Jeremy Ogden, Chair of Brighton and Hove Hoteliers Association, explains why the Brighton & Hove Hoteliers Awards are such an important addition to the city’s calendar. Interview by Ian Trevett
The choice of accommodation for tourists and the conference trade is broad and diverse, from tiny Kemptown guesthouses to iconic seaside institutions such as The Grand. Despite the vast differences in sizes, budgets and facilities, the hotel community in Brighton and Hove has become increasingly close-knit, due to the hard work of the Brighton and Hove Hoteliers Association (BHHA) and the success of the Hotel Awards, which takes place this year on Tuesday, November 15th at The Grand.
Jeremy Ogden, Chair of BHHA and a former General Counsel for one of the world’s largest banks, has no doubts about the impact of the awards: “The awards have been an opportunity for the local hotel sector to recognise the successes of its peer group; it is independently judged and it has raised the profile of Brighton’s hotels. Due to their popularity, we have a broader spectrum of businesses who want to sponsor the awards and get involved.”
Now in its third year, the awards have grown rapidly. “This year I think we will see the attendance break the 400 mark,” predicts Jeremy. “It is a quiet mid-week night in November and it is a chance for people who work in the hospitality industry to celebrate the end of a busy season. We are keen to encourage support from the business community, but it also has to be an affordable event so hotels can bring their staff members along. Many consider it an early Christmas treat for their teams. We very much appreciate the way that the Metropole and The Grand have hosted the events and kept the pricing low for the tables.
“The night is a mix of serious business-style awards and an opportunity to have a great night out, with time for people to have a dance at the end.”
Although the event started out as a laid-back night out, where the hotel community could let their hair down, the awards have become increasingly important.
Jeremy says, “The awards have become more competitive, which is a good thing, though Brighton is always far more laid-back than they would be in London. The actual process of submitting the award application is a good exercise. When you have to explain why you should be awarded the Property of the Year, it forces you to think about your offering.
“There’s no doubt that the winners have been very proud of the awards, and you will see the plinths in the lobbies of the winning hotels. It is an independent recognition, and people have been delighted to win.
“Most of the sponsors and judges are from local companies, and it is great to get this appreciation of the hotels we have in the city. The awards have definitely helped people to raise their game. It is important as we need to be promoting our city, and it’s not always easy for the council to take on this role with the budget cuts they have been experiencing. We should have someone shouting about Brighton all the time.”
Jeremy is now in his third year as Chair of the BHHA, although he had firmly intended to take on the role on a short-term basis. In fact, Jeremy is still a relative newcomer to the hotel trade; he is a former partner in a City law firm and was General Counsel for one of the world’s largest banks. The move from the pressurised, fast-moving Square Mile to the more relaxed vibe of Brighton’s New Steine was quite a cultural shift, but one Jeremy is enjoying.
He recalls, “My wife and I bought a business called Strawberry Fields back in 2006, though I was still working in London at the time. My wife was invited to join the executive of the BHHA and has been involved for a long time. The Association was chaired by Mark Jones, who did a great deal for the association, but since he stood down there have been a few interim people.
“In 2012, we bought LimeHouse Hotel and my wife suggested I should get involved. I had been the Vice-Chair of the Tourism Advisory Board, so I agreed to get involved on a short-term basis, but I am still here!”
As well as being an opportunity for hoteliers to network and work together, the BHHA has been able to establish itself as an important voice in the city, as Jeremy explains:
“The main attraction of the BHHA is the fact that it represents such a wide spectrum of businesses, from small B&Bs and guesthouses, boutique hotels, to The Grand and the Metropole. We now have 50-60 members. It is more a trade association than a trade union. What we do depends on what issues need to be addressed. “We have worked with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service to make sure that the appropriate standards they require are proportionate. We have many beautiful
Georgian buildings in the city that weren’t necessarily built to 21st Century fire and safety standards. Being forced to install lobby doors or sprinkler systems could ruin the appearance of the hotels, and many of our members wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford them. My concern was that smaller businesses would just ignore the requirements. So the BHHA has been successful in having a proper dialogue in order to arrive at a sensible compromise.
“We also work very closely with the council to represent the industry. One of the big issues is planning. We want to keep our independents and not have so many chains that the city loses its identity. It is the same debate with the independent shops.
“I am very proud of the fact that the Association supported the campaign to introduce defibrillators in to hotels and guesthouses and we now have a number around the City in our members premises, and we have helped organise the proper training with the ambulance service. It is a known fact that if a defibrillator is used on a patient within the first few minutes, there is a far better chance of survival. This was a great example of the association working together.
“We have also sponsored a Martlets Snow Dog, and I am pleased that the BHHA are supporting a local charity. It is the hotels doing the right thing for the city.”
The Brighton And Hove Hotel Awards
Organised and hosted this year by The Grand Brighton, the awards aim to celebrate all levels of the industry, from the smallest and cosiest of independent guesthouses to the city’s big-hitting branded and luxury hotels.
Auction house Christie’s is the headline sponsor. Other sponsors include The Argus, Midnight Communications, Brighton Visitor, British Airways i360, Handelsbanken, RBS, Platinum Business Magazine, City Cabs, Visit Brighton, lastminute.com, Booking.com and HIT Training.
The Grand’s General Manager, Andrew Mosley, said: “This is a celebration of the success and camaraderie within the hospitality industry. We want to raise the quality of the industry through friendly competition and show that everyone is raising standards.”
The awards will be held on Tuesday, November 15th at The Grand, with a drinks reception, 3 course dinner and the ceremony.
Tickets are £20 for BHHA members or £35 for non-members with a dress-to-impress dress code.