Luxury Hotels

PREFERRED – 2

Every minute of last week’s Preferred Hotel Group Global Conference, held in Lisbon 8-9 May, seemed to be filled with worthwhile stuff promising good return on ideas (a half-hour working lunch with Preferred CEO Lindsey Ueberroth, above, once again showed that quality time always wins over quantity).

A half day devoted to cultural sightseeing allowed breathing space and the opportunity to network, as did the Preferred-specialty dine-around dinner.  Choose your restaurant and enjoy a relaxed meal with hoteliers or supplier partners whom you may not have met before.  This evening also afforded Girlahead the opportunity to appreciate the versatility of the culinary team at the host hotel, Epic Sana Marqués: Allora, its Italian trattoria, produced a great evening (highlighted, it must be said, by the black truffle pizza).

The final gala was at Sud Lisboa, a striking Antoine Pinto-designed event space on the bank of the river Tagus – look around for views of the suspension-held 25th of April Bridge and Cristo Rei. Interestingly Sud Lisboa is also part of Sana Hotels – the company is owned by Azinor Group, a 50-industry conglomerate led by Nazir Din.

Now when the Ueberroth family, owners of Preferred Hotel Group, decree something it is desirable to follow suit. This was black tie de rigueur: one guy in a pale blue shirt and no jacket had not realised he was coming to the gala but he coped, with aplomb, surrounded by evening-suited gentlemen who had transported their gear from around the world.  This was High Style evening, starting with Champagne on Sud Lisboa’s upper terrace as a drone flew overhead (the drone later photographed the assembled company and someone, presumably a human, inserted the resulting footage into the final video shown, postprandially a couple of hours later).

Dinner seating was cleverly arranged, with Preferred management hosting many of the circular tables. While servers deftly manipulated plated cauliflower soup with foie gras and truffles – the soup poured over, at table – and roast sea bass, and apple and Muscadet sorbet, and beef, presentations persisted undeterred.

At some points, indefatigable emcee/whatever Peter Bates leapt up, Jack-in-the-box style, from his place at table 12 – see below – to glide to the podium to speak. At other times, Preferred CEO Lindsey Ueberroth , in stunning baby-blue strapless, and company President, Michelle Woodley, in red and black, performed a skilled double-act. There were a multitude of awards and as well as engraved transparent pineapple statues, modelled for the Preferred logo, winners would go home with a little something from Champagne Laurent-Perrier.

Among the many honoured was Hotel Maria Helsinki, the best new city hotel. Best ‘new’ resort was Hotel Son Net, Marbella, in fact now managed by Finca Cortesin rather than Stein Group, which does retain an equity interest. One of the many sustainability awards went to Nicaragua’s Rancho Santana El Limón for its philanthropy, enabling 200+ families to have potable water. Hotel of the year was The Beaumont, London, which sadly loses its high-profile MD, Duncan Palmer, next month.

Highlight of the award recipients was lifetime achiever Mark Nolan, who retires later this year after 35 years running Dromoland Castle in Co Clare. A brilliant video showed tributes from his four adult offspring and from all Ireland’s other top hoteliers, plus the CEO of Tourism Ireland.  Nolan had a standing tribute that understandably went on and on.

When it was possible to make herself heard, Lindsey Ueberroth asked her parents their thoughts on the three-day Global Conference. ‘Amazing’, said Gail Ueberroth, after a brief pause. ‘Wonderful’ said John Uuberroth, who had already had time to think. Judging by comments on the coach home from those eschewing the dancing after-party for early flights or at least part of a good night, everyone in this extended family felt the same,