Winning the title of Hotelier of the Year in 2007 confirmed something that Michael Gray, general manager of Hyatt Regency London, the Churchill, already knew: that a bond exists between hoteliers that transcends competitive edge and commercial rivalry.
"It was a huge honour to be secretly recognised for this award by people I respect so much in our industry," he says. "I think it typifies the camaraderie so evident among hoteliers. We are arch-competitors, but we are always ready to help a colleague. I am not sure that this exists in other competitive industries."
Since being crowned the top hotelier in the country last December, Gray has been bowled over by the response from around the industry. "It has been overwhelming," he says. "I have never had so many e-mails and letters and heart-warming words. It was very emotional to read them."
How Gray found time to read this flurry of correspondence is anyone's guess. As well as the small matter of running a successful West End hotel, he juggles an impressive number of industry commitments. First, he sits on the People 1st Sector Skills council steering group responsible for leading a Government initiative for the hospitality industry to introduce 14-19 diplomas. And as chairman of the Springboard London Advisory Board, he actively supports Springboard's efforts to promote hospitality as a career of choice.
Somehow, he also finds time to chair London-based hoteliers' group West One to sit on the committee of the Master Innholders, acting as national delegate for the European Hotel Managers Association and to work in support of the Ark Foundation, which educates the industry on the dangers of drink and drugs.
As if he weren't busy enough, being named Hotelier of the Year has added further to Gray's workload.
He explains: "You find that you are a spokesman for the industry, and therefore your words can count and can influence and can, I hope, inspire and motivate - especially when it comes to encouraging people to join our industry. It's quite a responsibility to use those words wisely and effectively."
This tireless dedication to the welfare and development of the industry was one of the many attributes that influenced our judges' decision to honour Gray last year.
Now the search is on for the 2008 Hotelier of the Year, and it's a similar total commitment to the industry that the judges will be looking for.
Gray believes the essence of a great hotelier is "a relentless and dogged passion for the attention to detail. Apparently, the Duke of Wellington said that attention to detail won the Battle of Waterloo. I like that."
Hoteliers must, Gray says, "do the basics in service for our guests extraordinarily well, day in and day out, and hopefully better than yesterday and must look after the people they work with and ensure they enjoy their work and have fun doing it, and thereby make guests happy.
"I'll be looking for someone who loves the industry and is respected by the industry, who demonstrates that they care about the industry and its future and who does not limit their involvement in the industry to the remit of their own job."
Do you know a hotelier who embodies these skills? If so, Michael Gray and the rest of judging panel want to hear from you.
Winner to be named at the hotel Cateys
This year, the Hotelier of the Year award gets a new home. For 25 years, the UK's most exceptional hotelkeepers have been unveiled and applauded at an exclusive luncheon in December. From this year, we will incorporate the announcement of the Hotelier of the Year into November's Hotel Catey awards.
The Hotel Cateys were introduced in 2007 to enable us to recognise success at an operational level. Housekeeping, reception services, conference and banqueting, spa management and many other key aspects of the hotel industry are spotlighted by the awards.
Why are we making this change? Because we want to hold up each new Hotelier of the Year as a shining beacon to future generations of managers. Winning the Hotelier of the Year award represents the pinnacle of a career in hotelkeeping. By presenting this prestigious award in front of an audience of young hotel professionals, we hope to provide aspiring hoteliers with exemplars whose successes they can emulate.
Hotelier of the Year former winners
- 2007 Michael Gray, Hyatt Regency London, the Churchill
- 2006 Richard Ball, Calcot Manor, Tetbury, Gloucestershire
- 2005 John Stauss, Four Seasons, London
- 2004 Patrick Elsmie, Gleneagles, Auchterarder
- 2003 Robin Hutson, then at Hotel du Vin
- 2002 Gordon Campbell Gray, One Aldwych, London
- 2001 Karen Earp, then at the Four Seasons Canary Wharf, London
- 2000 Peter Crome, then at Chewton Glen, New Milton, Hampshire
- 1999 Nick Ryan, the Crinan, Argyll
- 1998 Nicholas Rettie, then at the Metropolitan, London
- 1997 Peter Lederer, Gleneagles, Auchterarder
- 1996 Chris Rouse, then at Turnberry, Ayrshire
- 1995 Ricci Obertelli, the Dorchester, London
- 1994 David Levin, the Capital, London
- 1993 Ken McCulloch, then at One Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow
- 1992 Dagmar Woodward, then at the Mayfair Intercontinental, London
- 1991 Martin Skan, then at Chewton Glen, New Milton
- 1990 George Goring, Goring hotel, London
- 1989 Grete Hobbs, then at Inverlochy Castle, Fort William
- 1988 Ronald Jones, then at Claridge's, London
- 1987 Eion Dillon, then at the Copthorne Tara, London
- 1986 Harry Murray, then at the Imperial, Torquay
- 1985 Terry Holmes, then at the Stafford, London
- 1984 Ramon Pajares, then at the Four Seasons, London
- 1983 Richard Edwards, then at the Chester Grosvenor, Chester
Hotelier of the Year award criteria
The 2008 Hotelier of the Year is likely to display the following qualities.
- Total commitment and dedication to hospitality.
- Fair and decisive leadership skills.
- Excellent communicator.
- Well respected in industry.
- Exemplary business track record.
- Innovative and creative.
- Strong attention to detail.
- Manages by example.
- Runs well-maintained hotel that consistently surpasses its competitors.
- Consistency of delivery: ensures all guest stays exceed expectations.
- A personal touch with guests.
- Offers value for money.
- Develops and introduces new services to enhance the customer experience.
Commitment to employees
- Focuses on developing employees' careers and maximising potential.
- Willing to impart knowledge to employees.
- Organises staff surveys and acts on them.
- Empathic and approachable.
Commitment to industry
- Supports Government initiatives to promote hospitality as a career of choice and raise standards of training.
- Engages with community to promote industry.
- Supports hospitality organisations and events both personally and with his/her hotel/business resources.
- Contributes personally, and with hotel resources, to help charitable initiatives involves staff in charitable/community events.
- Has well-communicated, effective environment policy.
To nominate individuals for the award of Hotelier of the Year 2008,please visit the Hotelier of the Year website.The closing date for entries for this award is Friday 10 August 2008.