she said.
The technology discussion continued with tech experts Toby Berger, Revinate; Jeremy Holmes, Elements of Byron and Wayne Taranto, Crown Group in a panel discussion delving into the emerging tech that hoteliers should look into, including digital compendiums and in-room tablets.
Another marketing and social media highlight was PR Maven Kim McKay’s keynote on the business of influence and what hoteliers need to know about influencer marketing. On the topic of targeted social posts, she said: “Consumers are more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad,” she said. Instead, consumers are looking to honest influencers for recommendations on products and services, she said.
With the sharing economy a hot topic in the industry, the session with Airbnb Country Manager Sam McDonagh inspired heated discussion among delegates before the final Q&S with ex Starwood CEO Frits Dirk van Paasschen returning to the stage.
At the end of the event, a number of exhibitors offered prizes for attendees. The lucky winner of an Exhale Kohler Slide Shower was Kate Quigley from Radisson Hotel Group, pictured with KOHLER’s Rachael Biggs.
The Kohler display featured some of our top hotel-spec’ed products including the Veil Intelligent Toilet, Hydrorail Showering Systems, Katalyst showers (Exhale, Awaken) and a new tapware range soon to launch.