The European Hotel Managers Association gave ample proof of its vitality at the General Meeting recently held in St. Moritz, chaired by its president Johanna Fragano, General Manager of the Hotel Quirinale in Rome. The conference was organized by a committee led by Hans Wiedemann in two hotels, the Badrutt’s Palace and the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz. It was a “green” three days, during which the hotels ran entirely on alternative energy. It was a demonstration of how sustainable tourism is a priority of the EHMA, not only because of its intrinsic importance but also because of the ever-increasing number of “green customers”, customers who prefer companies which respect the environment.
“I’m very happy with the enthusiastic participation of our members at St. Moritz, which created an atmosphere bursting with positive energy,” commented Johanna Fragano, EHMA President and General Manager of the Hotel Quirinale in Rome. The results that we are achieving in spreading our values – peace between peoples, protection of the environment, safeguarding of our professionalism – provide the clearest evidence of our members’ interest in our initiatives, even in the countries that are less well-represented, such as Russia. I am truly grateful to all those who responded to our appeal.”
Sport, nature and snow were the dominant themes of the event. Taking advantage of St. Moritz’s climate, which blessed the conference with a beautiful blue mountain sky and powdery snow under the spring sunshine, many of the programmed activities took place outdoors, with a grand finale of fireworks at an altitude of 3000 metres. The al fresco Welcome Cocktail for the over 400 participants began with a welcome from the president of the Organizing Committee, Swiss delegate Hans Wiedemann, and from the city authorities and the Grigioni canton. A whole day was devoted to intriguing team games in the snow. The sumptuous gala evening at Badrutt’s Palace which concluded the conference was also the occasion for the presentation of the “Hotel Manager of the Year” award to 51-year-old Austrian Kurt Dohnal, CEO and Executive Vice President of the Kessler Collection Europe.
The activities of the EHMA involve various sectors, creating synergies and fostering close international relationships. Last November saw the study tour to China, organized as a result of contacts with the ECHMEC (Europe China Hotel Management Experts Council, www.echmec.org), a non-profit organization based in Brussels, which offers itself as a link between Europe and China for the hotel industry. The EHMA also supports the IIPT, the International Institute for Peace through Tourism.
The 35th General Meeting was also a chance to greet the 39 new members. The total number of members is 450, with a good mix of independent hotels and hotels belonging to the big international chains. Affiliation was extended to new countries not previously present, such as Russia and Finland. The association plans to have an even more widespread presence in Europe, where it currently has a presence in 28 countries.
Training at managerial level is an important element and the association collaborates in this sector with the most prestigious international hotel and catering schools, such as the École Hôtelière in Lausanne and Cornell University in the USA, which organized in-depth information sessions during the General Meeting. Many important speakers took part in the seminars, dealing with a number of very interesting and topical issues: economics, hotel management, marketing, technology, and a comparison of hotel chains and independent hotels under a global perspective.
The topics dealt with during the University Day organized by Chris Norton, Director of Marketing & Communication for the École Hôtelière in Lausanne, concerned the need for chains and independent hotels to add or create value, with three workshops: the first was on e-marketing with the title “Reaching the customer” (led by Professor Hilary Murphy), the second on IT strategy, “Creating an information technology-based strategy for the guest of the future” (led by Professor Ian Millar), while the third workshop was on “Strategy put into practice – Real tools for real challenges (led by Professors Demian Hodari, Hilary Murphy and Ian Millar).
The state of the world economy is certainly a very hot topic and the current situation was explained by a true expert, Dr. Sandro Merino, Head of Wealth Management UBS, while the World Economic Forum Report 2008 on global risk and its relevance for the world’s hospitality industry was analysed by Janice L. Schnabel, Marsh Inc. USA, & Martin Pfiffner, Kessler & Co, Zurich. All of us want to know what global trends the future has in store. Nick van Marken, Partner of Deloitte Touche, tried to provide some answers.
Running hotels is the daily bread of hotel managers, and Martin Wiederkehr, Category Manager, TransGourmet Schweiz AG, illustrated the advantages of working with a single supplier.
In regards to marketing, the contribution by Jürg Schmid, CEO of Switzerland Tourism, was a great success. He gave a brilliant overview of the strategies that this promotional body has pursued in order to create a brand, and position and promote tourism in Switzerland in the face of rapid changes in customers’ needs. The construction and management of one’s own credibility, a principal tool in constructing the image of a hotel and customer loyalty, was the topic dealt with by Christof Küng, EurEta, Küng Identità. For conference participants, the clientele mainly consists of “luxury travellers”, whose habits were discussed by Margaret M. Ceres as she presented the results of a survey carried out by American Express on Platinum and Centurion card holders.
Another topic that is close to the heart of hotel management is technology, a sector that is in a state of rapid and continual development. “Cards on the table – security in credit card payment” was the topic considered by Niklaus Santschi, Head of Sales & Marketing, Telekurs Multipay AG, while Leo Brand, CEO of Swisscom Hospitality Services spoke about the management of hotel networks and the future of information technologies in the hospitality industry. Customer expectations are rising daily and Tim Jefferson, Managing Director of The Human Chain, explained how to optimize customer service in the accommodation sector.
A panel of expert representatives, moderated by Ruud Reuland, General Director of the École Hôtelière in Lausanne, discussed the respective problems and opportunities facing hotel chains and independent hotels. The panel consisted of: Innegrit Volkhardt, Managing Proprietor, Bayerischer Hof, Munich, Michael Gray, General Manager, Hyatt International Hotel The Churchill, London Reto Wittwer, President & CEO, Kempinski Hotels & Resorts Emanuel Berger, Executive Delegate of the Board Victoria Jungfrau Collection Vic Jacob, General Manager, Suvretta House St. Moritz.
The EHMA (European Hotel Managers’ Association) is a non-profit association composed of the directors of prestigious 4 and 5 star international level hotels and dedicated to preserving a spirit of friendliness and high ethical standards in the hotel business. The EHMA has a history that goes back thirty-four years, during which the association has grown tremendously. Indeed, at first it consisted of only a few hotel managers, whereas today it has 450 members in 28 countries. In terms of numbers the association represents 360 hotels, 92 thousand rooms, 72 thousand employees and an annual turnover of about 6 billion euros. In terms of quality, the EHMA is first and foremost an association of friends with a shared passion for their work, who are committed to maintaining the high level of individual professionalism and prestige of the establishments they represent. The aim of the EHMA is to create a network, a circuit of ideas, knowledge, experience, problems and results in order to increase the professionalism of the sector. The Italian national delegate and current President is Johanna Fragano, general manager of the Hotel Quirinale in Rome.