NI Hotels Federation President thrilled by return of in-person Hospitality Exchange

NI Hotels Federation President thrilled by return of in-person Hospitality Exchange

Northern Ireland Hotels Federation President Stephen Meldrum has hailed the return of conferences and exhibitions as a massive boon for the industry.

Speaking ahead of the October 12 and 13 Hospitality Exchange, he told LCN: “The decision by the Northern Ireland Executive to permit conferences and exhibitions to take place was a decision that I really welcomed.

“Aside from it allowing us to steam ahead with plans for this year’s Hospitality Exchange, it will also allow a very important business segment for the hotel sector to recommence. Many premises have their own conference space while others utilise their function areas to stage conferences.

“Hotels benefit from large events taking place in dedicated venues as it brings delegates to Northern Ireland who stay in our bedrooms, dine in our restaurants and enjoy drinks in the hotel bar.”

On a visit to the Crowne Plaza venue, where he was greeted by Vicky Green, NIHF board member and Associate Director for Business Development at the Andras Hotel, Group, Stephen added: “Last year we had planned for a live conference format but moved to a virtual platform. It was good to be able to connect with hoteliers, accommodation providers, as well as the wider tourism and hospitality sector but everyone is excited to be able to meet in person again. We will be working within the regulations in place at that time and are hopeful that there will be future easements by October.

“Having looked at all the permutations, there will not be an exhibition in 2021, as planning and the risk assessment for this element of the event meant it would be very restrictive, and we had concerns that it would not offer the opportunities of networking that it provided in pre-pandemic times.

“This year we will have a dedicated lounge area where suppliers and service providers can meet with businesses reconnecting with existing customers and hopefully getting some new ones.

“The programme is well underway and we’re very much looking to the future. Nobody is hiding from the challenges or the impact of COVID-19 but we’ll be listening and learning about how to address them and move forward.”

‘Appetite to meet up’

And Stephen said he was particularly excited about the guests at this year’s event, including Angel at Hetton owner Michael Wignall.

“It’s not everyone who can say they’ve moved from being a professional BMX rider to a serial Michelin star chef,” he told LCN. “Both of course are adrenaline inducing experiences. Guests will get the chance to experience Michael’s cuisine at a gourmet dinner in The Merchant Hotel on the eve of Hospitality Exchange 2021.

“People will be a big focus and we’ll be unveiling a special initiative for this year, highlighting those who have given their all to the sector, not only over the last 18 months but in carrying out their respective roles in the hotel industry. Details will be revealed very soon!

“I don’t want to give too much away at this stage but there’s a real appetite for people to meet up again and there will be a strong social element to the twenty-second Hospitality Exchange. I look forward to seeing you there.”

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