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  • In the HIX Seat: the journey back to ‘in real life’

    An image of Joel Butler and HIX Event animations
    730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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    In the HIX Seat: the journey back to ‘in real life’

    Joel Butler, Co-Founder of HIX Event, has become a monthly columnist for Hotel Designs. In his first published opinion piece, Butler contemplates challenging times and asks ‘what’s next’ for the industry and its much-loved series of trade events…

    An image of Joel Butler and HIX Event animations

    I was on a zoom call last week with a designer. We were discussing vaccines, tests, curves and tiers (I think he meant tiers and not tears) when he informed me that our respective products were the future, ‘because we both do IRL’, you see. Excited by the dynamism and mystique of this fresh acronym I asked what it meant. “‘In Real Life’,” he replied, “events, hotels, travelling, shared experiences…it’s what we do!”

    And he’s right, of course, both bizarrely and tragically the 50,000 year-old activity of face-to-face communication has been reduced to a futuristic concept, and hospitality, travel and ‘tangible’ togetherness have all hit ‘pause’ in the process.

    So how can we understand the current hotel landscape and the hospitality experience that waits for us in our brave new world? We have industry pipelines and reports, the wonder of social media and the insightful views of experts, but of course it’s not until we all get back to ‘In Real Life’ that things will begin to become clear.

    “In answer to the question, ‘what’s next?’, people’s views may vary from the apocalyptic to the utopian.”

    As event organisers we consider ourselves to be ‘in hospitality’ so we’ve been following these discussions with interest. In answer to the question, ‘what’s next?’, people’s views may vary from the apocalyptic to the utopian. A popular consensus is that Covid-19 has pressed fast-forward on the trends that were already happening anyway, then there’s the ultimately pragmatic view that it’ll be a case of ‘as we all were’ but with cleaner hands. Many design details have also been discussed, the check-in experience, social distancing and F&B and the death of the buffet. My 10 year old daughter has already expressed fury at this last prediction.

    But beyond the detail shines a star of optimism that the entire community can see and universally agree is worth following – responsible travel. Travel that is respectful towards ourselves, the communities we visit, and to the planet Earth. 2020 forced peace, quiet and reflection onto us all, and as we had no choice but to accept these gifts fish began to swim in the unusually clear water of Venetian canals. The world felt like it was resetting. So here’s our biggest hope from what has been an incredibly challenging year: that truly responsible hospitality can be universally demanded by the guest, imagined by designers, championed by owners and delivered by operators. If this new-normal (and we extend these ideals to the events that we create) allows us to share experiences, travel and to explore the world in a way that allows our kid’s kids to enjoy the same privileges then all of the details will take care of themselves.

    So, here’s to the big picture and all of the design details, to all who are virtually attending and all who are shortlisted for The Brit List Awards 2020! As we raise raise our glasses to celebrate community and your incredible achievements in such challenging times, we look forward to seeing you ‘IRL’.

    HIX Event is the Networking Partner for The Brit List Awards 2020, and Hotel Designs is with HIX ‘IRL’ as it prepares to launch in November 2021.

    Main image credit: HIX Event

    Hamish Kilburn / 05.11.2020


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