Earlier this month was the 10th anniversary of the Australian Hotel Industry Conference and Exhibition (AHICE) – hosted and presented by HM Magazine at the Grand Hyatt, Melbourne – and Kohler Australia once again was a Silver Sponsor at the event.
With the largest attendance of delegates in its 10-year history, AHICE is now the #1 attended hotel industry conference in APAC. 850 delegates joined key figures from global Hotels and related industries spanning from developers to designers, builders and real estate to investors and financiers, in addition to keynote speakers and thought leaders from around the world.
Day One’s proceedings kicked off with a welcome by Howard Kemball (Host of AHICE & Director, KCom) and James Wilkinson (Editor-In-Chief, HM magazine) followed by an overview of local tourism by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp. Together they cheered 10 years of AHICE as a giant anniversary birthday cake was presented to the group for their enjoyment at the morning tea break!
With yet another world class speaker program comprising industry members and presenters from around the globe, the 10th AHICE conference looked sure to provide an informative and inspirational series of discussions and panels.
Kenneth MacPherson – CEO of EMEE, IHG got the main event underway in a Q&A session talking about IHG’s past twelve months – a very busy time for the company, launching two new brands (Avid and Voco) and acquiring two luxury brands in Regent and Six Senses.
This session was followed by a thought-provoking Executive Panel discussion on “What Owners Want”.
Panellists ranged from boutique hotel owners including Dr Jerry Schwartz (Schwartz Family Co – Australia’s biggest private hotel owner) and Malcolm Bean (Owner of luxury properties Mount Lofty House, Sequoia Lodge, The Reef House etc) to financiers Lucia Grambalova (GM Hotel Investments Mulpha AU Ltd) and David Scalzo (Perri Projects – investment and development group) and host Howard Kemball. A controversial discussion point from this panel saw Dr Jerry Schwarz jumping to his feet, waving signs to “Maintain Rates” – a message for hotel owners not to cut room rates, creating a price war – rather than guests selecting on hotel and brand experience.
Executive panels explored the “Boutique Blooming” and the Development of Luxury Brands” with IHG, Accor, Marriott and Hyatt VPs and Directors sharing key points around boutique hotels being on the rise as they believe that smaller properties offer more flexibility in design and services for the owner and developer and we should see an influx of boutique openings in the next 2 – 3 years.
Hotelier Q&As for the day included Simon McGrath from Accor Hotels who enlightened delegates on their signing of the new $100 million world class beachfront resort in Byron Bay; Paul Bromley from Choice Hotels APAC explaining how Choice Hotels Asia-Pac has rolled out the ‘Book on Google’ feature across its Australian hotel network allowing travellers to search and pay for their preferred hotel through the Google platform rather than a third-party website.; Dino Messatesta from The Star in Sydney who spoke about their hotel rebrand to The Star Grand Hotel including a $100million renovation and refurbishment underway and…
Heidi Kunkel from the Hilton Australasia who shared on the Hilton’s 100 year celebration as well as the overall performance of the ever-growing portfolio of Hilton Hotels & Resorts in Australia, NZ and the South Pacific.
Investor Q&As included Pro-Invest’s CEO Ron Barrett talking about their recent deal with IHG for a 245 room Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Adelaide, while private investor Dr Jerry Schwartz talked about his recent purchase of the Hilton Surfers Paradise, cementing his place on the hotel and tourism industry map now with management rights to 5 groups and 14 hotels in his ever-increasing portfolio.
Keynote speaker for the day, in association with Fairmont Designs, was Gus Balbontin. As the former Executive Director and CTO of Lonely Planet, Gus led one of the most loved brands in the world through significant disruption. An investor, entrepreneur, founder and explorer, having spent decades helping businesses adjust strategies, products, services and culture to better deal with rapid and regular changing markets, Gus demonstrated with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm about the “Importance of defining your own path” in what is a crowded market.
A fun, interactive hotel industry challenge game ensured the delegates were competitive and still on their game before the afternoon session dived deep into a Global Hotel Sales Outlook, followed by panels on the Australasian Real Estate Outlook and 2020 and beyond Australian Hotel Industry Outlook.
Changing pace, STR APAC presented on Tourism by the Numbers – an insightful session looking at hotel performance and occupancy rates and hotel ownership. It was reported that Australia is still going strong for hotel investment sitting closely below South Korea for the Asia Pacific region. With approx. 25% of hotel investors coming from Asia, this shows an increase in local developers getting into the hotel sector.
The World Travel and Tourism Council’s President Gloria Guevara Manzo talked about Australia as a drawcard and the forecasted growth in tourism in the APAC region, resulting in a pull of more hotels through the pipeline.
With the theme of 2019 being ‘People, Product and Performance in a period of Unprecedented Growth,’ an executive panel featuring Heidi Kunkel (Hilton), Suzi Finkelstein (WLA), Leanne Harwood (IHG), Sean Hunt (Marriott International) and Simon McGrath from Accor, discussed “Human Resources, Why Diversity Matters” – Kohler being an equal employer and a company that has an extensive Female presence in Senior Management, it was interesting to listen to Marriott Group’s Sean Hunt express the same values in their business and plans they have implemented to encourage female’s into the higher ranking management positions available at Marriott Group globally.
The winner of the inaugural award honouring of former Pro-Invest Director Paul Davis – the Paul Davis Hotel Design Award, in association with Pro-Invest Group – was announced. Terence Yong of Terence Yong Architecture won the award for the Little Albion Guesthouse – however he was not able to join us at the conference.
The industry-based award recognises and celebrates excellence in Australian hotel design, valuing the vital contribution made by interior design to the Australian hotel industry.
Pictured is runner up, Rick Whalley from Chada, pictured with Paul Davis’s family and judging chair, Leone Lorrimer. Paul tragically passed away last year after a lifetime dedicated to architecture and the hotel industry.
Over the course of the conference, delegates experienced thought-provoking updates and presentations from key hotel CEO’s including IHG’s Keith Barr, Marriott’s Craig Smith, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Joon Aun Ooi and Ovolo Hotels Girish Jhunjhunuwala (winner of the APAC Hotel of the year at the HM Awards late 2018) spoke on panels – and independently – to update delegates on their brands current activity and expansion plans, with a number of hotels in the pipeline for Australia in the near future.
A Food and Beverage related panel discussion revolved around the current and inherent food and beverage issues and trends including re-energising Australia’s nightlife and the impact on the hotel industry; while the event hospitality and entertainment topic explored the need for hotels to consider themselves a go-to destination for locals and guests alike, In conclusion Emirates Airlines Joost Heymeijer weighed in on the secrets to F&B success that he has learned, from luxury lodges to inflight dining with a fascinating presentation.
The end of day two finished up with presentation of prizes with one lucky winner taking home a Kohler Purist Accessories prize – perfect timing for his home renovation!
Exhibitors ranged from software companies, exercise machines, food and beverage through to paint – yes the Dulux Dog was even there!
The Kohler display featured some of our latest hotel-related products including the new Components tapware with matching accessories and rimless Reach II toilet – due for release later this year – Milano Lithocast bath, Kathryn rectangular undermount basin, and Hydrorail Showering Systems featuring Katalyst RainCan showerhead and Renew handshower.
And our very own Sales Manager David Wu appeared on AHICE TV!