The cream of Manchester: Boutique Hotel News visits the Annual Hotel Conference

John Wagner George Sell Uploaded

I was immediately reminded of what a compact city Manchester is, and how you have a sense that everything going on in the city is close to hand. That feeling was reinforced by the timing of our visit - the AHC coincided with the Labour Party conference so there were swarms of politicos propping up the city's bars, and they weren't the only notables we spotted.

Remember the Boddington's adverts with their slogan - "the cream of Manchester"? Well during our two days in town we, literally in some cases, bumped in to the sporting and musical equivalents.

As we arrived at the Hilton, the Manchester City team were just leaving for a European game at Eastlands. Despite a crowd of fans outside and a few heavy looking security guys on the door we walked in and up the stairs to the room where the AHC's opening cocktail party was taking place - at the same time as the blue side of town's galacticos were coming down. Tevez, Balotelli, Barry et al were all within touching distance.

To even things up a little bit, red legend Ryan Giggs was at the cocktail party and his former team mate, and now England assistant coach, Gary Neville (pictured)was the opening speaker the following morning. He spoke about his career and his plans for developing a 140-room hotel of his own, just 100 yards from Old Trafford. Interestingly Neville said he was going to try and emulate Alex Ferguson's management style in his business career, stressing the importance of attention to detail and effective communication between all members of the team.

At lunchtime, Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown was spied in the hotel lobby, and our brush with Manchester royalty was complete when the conference was closed with a rousing speech from Olympic sprinter Darren Campbell - a son of Moss side.

The conference itself - for which BHN was a Media Partner - was a rewarding networking event with some thought provoking sessions. Jonathan Langston of TRI gave a thorough market overview which highlighted, among other trends, that the leisure market is the prime driver of the London hotel market, and that travel agent commissions have more than doubled since 2003, largely due to the increase in volume sold through OTAs.

New tourism minister Hugh Robertson outlined what the government planned to do to help the hospitality sector capitalize on the Olympics, claiming that the Games have changed overseas perceptions of Great Britain.

A panel on asset management claimed that it is important to refurbish your best performing hotels as well as trying to "put lipstick on the pig" - trying to tart up the worst properties.

A case study session featuring four experienced independent hoteliers revealed contrasting attitudes from lenders, but a significant problem with banks basing what they are prepared to lend towards a hotel purchase on valuations which are erring too far on the side of caution. Peter Taylor, owner of the Townhouse Collection said he had recently sold a hotel in Edinburgh for four times what it had been valued at.

We had an enjoyable and rewarding couple of days in Manchester - including a great meal at Australasia (highly recommended) with Rebecca Jacques and Marco Nijhof of yoo, and will definitely be back next year.


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