Sometimes industry events really work splendidly and the 2018 Hotel Investment Conference Central and Eastern Europe & Caucasus HOTCO achieved ten out of ten, at least in the poll of three, chosen at random by the gal the morning after it finished. Separately, they cited the superb planning and organisation by the Co-Founders, Horwath HTL Hungary’s MD, Marius Gomola and his colleague Liliane Otsuka, above. They found the content extremely worthwhile and the networking outstanding, as was the hospitality arranged and served by the host hotel, the luxury Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest – whose GM, Stephan Interthal, came back specially from his company’s annual meeting to be with everyone the first evening.
There were 340 delegates in all, a manageable number and easy-to-read name labels facilitated meeting new people. The main official network event was the opening reception, which featured Hungary, its foods and its wines. This allowed the hotel’s Executive Chef, Roland Holzer, and his culinary team really to shine. I was fascinated by the making of a gigantic mákos guba, Hungarian ‘bread and butter pudding’ – SEE THE VIDEO BELOW – which seems to need a large quantity of poppy seeds. Elsewhere chefs were producing and explaining stroganoff and various soups. And all the while there was talk, lots of it.
Many people new to the industry-at-large made an appearance: in all there were, over the two days, 55 speakers from 31 countries (and, frankly, no-one missed Starwood Capital’s Keith Evans who cancelled at a few hours’ notice, without explanation). I was fascinated by hearing Johann Dahan describing Selina, the three-year old concept that has just garnered a further $50 million of funding to add to initial investment from WeWork founder Adam Neumann. Selina is part-hostel, part-hotel, offering beds that range from $30 to $200 a night, plus work-sharing areas and great food, drink and wellness. With 17 operations already highly successful, another 25 will open shortly, thanks to the planning of founders Rafael Museri and Daniel Rudasevski. SEE JOHANN DAHAN’S VIDEO, BELOW
Selina is being helped in Europe by the same powers-behind-several thrones who set up Buddha-Bar hotels, which of course launched in Budapest and Prague. There was a fascinating panel discussion, indeed, on the Golden Triangle, these two beautiful cities plus Vienna. All three have existing luxury hotels but in view of the expected influx of visitors from China, and growth coming in from the Middle East, with Iran also expected, perhaps more might be a good idea were it not for the worrying hike in construction costs. The answer could well be Motel One properties, said that company’s area development director Astrid Schafleitner, who already has four in Vienna and one coming up in Prague, and is looking hard for a Budapest possibility. Similarly, Azimut’s Dmitry Bebishev, already in Vienna, wants Budapest and Prague (though the brand’s owner does have a hotel there, privately). NOW SEE VIDEOS, FIRST OF THE MAKING OF MAKOS GUBA DESSERT, AND THEN JOHANN DAHAN DESCRIBING SELINA’S INNOVATIVE HOSPITALITY SOLUTION.