Editor checks in: has it really been five years?

Editor Hamish Kilburn marks five years leading the editorial direction of Hotel Designs with a few words about embracing the in-between moments and championing the risk-takers…

Hamish Kilburn Editors Letter May 2023

If there was ever a week to remind myself of the whirlwind that I call ‘my editorship’ it was this one. In seven days, I have visited a brassware factory in Wolverhampton, explored Venice in style (nothing can beat a water-taxi transfer from the hotel to the airport) and hosted one of our most successful networking events to date, MEET UP London 2023. Even as I write this, trying to capture five years in one, punchy Editor’s Letter, it feels apt that I am squished in the middle seat, battling with food poisoning, on a long-haul flight to embark on Hotel Designs’ next hotel review – travel and design journalism is not what it used to be.

While the end destinations for each of those mini trips are, indeed, extraordinary, the in-between moments captured along the way are just as heart-racing, albeit for very different reasons. I like to think them as the corridors of the hotel, easy to ignore when in a rush to get from A to B, but often they are captivating, long-winding spaces that channel guests from one state of mind to another.

My ‘corridor adventures’ are anything by luxurious and are perhaps full of more drama than most, a statement that anyone who has ever travelled with can endorse or challenge. Take my recent trip to Venice, for example. While catching the first flight out of London Gatwick, I managed to abandon my laptop in the airport’s security line, leaving me with no choice but to write and file an article on my phone during the flight. Or last night, missing the second to last train home from London to join a Zoom call with an international client, hoping that the bad WiFi connection in the train station terminal would conceal the shadows that were lurking under my eyes. Believe it or not, it’s these experiences, which connect to wider journeys, that make the job what it is – there really is never a dull moment on the editorial desk.

As I mark five years of being Editor of Hotel Designs, doing what I know best, keeping busy leaving little time to celebrate or think, I am determined to start embracing and making memories out of the moments in time that to the naked eye may look insignificant. These chapter fillers tell the true story about the role I lead. While the far-flung destinations that my editorship has unlocked over the years – from St Lucia to Italy, Mauritius to the Maldives – have left me speechless, it has always been the people behind the design who have fuelled my curiosity; the designers, architects, hoteliers and creatives who have created and curated these one-off experiences and, so often, made the impossible feel not only possible, but also practical.

It’s this passion to amplify authentic design narratives, shared I hasten to add by every member of the Hotel Designs team, in every department, that helped shape this wonderful, bold brand into what it is today. Not only are we able to serve our loyal readers with the latest news as well as engaging features from around the global hospitality and hotel design landscape, but we are also able to champion them annually with The Brit List Awards 2022, a campaign that continues to identify gamechangers in our industry, from design to development, hospitality to technological innovation.

Last year, for the first time in our campaign’s history, in amongst the nine individual and worthy award winners, Kerry Acheson, an Associate at Ica, who became the first woman to win Architect of the Year following her work on Virgin Hotels Edinburgh. For our whole team, this was a moment I doubt we will ever forget.

Kerry Acheson, Associate, Ica, accepting her award at The Brit List Awards 2022

Image caption: Kerry Acheson becoming the first woman to win Architect of the Year at The Brit List Awards. | Image credit: Hotel Designs/The Brit List Awards 2022

It’s true what they say, an editorship is a relationship in the sense that you get out of it what you put in; a constant push and pull. Half a decade in, I feel it is the right time to announce my engagement to this brand, hoping it will lead towards a  successful marriage that will be kept alive, and on its toes, by keeping the conversation flowing. Whether it’s a roundtable, panel discussion, exclusive interview, hotel review or hosting one of our many networking events and parties throughout the year, our brand has never been shy to develop so that it remains a catalyst for collaboration – constantly connecting like-minded creatives to help the industry to evolve with purpose.

In truth, five years has felt more like five minutes. I would like to thank everyone who has welcomed this collaborative approach, including the entire team at Hotel Designs and Forum Events, all the brands that have partnered with us, the PR agencies that have transported me to experience extraordinary destinations and the individuals who have taken risks to give journalists like me on the editorial desk something worth writing about.

panel discussion chaired by Hotel Designs editor Hamish Kilburn at IHS

Image caption: A panel discussion I chaired with Marie Soliman, Tom Middleton and Mark Bruce on sensory experiences in hotel design. | Image credit: Independent Hotel Show

I have and will never take for granted the pace of this ever-evolving industry in the constantly expanding arena that we call hotel design and hospitality. It is my pleasure to consciously lead these conversations and angle the spotlights on the real influencers of tomorrow.

Over the years, I have been inspired by many impressions that leaders and visionaries have unknowingly left on me. These include lessons like leading confidently from within a pack, embracing peoples’ differences and embracing style over fashion in hotel design. When it comes to rounding off Editor’s Letters, though, I am yet to master the art of not overthinking it. It would be ideal to finish this chapter with a grand statement about change or what it really takes to serve the industry I have fallen deeply in love with. But somewhere over the Indian Ocean the captain has switched on the ‘fasten seat belt’ as we begin our final decent. Laptops, therefore, must soon be stowed away. So, instead of leaving you with a metaphor about ‘the journey’ itself, it feels right to end this letter here; unfinished, just like my editorship with Hotel Designs.

Editor, Hotel Designs.

Image captions (top to bottom, left to right): Where the #hotelhandstand was born, in (or on) Jade Mountain in St Lucia; Just arrived to review Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives; Exploring the new collections inside the Arte Showroom; Hosting The Brit List Awards 2021 after the most stressful year of our team’s lives, the pandemic; Checking in to a hotel somewhere in Yorkshire; Celebrating the ‘it’s a wrap moment’ on a shoot with The Other House.