Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) President, Stephen Meldrum, said: “After what can only be described as an unprecedented couple of years, I am delighted that we are at the stage where we can plan in-person events and come together once again. While there is still uncertainty in relation to challenges and ongoing adjustments, as an industry we have learnt that we can adapt, pivot and survive through difficult times. This year’s event will consider a framework to facilitate the recovery of the sector, look at its future and examine the challenge of sustainability.
He continued: “To support the creation of meaningful content, the Federation has commissioned A Labour Market Report from the team at the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre. The research will address an important concern, the issue of people, a challenge that has had considerable repercussions for us all. Whilst labour shortages in the hospitality industry pre-date recent issues, Brexit and Covid-19 have seen the issue worsen in the last two years. We look forward to sharing findings with you in October.
“People remain a theme and we will be launching a new awards event for rising stars within the industry. This will form part of a suite of Key Awards to recognise and reward the excellent staff within our industry. There will also be an analysis of hotel development, industry support and innovative solutions.
“In addition to a full conference programme, there will be an opportunity to meet friends old and new at breakfast, lunch and of course the legendary President’s Party. The grand finale of Hospitality Exchange is something to look forward to and, this year, we will be allowed to dance. To be honest, based on previous performances, I’m not entirely sure if that is a good thing or not!
“As I mentioned, the NIHF will be looking at innovative solutions. The lunch served at the launch event has been part of this process and is a little different than the usual corporate fare. People, and the lack thereof, has forced the hospitality industry to look at new ideas, streamline services and come up with innovative solutions. Attendees had the opportunity to make their own lunch transforming ‘the guest’ into ‘the customer’. This format allowed us to offer far more choice, a different experience and something novel. Guests were invited to build their own burger and create their own Eton mess from a deconstructed range of ingredients.
“Food, like other elements of the industry, is going through a bit of a revolution. Hot topics include ‘microwave v michelin’ and ‘fast or fine’. Interesting times lie ahead. The one great advantage about the food served at the launch event centre on the fact you could have everything on the side and, if you wanted to lodge a complaint, you just had to have a stern word with yourself about the service! My biggest concern on the day was that Pamela and I may have been asked to go to the kitchen to wash up afterwards. This may be a glimpse of the future. It certainly presented a thought-provoking exercise to stimulate debate around the provision of solutions.”
The final programme for Hospitality Exchange 2022 will be released in late August and exciting elements will continue to be revealed this summer.
Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) President, Stephen Meldrum and compere Pamela Ballantine.