The event, held at The Solent Hotel & Spa in Whiteley, catered not only lively discussion but showcased the Southampton area, upcoming economic and leisure developments, and industry insights from a selection of guest speakers, including from GO! Southampton, Southampton County Council, Business South, Fire Hospitality and the Meeting Industry Association.
Nathan Chart of Solent Hotel & Spa and Chair of the Southampton Region Hoteliers Association said, “I am thrilled to be running this inaugural Annual Conference for the Southampton Region Hoteliers Association. It seems the right place and time to have people back in the room together following the pandemic. Having a longer day means we can talk more deeply, get to the root of challenges, and spot opportunities that can garner more results and custom for the region.”
There were workshops throughout the conference in which delegates were asked to consider key questions and share their experiences. One such topic was creating better links to the cruise industry, and another was to pontificate the focus for a Minister of Hospitality. All these debates led to greater shared outcomes and knowledge for the group.
Stephen Manion, Executive Director of GO! Southampton demonstrated being a voice in the region and explained the work being done through collaboration not only to improve visitor experience but to make Southampton centre a more prominent place for people to stay. GO! Southampton’s commitment is to make Southampton a better city to live, work, study, and play, to market the city centre and to strengthen businesses locally. Stephen shared initiatives being undertaken alongside partners to make Southampton more representative of the culture of the City.
Stephen said, “2M people come through the city of Southampton and often stay for a short time or use the City for onward transport links. The opportunity is for our City to create a warm welcome to those travelling to us via cruise, train and flight. Better signage and improved way finding would create a good first impression enabling people to navigate our great City and all the attractions within and encourage people to stay longer and explore.”
Leigh-Sara Timberlake, Group CEO of Business South, was in attendance and shared intel about the Central South vision and desire for better representation of “place” through a shared effort and regional ambassadorship.
Leigh-Sara said, “collaboration is the lifeblood of the Central South region, and the Hoteliers Association is a great example. I really believe that collaboration is what we need to achieve the outcomes we want in our region. We would encourage hoteliers to join up to the Southampton Region Hoteliers association.”
Some fascinating insights were provided by Mike Carter, Director at headline sponsor Fire Hospitality, who spoke about the vast recruitment shortages in hospitality, but how there could be opportunities for students with flexible working hours, parents around school hours and the over 50’s. He advised that hoteliers should focus on managing employees’ work life balance, training and accredited qualifications and salary/benefits to stand out from the crowd.
Sandra Eyre, Director of Business of the Meeting Industry Association (one of the oldest associations in the UK), concluded the day’s events and offered some insights into the excellent work underway in supporting the hospitality industry through training, research, and guidance.
Sandra said, “The Southampton Region Hoteliers Association is so important, the attendees may be competitors, but they are all working for the same cause in the same region. If one hotel is doing well, then the others are. It’s a one for all in this industry, and it is important to share best practices to benefit the whole region.”
This fantastic inaugural event will be the first in a series of annual events that work alongside a regular schedule of meetings. The Hoteliers Association continues to encourage true partnerships and shared insights to benefit local businesses, visitors, and the wider region, fuelling the local economy.
A huge thank you to all the speakers who gave their time to inspire the audience and the sponsors involved in this event, including Fire Hospitality, HSG Facilities Management, The Marketing Collective, 22Midnight and the Solent Hotel & Spa.