Autumn hotel industry conferences in the U.K. are serious affairs where the good and great talk about assets, debt, leverage and the like, but there also has been a rich vein of humor.
In my blog this week, I share some conference asides that never made Hotel News Now’s coverage of the autumn United Kingdom conference season, although I should note the season is not over:
At the Hotel Investment Conference Europe, better known as Hot.E, in September, one keynote speech was from Greg Dyke, now a hotel owner with seven assets in the Vine Hotels portfolio, but also the former chancellor of York University, former director-general of the BBC and former chairman of The Football Association.
Dyke told a story about a tipsy golf-buggy driver who drove into the golf-course lake at his 12th-Century manor-house-style Best Western Plus Mosborough Hall Hotel. The driver subsequently tried to sue the hotel and Dyke because the lake had no safety barriers.
“Essentially, as chairman, you are there when the (expletive) hits the fan. The CEO should be the one to run things,” he said.
Another humorous tale of Dyke’s career was when he discovered he was one of the subjects chronicled by journalist Quentin Letts in his 2009 book “50 people who buggered up Britain,” (buggered, in this context, being British slang for “messed up”).
Dyke wondered why he had been included. Could it have been his responsibility for the creation of the English Premiership, which some say has spoiled soccer and created a legion of overpaid athlete-divas, many of whom are not English, which means fewer English players will come through the ranks so that the English national team will never have the quantity and quality of players to ever again win anything?
No, the reason was that it was Dyke’s decision when running the BBC to move the nightly news from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., where it remains. Why was this so destructive? Apparently, Letts always went to bed when the news finished, and he now needed to stay up one further hour.
I mean, Greg, how could you!
All it takes is one single letter
At the Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester, during a panel titled “Regrets, I have a few, but then again … Real life stories of the pitfalls of hotel development and operation,” moderator James Devitt, managing director of business consultancy Herald Hotels, spoke of the importance of being on top of every aspect of a hotel asset.
Make sure wording is correct, and you have checked it a hundred times, and have experts in their fields check it, too, seemed to be the sound advice. Check, check, check and check again.
One story he regaled to underline that point was about a court case in which a friend of Devitt’s was the defense barrister.
The barrister’s client was in court for allegedly contravening the U.K. Dangerous Dogs Act.
Evidently, he had claimed he was not guilty.
The barrister could see no real way out of the situation if the dog’s breed was indeed included in the act as a banned breed and if it was beyond doubt that the client’s dog had been dangerous—at least enough to have led to court action.
The only possible evidence that the dog in question was a mild-mannered pooch was its name: Stan.
How possibly could anyone or anything named Stan be dangerous, the barrister explained to the court?
It was then that a folded note was passed to the barrister, which had a message on it: “Milord, the dog in question, its name is not Stan, but Satan.”
Judge and Dury
Also at Hot.E, Trevor Williams, CEO of Trevor Williams Consultancy and former chief economist at Lloyds Bank, spoke on serious geopolitical issues, including:
- rising protectionism;
- slow trade growth;
- U.S. policy uncertainty;
- Russian adventurism;
- the Chinese slowdown from its credit bubble; and
- renewed crises in Middle East and Asia.
Despite saying 2017’s U.K. economic forecast is the first since 2012 not to have been downgraded, he added that no one must underestimate the potential “backlash against the establishment and perceptions of rising inequality.”
“The education system has failed in turning people who desire well-paid, good jobs into the type of person who can fill those well-paid, good jobs,” Williams said.
But despite this woe, Williams said there was much to be positive about.
“There are reasons to cheerful, 1, 2, 3,” he said.
So, did anyone in the audience understand this reference? Seemingly not, although I will assume everyone was being polite and not wanting to raise their voices.
I did, Trevor.
It comes from Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ hit single “Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3,” which perhaps aptly reached number three in the U.K. pop charts in summer 1979.
On my home’s stereo, it is a classic.
Perhaps Hot.E needs to substitute its evening wine reception for a disco if it wishes to keep up with its keynote speakers.
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