Tony Chi, founder, tonychi

Designers, architects, specifiers, consultants, hotel owners and asset managers packed out a room yesterday (01 May 2018) at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne for the annual DesignInn conference.

The program, themed around ‘making an impression – creating memorable moments’, saw a host of speakers from all across the design industry share ideas, and discuss key issues currently impacting the industry.

SHAPE Australia chief executive officer Peter Marix-Evans said: “Creating memorable moments in the hotel and hospitality space has never been more relevant for brand penetration, revenue growth and longevity”.

“Ever-changing and never a ‘one size fits all’ solution, how does the industry use design to push the boundaries of the guest experience, whilst delivering on a brand promise consistently?”

Guests heard from Dave Baswal, Ovolo Hotels; Jonathan Conroy, WMK, Catherine Love, PTW and James Campbell, DWP on exporting to Asia.

Keynote speaker Joost Bakker — the poster boy for green living — then delivered a powerful talk on sustainability and design.

When asked where he finds design inspiration, Bakker replied: “I almost always get my inspiration from the past. Whether you’re in Japan or Melbourne, I think there’s so much you can take from past traditions — they’re always unique.”

Later on Grant Filipoff from Bates Smart; Artist Zhong Chen from The Chen Hotel and AccorHotel’s Lindsay Leeser delivered an engaging panel discussion on how to make a good local impression. Much of the discussion was centered around the f&b space.

Leeser told delegates at the session: “You can’t operate hotels today and not have a core focus on food and beverage”.

Tony Chi, the founder of tonychi in New York, delivered a stand-out presentation on how to deliver high-velocity projects that transform global business.

Chi’s portfolio includes iconic names such as Rosewood London, InterContinental Geneva, Andaz Tokyo and Park Hyatt Shanghai.

He said: “For every project I take on, I always go through ‘chemistry measuring’. I need to look at myself and how I relate to the city, site and owner. How can I create something far greater than their vision?

“It’s not just about the bottom line. You also have to figure out what you’re willing to give.

“I’m fortunate enough to have worked with the same team for the last 20 years.

“So I don’t have to really ‘make love’ to anybody I don’t know,” he joked.

With food and beverage a hot topic for hoteliers, some of the leaders in this space Tony Chi, tonychi; Sven Almenning, The Speakeasy group and Nicholas Kalogeropoulos from Calibre Feasts discussed ways in which to design a memorable experience for your hotel guests.

Almenning said the element of surprise was a good way to enhance guest expectations, pointing to his ‘birthday cake’ strategy.

To surprise the patron on their birthday, Almenning has all of his staff at Mjolner — a viking themed restaurant in Sydney — sign a birthday card and leave it on the table. On arrival, the birthday guest will also receive a special gift to take home.

“You expect to get a free glass of champagne, but you don’t expect to get a present,” he said.

The day wrapped up with a panel discussion on who to impress; owner, operator or guest?

The panel was comprised of Richard Crawford, Marriott International; Steve Skarrott, SB&G and HM’s James Wilkinson.