Hoteliers Bobby Hiranandani and Dr Jerry Schwartz on the 'family' owners panel
Hoteliers Bobby Hiranandani and Dr Jerry Schwartz on the 'family' owners panel
Hoteliers Bobby Hiranandani and Dr Jerry Schwartz on the family owners panel

For the first time ever, Australasian Hotel Industry Conference and Exhibition (AHICE) was extended to a two-day program, with the second day kicking off with an interview with Pan Pacific Hotels Group general manager Craig Bond, followed by a Meet the Press session hosted by industry legend Peter Hook.

Hook grilled the Sydney Morning Herald’s Carolyn Cummins, along with Australian Financial Review’s Larry Schlesinger and HM’s own James Wilkinson, while hoteliers Dirk Dalichau from Ovolo Hotels and Paul Hutton from Hilton weighed in.

Schlesinger said, “If you look at who is building where – Accor, Mantra, etc – there’s a good chance those cities are performing well.”

Wilkinson announced that HM would be launching a development directory including owner’s contact details, number of hotels/rooms in the portfolio, as well as brands.

The day continued with Hotel Leader Q&As with TFE’s Rachel Argaman who announced several new properties, including the Far East brand Quincy’s arrival into The Rocks in Sydney in the near future. She also confirmed that the development application for the Adina at Royal Randwick has been approved.

Other Hotel Leader Q&A sessions included Tony Gauci from Quest and Dirk Dalichau from Ovolo Hotels.

A regional tourism panel shared insights into what makes regional areas boom. The key things, according to panellists, were government funding – one case being the South Australian Tourism Barossa Valleu ‘Be Consumed’ campaign that resulted in a 30 per cent increase in bookings – and creating attractions in the form of hosting sporting matches, building art galleries (ie Albury’s new $12 million art gallery) and ensuring that the region delivers on the promise once the guests arrive.

A family owners panel (pictured above) discussed the pros and cons of being so close to the business. Dr Jerry Schwartz, one of Australia’s most successful private owners, said that he grew up in an environment where his family ‘breathed and spoke’ hotels at home so he had an intrinsic knowledge of the business. Julian Clark of Lancemore Group said that sometimes you can be ‘too emotional’ when you’re a private owner but that his family’s local relationships were better because of their standing as a family, rather than a corporation.

One of the best quotes of the day came from Best Western’s Barry Fleischmann one a development panel when he said of Australia’s cities: ” We don’t have an overbuilding problem; we have an under-demolishing one”.

The delegates also heard from pub legend Arthur Laundy and received updates from John O’Sullivan from Tourism Australia, Geoff Donaghy from AEG Ogden on behalf of the International Convention Centre under construction in Sydney and Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre’s Peter King.  For a full list of presenters, click here.

Feedback from the conference has been excellent, with Jeffery Robinson from Aurecon saying,  “It was a really great conference, excellent content, great speakers, top notch MC and interviewers, terrific food and beverage , great party … The best value of any industry conference I have ever come across.”

Almost 600 turned out for AHICE 2015 and an announcement about the 2016 event will be made in the coming months.