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By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
25 February 2022
8 min read
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Chris Gabaldon, Senior Vice President, Luxury Brands, Marriott International opened the International Luxury Hotel Association’s INSPIRE conference at the Fairmont Santa Monica, California at the end of last year.

He spoke on The Business of Brand Culture, identifying the strength in a clearly defined brand that serves to attract a variety of guests and associates, who are drawn to each hotel’s different ethos. Brand cultures that are effective inspire people to conform to them and ultimately motivate teams to deliver exceptional guest experiences, empowering employees to problem solve and drive brand loyalty for the guest by creating an emotional connection.

Watch the full video of Gabaldon’s talk here


The ILHA are hosting videos of the two-day conference where you can view sessions like Overcoming the Talent Crisis: Strategies to Build your Workforce and Maximize the Staff you Have with Stowe Shoemaker, Professor & Dean, William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, UNLV, Mark Heyman, CEO, Unifocus, Kim Dunbar, Vice President of Human Resources, Pacific Hospitality Group and Phil Keb, Executive Vice President, Gencom.

Michelle Russo, Founder & CEO, Hotel Asset Value Enhancement gave a 2022 Economic & Investment Outlook, and Cindy Estis Green, CEO & Co-founder, Kalibri Labs spoke on Operating in the Age of Digital
Disruption. Chelsey Leffet, Senior Vice President, HVS moderated a panel discussion on Capitalizing on the Strength in Lodging with panelists Jennifer Dakin, Managing Director, Wells Fargo Bank, Smedes Rose, Director, Citigroup, Erik Eveleigh, Senior Director of Luxury Development, Hilton, Rachael Rothman, Head of Hotels Research & Data Analytics, CBRE and Jay B. Newman, Chief Operating Officer, The Athens Group.

AVMS was the ILHA’s audio-visual partner and created a seamless experience for the conference, providing event support for the hybrid format and recording all the sessions.

Their stage setup and lighting showcased the ILHA’s keynote speakers and their presentations and panel sessions were flawlessly supported so that discussions took the spotlight.

Sara Glenn, Chief Operating Officer, Canada, Caribbean, Mexico & Central America, Accor, who spoke on Optimizing Hotel Operations to Drive Success had the following to say after the conference.

“Great work on the conference. I heard some really good feedback from participants saying that the topics and discussion at this conference were the most on-point of the conferences they have been to. We look forward to doing more with ILHA.” 

Anne Wilkinson, Principal, BAMO gave a talk on The Intersection of Design & Wellbeing: Designing for Positive Emotional Impact, where she spoke on why design trends happen and what the bigger influences are that move things forward. Here are a few key takeaways from her session.

Design really reflects our time and with big disruptions changes in design happen more rapidly. Health and wellbeing are emerging as the biggest trends out of the pandemic and sustainability, diversity and social impact are also important and linked to wellbeing. She referenced Ecopsychology, the study of how nature has a positive influence on us, benefiting our cognitive ability, our health, our vitality, and our longevity. Studies show we are experiencing a negative effect because our
environment is deteriorating and it is affecting our health and wellbeing, so sustainability is now not just a trend but is becoming an expectation and soon a requirement.

She also spoke about emotionally durable design, which is not just made to last 50 years but is something that is quality and beautifully made that people keep for decades because they love it. It is too early to see how diversity impacts design but she anticipates we will see a shift away from the Eurocentric design aesthetics and is interested to see where that takes us.

“You will not be in most of the consumer-facing industries in the next decade if wellness is not part of the equation, predicted Kevin Kelly,” CEO Sensei.

You can view the conference videos here

Roundtable discussions took place at the event on topics around trends,
marketing strategies, wellness, guest service, and AI & robotics and followed an organic format where speakers like Rebecca Goldberg, Hotel Manager, The Peninsula, and Vaughn Davis, General Manager, Dream Hotel Los Angeles introduced their topic and brainstormed ideas with conference participants. The atmosphere was alive with new connections and shared experiences as leaders and hospitality professionals in the industry worked through challenges and bounced ideas around.

The ILHA INSPIRE conference would not be possible without the sponsors who support the luxury hotel industry. Best Buy Business, ResortSuite, World Cinema, HCN, Molekule, Vilebrequin, tabl’eau Filtered Water, Canary Technologies, Unifocus and more took part in the conference, all of which offer valuable solutions to challenges the luxury hotel industry is facing.

Susan Santiago, who leads the Miraval and Lifestyle portfolio for Hyatt,
took part in the panel on Understanding Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in
Luxury Hospitality and spoke about how her lived experiences as a female, Hispanic, gay woman has driven a passion for her to be a voice and affect change in her organization. Diana Lerma, COO, Stokes-Wagner talked about DEI being the big elephant in the room and the different ways to address it. In her opinion more regulation will not make a difference as there is always a big gap between legislation and how it applies to the hospitality industry because the people who write the laws don’t understand the industry, so it never translates well. She added that DEI is very specific to the brand and the resources they will put forth to meet it. Regulations specifying benchmarks won’t address the large goals, rather a program that companies have to determine the investment they want to put into DEI and what the ROI will be. How do they want their brand to be perceived?

Kevin Kelly, CEO, Sensei spoke about wellness and technology in Well-being: Putting Wellness at the Forefront of Recovery for both People & Industry. He said that there has been a seismic shift in our culture and explained that when there is trauma to the system you will see a shift in value systems around wellbeing. Most apparent right now is where people had their career as one and relationships two. It’s now flipped. People are saying that their jobs still matter, but not at the expense of their relationships and hotels are seeing this as they face current staffing challenges. As we lean into this shift in culture, wellness is becoming more and more important. The younger generation who have similar values as their parents, even though practiced separately, are finding that their emotional wellbeing is important to them. They are aware of their vulnerability due to covid. People want to take a vacation. He spoke about how difficult it used to be to talk about the value of wellness and sustainability, whereas now, “wellness has become the new black.” Kelly added that wellness being an opportunity for interfacing and grabbing consumer market share is significant everywhere and not just in our industry.

Please take a moment to view videos of their products here

Headline partner, Glowing.io’s Co-founder and CTO, Parag Arora, gave the following statement:

“We have spent over five years developing and implementing the Glowing.io engagement cloud globally with many of our luxury brands implementing brand standard roll-outs to their many properties. The internal and customer growth of Glowing over that time has been a tremendous success, especially through the pandemic. Partnering with ILHA has given us an avenue of accelerating our current efforts in global expansion; focusing on regions iconic for luxury and the type of properties that gel well with our offering and who can derive maximum advantage of increasing guest engagement and operational efficiency.”

Molekule appreciates the opportunity to work with the ILHA to bring awareness to our air purifiers that have been proven to destroy viruses, bacteria, mold, and chemicals in the air and are FDA cleared. These air purifiers are a great addition to hospitality settings and we look forward to future opportunities where we can continue to discuss the value of clean air in the luxury hotel industry,” said Danny D’ULL, Enterprise Sales for Molekule.


For the past 20 years, The Regency Group has strived to be “your brand’s concierge”. The Regency Group brings your brand to life. Our exceptional hospitality products elevate your guest and brand experience. We create brand assets that communicate and evolve with your vision, From innovative sourcing and product development to print and production. The Regency Group is proud to announce our expansion to the International Marketplace with our first footstep in the United Kingdom and Europe. Thanks to our partnership with ILHA, we have been able to further expand our service offering to additional properties and regions within the Luxury Hotel space.

ILHA partners youtip and The Cocktail Guru gave attendees the opportunity to support the hospitality industry with Cocktails for a Cause. All tips made at INSPIRE were donated to ServiceSource, an NPO that supports individuals who have disabilities worldwide.

Photos: Jtanl.com