By James Wilkinson at AHICE in Melbourne
Hoteliers and suppliers have labeled yesterday’s (May 1) AHICE 2014 at Grand Hyatt Melbourne a huge success.
A record of just under 400 leading hoteliers, suppliers, consultants and travel leaders attended the fifth Australasian Hotel Industry Conference and Exhibition (AHICE), one that saw keynote speakers and panelists educate, inform and inspire those present.
The big news on the day was Mantra Group CEO Bob East revealing the company was looking at a second attempt at listing on the Australian Stock Exchange before the end of the year.
He said the company had been “enticed” earlier this year to look at the IPO (initial public offering) market on the back of strong potential for growth and it remained firmly on the radar.
He said business was solid at present and that was another key factor in a potential listing.
“The leisure market broadly is strong,” he said.
Choice Hotels Australasia CEO Trent Fraser also said business was good at present.
“It’s been a good start to the year,” he said. “Our feeling for 2014 is positive, but I’ll caution that because some of the regional markets are doing it tough.
“We think 2015 will be a lot better, but 2014 will be better than 2013,” he said.
Fraser the growth of the company’s Ascend brand was aiding the positive results.
“We see a lot of opportunity… we have five [Ascend hotels] already and another three in the pipleline that will come through in the next in the next month or two,” he said.
“We think we can get the Ascend collection to around 50 properties in the next four or five years.”
Toga Far East (TFE) Hotels CEO Rachel Argaman was positive in her outlook and she also flagged further growth for the business.
Argaman said TFE would look at both investment and management contracts going forward and flagged almost a dozen new hotels would join the chain in the coming years.
Marriott International’s Managing Director and President for Asia-Pacific, Simon F Cooper, the keynote Q&A, spoke about the company’s upcoming Ritz-Carlton Perth, one that’s seeing the brand re-enter the Australian market.
He said it was the company’s desire to have Ritz-Carlton properties in Sydney and Melbourne going forward and he exclusively announced a Ritz-Carlton would be built in Auckland in the coming years.
Growth was also a key topic for Accor’s Chief Operating Officer for the Pacific, Simon McGrath, who said more properties would be announced in the next few months.
He also spoke about the need for the Australian Government to back hotel industry jobs, further to a story published on the HM magazine newsletter on Wednesday (Apr 30).
The four other keynote speeches – from JLL Hotels’ Karen Wales, Qantas’ CEO of Loyalty Lesley Grant, Whare Kea Lodge owner Louise Myer and Google’s Travel Industry Manager Elisa Kelsall – were also extremely popular on the day.
Wales spoke about supply and demand factors in the industry at present; Grant talked about how loyalty cant be taken for granted; Myer looked at the opportunities in the New Zealand lodge market; and Kelsall ended the day with a speech about online trends.
The panel sessions were thought provoking, particularly the great debate between hotel CEOs and young guns of the industry, which looked at the expectations of the next generation.
Emcee Howard Kemball’s ‘What Owners Want’ session was once more a highlight, with several major owners, representing over AUD$2 billion in real estate, talking about their expectations from management companies.
Baker and McKenzie’s management contracts breakfast also drew a sizeable crowd in its first year.
Sealy’s Melissa Starbuck said AHICE 2014 was the “best yet” from a networking and sales perspective, a similar sentiment shared by Intrust Super’s Jason Trevethan and Dometic Australia’s Sereena Leale.
Leale said good business was done at AHICE and hoteliers were happy to talk to exhibitors and uncover some of the latest products in the market.
Pan Pacific Hotels Group’s Area General Manager for Oceania, Craig Bond, who presented a session on sustainability, said he thought AHICE was “brilliant” thanks to the “high caliber of content and great networking”.
The opening networking reception on Wednesday night (April 30) at the new Sheraton Melbourne and sponsored by Intrust Super was also a hit, with almost 150 turning up for two hours of networking.
AHICE 2014 was hosted by HM magazine and sponsored by: Foxtel for Business, AH Beard and Blue Mountains Hospitality Consulting (gold); Dometic Group, Empire Hospitality, FCS, Intrust Super, Icoz, NCE, Nespresso, Polesy Commercial, Prototype, VOD and Sealy (silver).
Supporters for 2014 were: Accor (diamond); Quest (platinum); Choice Hotels Australasia, Mantra Group, Pan Pacific Hotels Group and TFE Hotels (gold); Best Western Australasia, Carlson Rezidor, Hyatt, Marriott, Rydges and Wyndham (silver).
Support also came from the Accommodation Association of Australia, Tourism Accommodation Australia and TTF.
An announcement on AHICE 2015 will be made soon.