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Hospitality Exchange celebrates two decades of progress and 22 heroes

Little Wing’s twins Fionntan & Ruaidhri Owens-Fennell twinned up with Olivia & Karlie Spencer to launch this year’s Hospitality Exchange 2019 programme.

Hospitality Exchange 2019, which will take place over October 15-16 in the Crowne Plaza Hotel Belfast, is celebrating two decades of progress in the industry and 22 heroes.

In keeping with tradition, this year’s programme will focus on hot topics, new trends and challenges within the hospitality sector. Time will be spent reflecting on the role tourism has played in shaping Northern Ireland as we know it today, the journey we’ve taken over the last twenty years and the future potential.

“We’ve come a long way over the last 20 years, and a lot of things have changed, but one thing that has remained constant is the central role that people play in the success of hospitality and tourism,” said Gavin Carroll, president of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF).

“That’s why businesses continually look at how they can keep staff motivated. To support them in this endeavour at this year’s Hospitality Exchange, we will be hosting a dedicated masterclass that explores staff engagement, how to improve industry image and the merits of a code of conduct. There will also be insights from acclaimed Cornell Professor, Rob Kwortnik, on the link between people and profit.

“In keeping with the people theme, the speaker lunch will feature Ian Taylor, a homegrown talent who has been instrumental in creating what has become known as the Boutique Country House Experience. Ian’s journey is a real inspiration and we’re grateful he’s agreed to share it.

“We’re also delighted that 20 local hotel heroes, who were nominated by businesses working within the sector, will be joining us at Hospitality Exchange 2019. These individuals have made a significant contribution to the industry and we will be celebrating their commitment and dedication.”

Food also plays a critical role in hospitality. Northern Ireland’s produce, which is recognised for its high quality, coupled with the innovation of talented chefs, is a driving force in our hospitality and tourism industry.

Janice Gault, chief executive of NIHF, said: “Restaurants and chefs are an important element of travel experiences. The authenticity of the local cuisines, the chefs‘ skills, and authentic dining are important factors when choosing a destination. Food will feature heavily in this year’s programme with a special appearance by guest chef, Theo Randall. The all-island Taste the Island campaign will be at the heart of this year’s menus which celebrate local hero products and our culinary heritage.”

Expansion continues to be a hot topic as hotel bedroom numbers which are now sitting at 9,502 continue to break records. Leading benchmarking company STR will have a review of trading over the last year highlighting the effect of additional supply, as well as a forecast on future performance.

With growth comes new opportunities and delegates will find out about the legacy of “The Open”, the escalation in screen tourism, along with the prospects for the business sector. There will also be an update from tourism agencies on the season, a glimpse into branding for Northern Ireland and an economic update with a tourism twist from economist Neil Gibson.

The social side has not been forgotten and after twenty years there’s a lot to celebrate including 20 hotel heroes, a billion-pound industry and a £600m investment.

The diverse conference programme will also be supported by an industry exhibition. The event will close with the Big Birthday Ball, an evening of fine wine, great food and above all a party to remember.

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