Philip Newman-Hall is director and general manager of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire.
The only trade exhibition he makes sure he attends is the Independent Hotel Show. And, as he explains to Boutique Hotelier, this year he’ll be looking for technology that can revolutionise intra-hotel communications and new innovations that can help the hotel maximise growth as the market recovers.
You’ve attended the Independent Hotel Show every year since its launch. What value does it give to you?
I like the show because it is intimate enough to be with people that you wouldn’t normally see and yet large enough to have a good selection of representatives there. I think it is one of those shows that you can go to and actually have quality time with people. Some shows you go to you jostle around and it is so large and impersonal. I think IHS is a very personal show and people do have that time to actually converse. At the same time, there are also the interesting discussion panels and the top tips from hoteliers that are going on throughout the show. To sum it up, it is informative, educational and gives you the opportunity to meet suppliers who you might not normally see.
What do you hope to come away with when you visit a hospitality trade show like IHS?
I probably want to come away having found something that I had completely missed before. We are all so busy nowadays that it happens easily. I have found that at this show in particular, I have physically seen things or talked to somebody about something which I have thought, ‘gosh, we should have done that ages ago’. I think you come away with those little ideas of things you could introduce into the property and things you could do better. There are also some good snippets from the discussion panels that go on, so you can often pick up tips from other people that are suffering from the same problems or issues as you and have maybe looked at solving those in a different way. It is probably the best networking show in that respect because there are similar, like-minded people in attendance.
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s show?
Personally, at the moment, I am looking for some bits on communication systems that I wouldn’t have time to do otherwise. We feel that we are falling behind a bit, not on the telephony but more on how we can contact our individuals as they are walking round the building. So I’ll be looking at inter-hotel communications — and looking for any ideas that my peers are doing better than me, obviously! And again, it’s just a case of what’s hot, what’s new, what’s up and coming. We are not necessarily followers of fashion but you have to be fashionable. So what’s the next thing that is coming along that we are not doing yet? Going back to technology, the one thing that we have done wrongly in the past is that we have gone over-technical, especially when a guest has to use it. If they are only staying with you one night, they don’t want to spend the first hour trying to understand technology.
What trends or topics do you expect to shape this year’s show?
I would probably expect there to be a lot of discussion on making the most of the boom times. A lot of people are maybe still saying that things are bad, but I think we are into boom times again. I think we have come out the other side — you only need to look in London, it is absolutely heaving at the moment. I think people are feeling good about things and I would expect some of the topics to be about how you can make the most of the boom times without necessarily ripping your guests off at the same time. How do you make the most in times where things are good and prepare yourself for the next time things go down? Because it is cyclical and it will happen again.
Where does IHS fit into the strategy of Belmond and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons? Does it offer an important route to new suppliers and partners?
Although we are part of a much larger group, we are very much an independent hotel. We are left to run to our own devices and it is up to us to look for new suppliers and new innovations. In fact, IHS is the only show I attend and it is the one I go to in order to look for those new ideas.