High Society

20th July 2008 (Last Updated July 20th, 2008 18:30)

St Moritz was the glamorous Alpine setting for the 35th annual meeting of the European Hotel Managers Association.

High Society

Surrounded by the Swiss Alps and venue for the 1948 Winter Olympic Games, St Moritz’s sporting legacy provided EHMA’s 35th annual meeting with an added buzz – and inspired the association’s very own Olympics.

UNIVERSITY DAY

The Kulm Hotel St Moritz was the host of the majority of events including University Day on 30 March 2008. Highlights included a workshop by Professor Hilary Murphy and Professor Ian Millar on ‘Creating an IT strategy for the guest of the future’.

The drinks reception was held at the Dracula Club, and was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends. EHMA members were warmly received by the Mayor of St Moritz and Hansjörg Trachsel, member of the Governing Council of Graubünden and former bobsleigh brakeman.

LEADERSHIP EDUCATIONAL DAY

Hans Wiedemann, Swiss national delegate and president of EHMA 2008, opened the first full day of the conference. This was followed by a keynote address by the outgoing chairman of the board and CEO Nestlé Peter Brabeck-Lethmathe who paid tribute to EHMA’s philosophy. “I think we all understand the importance of service and leadership in sustainable business success,” he said. “It is part of EHMA’s raison d’être.”

“Leadership philosophy was the focus of the panel discussion on chain and independent hotels.”

This positive note set the tone for a well-received economic outlook by Dr Sandro Merino, head of wealth management research Europe at UBS. A sober prospect was given by Janice L Schnabel of March Inc and Martin Pfiffner of Zurich-based Kessler and Co, who discussed the WEF Global Risk Report 2008 and its effects on the hospitality industry.

Leadership philosophy was the focus of the panel discussion on chain and independent hotels. Among the panellists, Reto Wittwer, president/CEO of Kempinski Hotels & Resorts, and Emanuel Berger, former EHMA General Manager of the Year 2006 and executive delegate of the board at the Victoria Jungfrau Collection, ensured a colourful debate.

The day ended at the Corvatsch Mountain, the setting for an unforgettable drinks reception held 3,033m up in the mountains, followed by dinner. A spectacular fireworks display greeted delegates as they arrived by cable car.

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

The 35th AGM was opened by Johanna Fragano, president of EHMA, who reflected on highlights of the past year, including the EHMA study trip to China, arranged by Qiu Zhao Tong’s Europe China Hotel Management Experts Council, and her involvement with the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism. She also called for more sustainable hotel operations. The need to expand EHMA membership was also a hot topic. “We will only grow in numbers as long as we maintain our quality status,” she said. “Together with our colleagues based in Northern and Eastern Europe, we are moving to increase our presence in those regions and are beginning to see the results.”

Following the AGM, there were presentations given by Margaret Ceres from American Express and Leo Brand, CEO of Swisscom Hospitality Services, who discussed managing hotel networks and applications on the future of IT in the hospitality industry. For an overview, Nick van Marken, partner at Deloitte & Touche, examined global trends.

The culmination of the annual meeting was the hugely enjoyable EHMA Olympics 2008 and the gala dinner held in the spectacular Badrutt’s Palace Hotel where the ‘2007 EHMA Manager of the Year Award’ was given to Kurt Dohnal, executive vice president and COO of The Kessler Collection Europe.

See you in Seville next year!