Held on 4 November at the Landmark London hotel, the European Hospitality Awards 2011 attracted leaders and dignitaries from across the continent’s hotel industry.
Judges included Soho House Group founder Nick Jones, managing director of the Dolder Grand Thomas Schimd, Design Hotels president and CEO Clause Sendlinger, chef and restaurateur Marcus Wareing and European Hotel Managers Association president Peter Bierwirth.
Bierwirth delivered the opening address, reflecting on the challenges and successes of the past year as well as addressing political upheaval on the continent. "We as an industry have a huge part to play as the European economy struggles," he declared. "There needs to be far more focus on the role of hospitality in helping to lead the recovery."
The quality of the category shortlists appeared to support such a claim and arguably the biggest winner on the night also provided a great example of the positive impact a successful opening can have upon the wider community. The St Pancras Renaissance not only won Refurbishment of the Year, but was also selected as the night’s overall winner, taking home the much-coveted Hotel of the Year award.
"The St Pancras Renaissance has brought what had come to be known as ‘London’s lost landmark’ back to life in staggeringly successful fashion," announced event host Derek Wood. "The property harks back to a golden age of Victorian design while acting as a lynchpin in the very modern process of regeneration currently enveloping the surrounding area."
It was also a very good night for the Dorchester Collection, with Coworth Park winning Green Hotel of the Year and Dorchester Park Lane general manager Roland Fasel being named Hotelier of the Year – "How many GMs will you find working the odd day as a doorman to make sure he’s seeing both happy guests and happy staff," Wood pondered.
And it was not just the major players and grandes dames who gained recognition. Small, family-run La Maison du Paradou won Hotel Service of the Year, while Design Hotels ‘ Eccleston Square was lauded for in-room technology innovation.
Nor was the focus entirely on established and refurbished properties. The quality of the new-build category was testament to the fact that not all is necessarily doom and gloom in the European construction industry. Borgo Egnazia Hotel Ville Spa & Golf beat off extremely tough competition from high-profile openings including Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, W St Petersburg and Corinthia London to take the prize.
Neither Sofitel nor Corinthia went home empty-handed, however. The former won Interior Design Innovation of the Year for its Legend property the Grand Amsterdam, while the latter took away the Spa of the Year award for ESPA Life, a next-generation operation spread over 3,300m2 across four floors.
Hank and Brandon Freid, the father-son duo behind New York’s Sanctuary Hotel, took to the stage to receive the award for International Hotel of the Year, but it was the creator of another family dynasty who made perhaps the greatest impression of the evening. Meliá Hotels International chairman and founder Gabriel Escarrer Julià was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award and gave an emotional address that drew a rousing ovation.
Escarrer thanked his family and team of 35,000 people for their essential role in his success, singling out his wife for particular praise. "They say behind every successful man is an intelligent woman," he began. "My career has certainly been evidence of this.
Nominations for the 2012 event will open in the New Year. For further information, please visit www.arena-international.com/eha.
This article was first published in our sister publication Hotel Management International.