Event review: 2018 ASAP convention

George Sell By George Sell
Uploaded 13 December 2018

SAN editor George Sell reports from the 2018 ASAP convention in London.

ASAP CEO James Foice kicked off the 2018 convention with a round up of recent activity, which included the launch of a new supplier directory featuring member properties in 17 countries and a rebrand of the ISAAP accreditation scheme. Foice said that since making quality accreditation of ASAP membership, the organisation has lost 32 member companies.

New ASAP chairman Doug Greenwood, sales and marketing director at Cheval, then outlined the organisation's plans over the next five years. These include an alliance of affiliated global trade bodies with similar values, with the goal of reaching 15 chapters within five years. ASAP also aims to quadruple its turnover to £2 million within five years and boost its membership to 500.

After a thought-provoking presentation from motivational speaker Jim Lawless, a session on the potential implications of Brexit on staffing and recruitment was led by John Guthrie, employment policy advisor for UKHospitality.

Guthrie said that under the government's current proposals, there will be no limit on the number of skilled workers who can come in to the country - the definition of skilled in this case is that they can fill a post which pays at least £30,000 per year. A huge 96 per cent of EU nationals who currently work in UK hospitality would not get in to the UK under the proposed new immigration rules.

The free movement of people from the EU in to the UK will end on December 31st 2020. The government has several potential initiatives to mitigate against the cessation of unskilled EU labour coming in to the sector.

These include the introduction of an 11-month work visa (a 12-month visa would show up on immigration stats, a youth mobility scheme (think Aussie backpackers) and a sector deal which looks at tourism as a potential area of growth for the national economy.

Guthrie said: "The hospitality industry needs to improve its image. We are not seen as a career, we are seen as a job." He said the industry needs to hire more apprentices and embrace the new T-Level qualification. "The government wants hospitality businesses to recruit more British people in return for global promotion of tourism," added Guthrie, pointing out that houskeeping and kitchens in particular are likely to be worst affected by labour shortages.

He also stressed that companies must reduce their level of staff turnover post-Brexit. "Retention of employees is vital to commercial success, and companies must address it as if is a revenue target," said Guthrie, warning that "post-Brexit businesses will behave as they would in a a recession. There will be winners and losers, and the strong companies will steal staff from the weak - it will be brutal."

It is widely expected that EU nationals who are currently residing and working in the UK will have leave to stay, but this comes at a cost - an application for a couple with children could cost up to £190 under current proposals, a significant cost for those working for minimum wage. Some companies will opt to pay the application fee for their staff, other will not, said Guthrie.

A fascinating session called "Inside Government" looked at how individuals, companies and wider groups can lobby government at various levels.

Bernard Donoghue, director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions suggested companies invite their local MP to see their businesses and understand what they do. When lobbying he said "know exactly what you want before you begin the lobbying process, and simplify your language and jargon so it is basic and understandable".

"The best advocates for any issue are those who are at the coal face, the people it affects directly," he added.

Vernon Hunte, associate director at AprilSix Proof, urged companies to start their lobbying at a local level - the seven new Metro mayors are a good opportunity, he said, and more city devolution is expected over the next few years.

A panel discussion called "OTAs, challenges, opportunities and the future impact" got off to quite an uproarious start when David Smith, director of City Apartments, claimed that "agents are seen as the parasites of the sector". The panel, which featured representatives from Expedia and Booking.com, as well as agents SITU and operator Frasers Hospitality debated the most effective ways for OTAs and operators to work together, without the operator ceding total control of the customer relationship.

The final panel of the afternoon, titled the "Industry Grand Panel" highlighted some of the sector's achievements in recent years, and some of the areas where work still needs to be done. Rebecca Hollants van Loocke of Frasers kicked off by saying: "We have to some extent lost our focus on the customer experience. We've become too wrapped up in processes and we need to refocus on experience."

John Wagner of Cycas said: "There is a palpable sense that serviced apartments are no longer a footnote to the hospitality industry, but a viable alternative to owners and investors."

Cheval's George Westwell said the industry can "look forward with great confidence. There is more awareness from banks, investors and consumers. Whatever Brexit brings, the future is bright in the UK."

UKHospitality's CEO Kate Nicholls said: "Historically, hospitality in its entirety has been too fragmented when talking to government - there have been sveen or eight voices all claiming to represent the industry. There are only so many places at the government table. The formation of UKHospitality has formed an effective umbrella."

Later that evening the 2018 ASAP award ceremony took place. James Foice, chief executive of ASAP, said of the awards: 'We had an outstanding year for entries in 2018, which served to represent the full spectrum of our industry and demonstrated the breadth of the market within which we operate. Consequently, this meant that the competition has been fiercer than ever, making the winners all the more deserving."

The accolades included the Rising Star Award, presented to Laura Corrigan, operations executive at Premier Suites; the Serviced Apartment Marketing Award went to Roomzzz Aparthotels, while Andy Durma, hotel manager with Roomzzz Aparthotels was acknowledged by the judges as being a bit of a superstar as he collected the Highly Commended Rising Star of the Year Award.

There were two Industry Breakthrough and Innovation Awards covering Operators & Agents, and for ASAP Business Partners, with these being awarded to Lamington Group & VISIONAPARTMENTS as joint winners under Operators & Agents. Criton won the Business Partners award due to its innovative use of technology to enhance the guest experience.

Further awards were handed to the Lamington Group, as the Serviced Apartment SME Business of the Year, while SACO The Serviced Apartment Company, took home four awards in the Corporate Business of the Year, Guest Experience, Team of the Year (the Cannon Team) and the Investment in People awards.

Joyce Cawthorpe was the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution Award, which recognised her exceptional dedication and commitment to the development and growth of the industry and to the Association over the past 10 years. The Corporate Account Management Award went to Oakwood while Cheval Three Quays collected the inaugural award in the brand-new category for Online Reputation Excellence award in partnership with ReviewPro.

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