Hoteliers from many lands convened in New York on Monday 13 November for HOTELS Magazine’s annual Hoteliers of the Year awards. The honorees were not a surprise, but the acclaim for them was universal. Corporate Hotelier was US-born William Heinecke, Chairman of the Minor Group, whose many brands include Anantara Hotels Resorts, and Spas, AVANI Hotels & Resorts, Elewana Collection and Tivoli Hotels & Resorts (Minor also owns, and in some cases manages under franchise agreements, Four Seasons, Marriotts and St Regis properties).
In one of the exquisite historic rooms at Lotte Palace Hotel New York, HOTELS’ managing editor Barbara Bohm explained how talking to Heinecke earlier this year she learned how, as a teenager, he started the company – he called it Minor as he was then too young to register it in his own name. Now it has 154 hotels in 22 countries, and goodness knows how many hundreds of freestanding eating outlets there are in the group, which also includes private aviation facilities. After accepting the award, Bill Heinecke then continued, to describe his humanitarian work with elephants, both rescuing retired elephants and using them, via his Heinecke Foundation, as therapy for autistic kids. His company also hosts the annual Elephant Polo competition in Thailand.
Next up was independent hotelier of the year, Edward Mady, GM of The Dorchester Collection’s Beverly Hills Hotel and the Collection’s boss of The Americas (coincidentally he had been MD of this very hotel when it was simply called The Palace New York, managed by The Dorchester Collection). Born in Canada, Ed Mady has had a lifetime of hospitality service which, he says, will go on forever, whatever happens. Before The Dorchester Collection came into The Palace, for instance, it was part of the Helmsley empire and Harry Helmsley’s tempestuous wife Leona Helmsley fired him three times, on each occasion re-hiring him pretty quickly.
Ed Mady’s modesty was shown by the fact that at the ceremony this week he was not sitting in the front row, as one would expect, but at the very back of the room. HOTELS editor-in-chief Jeff Weinstein called him forward, and recounted his fascination with baseball, especially the New York Yankees. Mady then went through a very long list of those who have influenced him – most of whom were in the room – and that number included the team’s one-time Captain, Derek Jeter, and two Hall of Famers, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. Another of Mady’s self-appointed personal advisory board is Ritz-Carlton founder Horst Schulze, who told me afterwards that he is writing another book.
HOTELS Magazine’s Hotelier of the Year awards start with nominations from previous winners. These names are then passed out to all the magazine’s 90,000 plus readers, both in print and online, for final voting. Traditionally, the New York hotel that hosts the award ceremony then throws a cocktail and Lotte Palace raised the bar considerably. Food, especially addictive seafood bites and whole prime rib carved to order, was sensational, matched by stylish drinks and attentive service. Thank you Becky Hubbard, GM of the hotel. One other enhancement this year was that invitees were only hoteliers, plus sponsors, who included La Bottega.
Mary Gostelow travels over 300 days a year, doing one-night stands in top hotels around the world. Read her daily travelogue, www.girlahead.com