Hospitality: moving from crisis to new growth

24th August 2011 (Last Updated August 24th, 2011 18:30)

How can the hospitality industry turn setbacks to its advantage and transform obstacles into opportunities? This and other hot topics were addressed at the EHMA's 38th annual general meeting in St Petersburg, Russia. EHMA president Peter Bierwirth relays the evening's highlights.

Hospitality: moving from crisis to new growth

Hospitality is a global business. Risks are closely linked to the economy and the recession has shown that entire contries may get into trouble. This, of course, has an immediate impact on trade and industry – and thus on companies’ and individuals’ spending, directly affecting the hospitality sector.

While countries throughout Europe have recovered to varying degrees, no one knows if the crisis will once again rear its ugly head. Political turmoil in the Arab states, the problems in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and the Japanese earthquakes and the resulting nuclear disaster may have a cumulative impact on currencies, finance and, finally, our industry.

On the agenda

How to react to such crises and adapt in order to achieve new growth was the main topic for the 300-plus delegates that assembled in St Petersburg in late April.

Keynote speakers such as Paul White, CEO and president of Orient Express Hotels, and HOTREC president Kent Nyström sent their respective messages, while a panel of leading European hoteliers discussed the new role of the general manager, overseen by moderator Professor Demian Hodari of Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne.

"There are 12 EHMA members in Russia."

Cornell University’s Professor Gabriele Piccoli, management methods and IT social networks specialist, focused on a major niche for new growth: the proper use of technology and its software applications, as well as the impact on companies that choose to ignore such innovations.

During the meeting’s many other professional presentations, statistics, trends and visions were shared, beginning with a session led by the Lausanne team.

An inspiring location

This convention’s venue, St Petersburg – city of Russian culture, art and tradition – impressed with its history of optimism and dynamic growth. St Petersburg hotels that were previously considered average have since been transformed into palaces boasting luxury restaurants and first-class service.

There are tremendous opportunities in this part of the world. The size of the country, underdeveloped infrastructure and undeveloped areas provide room for all sorts of activities. Hotels will play a great role in expanding the wealth of this country.

"While Europe has recovered to varying degrees, no one knows if the crisis will again rear its ugly head."

The famous Grand Hotel Europe, member of the Leading Hotels of the World, elegantly hosted the EHMA event. Most impressive were the incredible classical and modern music, ballet, theatre and original folklore performances of local artists.

Combined with excellent food and drinks, ice-carving displays that harked back to ‘the good old days’ and expert staff, the Russian EHMA members provided an evening of first-class hospitality and service.

There are already 12 EHMA members in Russia, seven of which are based in luxury hotels in St Petersburg.

Cream of the crop

The event’s crowning glory was the announcement of the EHMA Hotel Manager of the Year award, which was presented in a special ceremony to Francesco Brunetti, area managing director of Starwood Hotels in Milan, Italy.

Brunetti runs four prestigious hotels: the Westin Palace, the Sheraton Diana Majestic, the Sheraton Malpensa Airport and the upcoming W Hotel. Next year, 450 EHMA delegates from 30 European countries will meet in Vienna to discuss the ‘hotel of the future’.