Hospitality Leadership and Design Conference

London 2022 - Pan Pacific Report

Some of the biggest industry names were out in full force for HLDC’s flagship European event where key issues were addressed, and some interesting solutions and ideas were discussed.

Taking place at Pan Pacific London – one of the city’s most recent luxury openings – attendees experienced a warm welcome in traditional Pan Pacific fashion while being surrounded by some of the best event space technology and design in the hotel’s grand ballroom.

The day’s delegates were a carefully selected mix of talent from the hotel, design, and supply sectors of the industry, which made for some dynamic conversations both on and off stage, and comperes Tina Norden, Partner, Conran and Partners, and Vince Stroop, Founder, stroop Design, made the perfect pairing keeping everyone in check and ensuring the smooth running of the day.

Anne Golden, General Manager, Pan Pacific London said in her opening comments on the day: “I couldn’t be more delighted to have people such as yourselves with your great life experiences and talents here at the hotel; it’s a very great honour.”

Huge thanks go to our event sponsors: Laufen, Beck, AXOR, Northern Lights, Kaldewei, Samuel Lawrence Hospitality, LaBottega, Barovier & Toso, Eclipse, Grohe, Montrose, Nyetimber, Tece, Veuve Clicquot, Wood Couture, Alarwool, GDC Group, Harrison, ICE, Kohler, Leaflike, Parla, PJ Contract, Preciosa, Skyfold, SNS, Spires Art, Table Place Chairs, and Workwood Concept.

Keynote Address

“Average rate is the KPI pushing performance, and in many cases average room rate was stronger in 2021 than in 2019.” – Sarah Duigan

Sarah Duigan, Director of Client Relationships, STR, took us on a whistle-stop tour of how hotels around the world are performing. Sarah explained that STR collects data on available rooms, sold rooms, and net rooms revenue on a nightly basis from around 73,000 hotels around the world.

“It’s all about getting back to where we were in 2019,” she said whilst showing the audience info graphics on the huge LED screen to demonstrate the difference in occupancy levels between now and the same period in 2019. She pointed to areas that were below average for the time of year for bookings in 2021 but also areas doing better than pre-pandemic hospitality bookings and explained the effect on RevPAR. “Looking at figures so far this year, things are certainly beginning to look more favourable – consumer confidence is returning. Average rate is the KPI pushing performance, and in many cases average room rate was stronger in 2021 than in 2019.”

Sarah went on to address the changes we were seeing in travel as a result of the pandemic and spoke about the factors and events driving hotel traffic that the industry should be taking advantage of. “Large events are helping drive demand to different cities. People are ready to get back out there, they’re ready to travel for events and business purposes.”

She used examples such as last year’s COP26 held in November in Glasgow to demonstrate the high demand in hotel rooms, which spilled out to the surrounding towns and even as far as Edinburgh. “Events are hugely important to our industry,” she said. Looking at future events, Sarah used examples such as hotel bookings in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day – which were already at 70% occupancy for the entire city and then huge drivers like music concerts, national sporting events and festivals, which are responsible for huge numbers of hotel bookings.

“And what about pipeline? New rooms coming into the marketplace – what does that look like around Europe?” She asked. “There are the grand sum total of 134,000 rooms coming into the UK market – if all of those rooms come to fruition, we’ll see a 26% lift in the UK.”

Sarah explained that despite the setbacks the industry had faced over the last couple of years, things were looking up with a slow but positive increase in occupancy rates and projections for 2022 looking more in-line with pre-pandemic numbers.

Unique Experiences and Essentialism

“People are looking for hotels that are tangible in reducing wastefulness.” – Enrique Mandl

Asking how the hospitality industry can simplify its offerings to give guests more meaningful experiences, Monika Moser, Chief Operating Officer, Campbell House, moderated an expert panel of hoteliers made up of: Guy D. Heksch, Chief Operating Officer, Omnam Group; Enrique Mandl, Chief Operating Officer, OKU Hotels; Gary D. Dollens, Global Head Design/Product and Brand Development, Hyatt Hotels Corporation; and Shafi Syed, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Hotel Development & Acquisitions, Equinox Hotels.

Monika asked the group what they thought were the most topical trends in the industry. “People are turning away from the classic luxury hotel brands,” Enrique explained. “They’re looking for hotels that give more meaning and are leaning away from the wasteful extras that some hotels provide, so we are really putting a focus on sustainability. People are looking for hotels that are tangible in reducing wastefulness.”

Guy added: “I think guest expectations have been high for a while, but essentially people are looking for more space and that’s what we’re trying to achieve when we sit down to look at the design of hotels with our clients. We’re also looking at how we introduce locality and community to our hotels.”

Gary’s view was that we need to offer a more tailored approach to discerning guests. “There are two segments to consider: there are people who when they travel like to feel as comfortable as they are at home and then there are the people looking for that experiential travel experience. The one thing we know is that people are going to travel and work in a different way now and we’re going to be the beneficiaries of that because people will be spending more time in hotels. I think that’s where we need to start tailoring the experience.”

The group discussed the growing need for wellness offerings in the form of onsite gyms and spas. Shafi explained how Equinox began as a series of fitness clubs first before developing into hotels and the significance that played on how they now cater to a specific audience. “It took us about ten years to decide what the hotel experience was going to be. We wanted our guests to check-out feeling like a better version of themselves.”

Experiential Design

“All the stakeholders have to be aligned in what the concept is in order to bring it fully to fruition.” – Anne Wilkinson

Moderator Filippo Sona, Partner & COO, Wood Couture, asked his panel: Alex Kravetz, Founder, Alex Kravetz Design; Tarek Hegazy, Founder, Living Design; Hen’a Yadav, Principal, Studio Carter; and Anne Wilkinson, Principal, BAMO, Inc. what the main drivers and considerations to making a design concept deliverable were.

The discussion began by addressing some of the fundamentals in hotel design and Alex kicked things off saying: “In my mind, fundamentals take us to two things: what defines hospitality – it means different things to different people, and what defines the experience holistically. If you look at any building that sustains the test of time you will find perfect symmetry, perfect harmony and composition.”

Hen’a spoke about addressing the way we think about sustainable design: “If sustainability could be an attitude for all stakeholders – developers, clients, guests, designers – so at the onset of the project a very clear definition of the brief, of the budget, of what we’re trying to achieve in a more collaborative way allows for a sustainable floor of creativity within all individuals. It’s about enhancing each other’s abilities and bringing the best out. Sustainability is more than LEED certified products and wastage.”

Anne added: “All the stakeholders have to be aligned in what the concept is in order to bring it fully to fruition. Very often we begin with a great concept but during the process, things get chipped away. If your vision is good enough and everyone’s working to support that, then you’ll have a good product.”

Tarek spoke about the changes in the last couple of years, “We design the back of house now as much as we design front of house.” He explained the need to keep hospitality staff happy in order to deliver great guest experiences.

There was a debate on the value aesthetics bring to the guest experience with some members of the panel suggesting service was the main consideration, and other panellists arguing that experiential design was key to ensuring the best customer experience. The overall feeling was the most important aspect of hospitality is to create lasting memories from experiences, which come from a balance of service, design, and a connection to the locality.

ROI in Design

“You have to design to your core values and work with individuals that will support you. Trying to please everybody pleases nobody.” – Isabel Pintado

Talking to Isabel Pintado, Senior Vice President, Design & Innovation, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Judy Chen, Vice President of Development, Dream Hotel Group; Sabina Wyss di Corrado, Vice President Development – Europe, Interstate Hotels & Resorts; and Steven Blaess, Head of Interiors, Design, Clivedale London, Moderator Rick Evans, President, Samuel Lawrence Hospitality asked his panel for examples of what they were doing differently to ensure their ownership were getting a good return on their design investments.

Steven told us: “Our key commitment for ourselves as owner of the properties is to source best in class – whether that’s product, design consultants, other technical consultant teams – and make sure that we’re getting the best value we can whilst also delivering the best quality product to the market.”

While Judy said that every detail in a Dream Hotel is linked to revenue. “Coming from a lifestyle perspective I think design is integral to what we do – more importantly it’s how we program our spaces – we make multifunctional uses out of the same room. We come from a background where we understand how much it costs to build and run a hotel, so we are very keen on thinking about where that ancillary revenue is coming from.”

Sabina said they always consider what’s best for the owner in terms of ROI. “We act primarily as advisors – we have a lot of technical expertise, so we can guide new owners in the right direction. Quite often we as operators aren’t involved in the design of a hotel soon enough, which is a mistake because the design of a hotel has a huge impact on the way it’s run and staffing requirements.”

Isabel explained: “We don’t only target one type of consumer. Each location is different, each owner is different. We try to innovate, if you’re not innovating all the time, you become stagnant and I think that applies to the whole spectrum, not just luxury. You have to design to your core values and work with individuals that will support you. Trying to please everybody pleases nobody.”

Guest Speaker

“What we’ve come to realise more with hotel design is that wellness is not just a spa experience or being fit, it’s something that affects every moment of our day.” – Emlyn Brown

Emlyn Brown, Global Vice President Well-Being, Accor, told us about his role overseeing brand delivery and working with the design community, operational community, and Accor’s brand leadership to create brand strategy for wellness in spa, fitness, movement, mindfulness and meditation.

“Wellbeing is a 4.7 trillion-dollar industry – it dwarfs the golfing industry, it dwarfs the cruise line industry – it’s an ever-expanding universe that’s really impacting hotel design, hotel operations, the guest experience and certainly guest aspiration and demand.”

Emlyn told us how the wellness sector is being driven by some significant push factors – the desire to be healthy and move away from stress, struggling health care systems and the need for us to embrace our own health particularly in a post-covid landscape.

“What we’ve come to realise more with hotel design is that wellness is not just a spa experience or being fit, it’s something that affects every moment of our day – from the way we wake up, to the way we work – are we using circadian lighting, and we are standing up at our desks – these are all details of wellbeing that really impact how we design hotel spaces.”

Emlyn told us how 80% of hotel guests actively seek ways in which to improve their health whilst travelling. And that’s not just in the ultra-luxury range where the numbers in health-related activities and actions rise significantly, but from eco to midscale too, and for the younger generations this is the norm. “Globally there’s no difference, from Brazil to China to Australia – that 80% figure is really consistent. If you think about that from a design perspective, four out of five guests want to do something to improve their wellbeing. So what are we doing to support that and exceed their expectation within our designs and developments? A wellness traveller will typically spend 30% to 60% more during their stay at a property. Also, they will frequently return, they are loyal, and it’s becoming a huge talking point on social media, 8.5 million posts per month are about wellness and wellbeing.

Nutrition, sleep, emotional wellbeing, and exercise are the four fundamentals.”


“We now have access to design talent that we didn’t have access to before.” – Justin Wells

Traversing the new world of work and hospitality, moderator Daniel Englender, Managing Director, Benjamin West International, introduced the panel: Therese Virserius, Founder & CEO, Virserius Studio; Clint Nagata, Founder and Creative Partner, BLINK Design Group; Garrett Robbins, Co-Founder and Owner, Brime Robbins; and Justin Wells, Founder & CEO, Wells International, explaining the connection between them all as being from very different places in the world but all travelling and working on the road in similar ways.

Justin described how his company had been born out of the remote working restructure of the pandemic. “We’re more accessible to the projects we want to work on and are closer to our operator clients and our developer clients, and we like the business model of working around the clock. We now have access to design talent that we didn’t have access to before.”

Therese says that her studio was already looking at more flexible working practices pre-covid to keep design talent. “We have a small office in Mumbai, in Paris, and New York, and now we have one in North Carolina and Virginia. When covid happened we made sure that we still saw each other every day – via Zoom or telephone, you need to connect with each other verbally and visually to keep that camaraderie and teamwork.”

Clint agreed and said covid made him realise people were his company’s most important asset. “We’re actually now back in our main offices for three days each week – the time I spent away from my staff, I realised you need that camaraderie to produce good work, you need to feel like a team.”

Garrett said, “At the beginning of lockdown it took us a while to figure out what we were doing – in terms of Skype, how are we having meetings, how are we going to collaborate. When the restrictions lifted, pretty much all of the designers wanted to get back to the studio, everyone wanted to get back to a collaboration.”

The panellists all discussed the benefits of having their teams based around the world and the efficiencies of working remotely and being freer in their personal lives as well as their professional lives and how that impacts positively on their staff and the work they produce – leading to happy clients and better overall workflow. The same ethos spills out into hotels and hotel design with more and more people wanting the ability to work from hotels and so the panel all agreed they were considering incorporating better and more adaptable working spaces in their hotel designs.

Spring Awakening – The Green Shoot Story

“I think what’s really exciting at the moment is this point that adversity breeds innovation.” – Tom Hupe

Talking of the new opportunities that have come about over the last two years, moderator Vince Stroop, Founder, stroop Design, told us of his own experiences that led to him opening his own studio for the first time. He asked the panel: Damien Perrot, Global Senior Vice President Design & Innovation, Accor; Tom Hupe, Senior Director of Design & Architecture EMEA, Hilton; Craig Milne, Vice President Global Design Europe, Marriott International; and Elena Apiou, Head of Design, Adagio Aparthotel, for their thoughts on what has changed in the industry and the likely risks and outcomes of that.

Damien began the discussion by saying: “There is no one solution. There is not only one vision – no one really knows what’s going to happen in the future, but the evolution of the way we live is very strong and really accelerating with the evolution of technology. Designers now aren’t simply designing a product or a hotel, they’re designing a way of life for a different society.”

Elena explained that as one of the largest aparthotel operators in Europe, the Adagio brand was thought of as a convenience rather than an experience. “Covid happened and for us it was a nice gift as it changed the way people thought of aparthotels. It was a catalyst, we needed to make our product more emotional. If you look at difficult times as an opportunity to improve yourself you tend to find good ideas.”

Craig added: “The bleisure market, has been very active. People are working very differently to how they were, and any hospitality and F&B unit has the potential to offer guests the flexibility they need to work from wherever they want to. Many of our brands are now being adapted to be used as work-from locations.”

Tom told us how the pandemic had helped implement existing ideas: “I think what’s really exciting at the moment is this point that adversity breeds innovation. A lot of the things we’ve been talking about over the last few years have suddenly become tangible and for those of us trying to drive things forward, this is the best time to really see things happen.”

The Hotel Blueprint: Channelling Change in Challenging Times

“Einstein said the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result and I think there lies the answer – let’s do things differently.” – Anne Golden

Moderated by Filip Boyen, Ambassador, Forbes Travel Guide, panellists: Michael Bonsor, Managing Director, Rosewood London; Anne Golden, General Manager, Pan Pacific London; Philippe Leboeuf, Managing Director, Raffles London – The OWO; and Jean-Luk Naret, Executive Director, The Set Collection told us about the features that make their hotels unique and shared their ideas on how to meet post-pandemic ideals.

Anne told us how she managed to bring the best of Southeast Asian hospitality to the UK: “I had the great privilege to go out to Singapore for a month. One of the things that taught me was that service is incredibly different out there – you really feel it comes from the heart and you can see the authenticity. What struck me was the kindness, the humility, attention to detail and passion, so I wanted to focus on those things here in London and we hired our team based on those four attributes.”

Having been born into the hospitality industry, Michael always had a good understanding of what made a hotel successful but he says Rosewood’s biggest attribute is its CEO. “Rosewood currently has 29 hotels in operation – and we have at least another 24 coming – so the company will pretty much double in the next three years, which is incredible. I think the secret to our success is Sonia’s Cheng’s vision to make this company the best luxury lifestyle company.”

Filip pointed out that of the 76 countries Forbes offers star-grading to, the UK’s capital, London, is home to the greatest number of Forbes 5-star rated hotels and he asks Philippe how he anticipates setting Raffles London – The OWO apart from the competition.

“I think now the frontiers are very blurred.” Said Philippe in response. “We’re extremely lucky to have such an incredible building and to be working in this environment. I think it’s my responsibility now to find the right people and to concentrate on taking the right approach with the employee perspective very much at the heart of what we’re aiming to achieve.”

Jean-Luk told us how at The Set Collection they aim to create a sense of community. “Our hotel bars and restaurants are like the lounge of the city, and we attract a huge local market. We are hoteliers, we are passionate, and the last two years has given us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves.”

Filip raised the need to offer more child-centric hotel experiences and the panellists agreed that children were playing a major role in the way they tailor and then market their hotel experiences to appeal to a younger audience. “We need to recognise that children are very often the decision makers now and so we have to make sure they have an incredible experience, because if the children have an incredible experience, so will the parents.” Said Anne. “Einstein said the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result and I think there lies the answer – let’s do things differently.”

Coming up…

In the coming months HLDC will be in Singapore (22nd September), New York (10th November), and Dubai (7th December). If you’ve previously missed out on tickets or sponsorship opportunities, now might be your chance to get involved with one of the upcoming events.

For more information, get in touch with the events team at

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