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Profile image of Joel Butler, Co-founder of HIX

In the HIX seat: recovering from Covid ‘all together now!’

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In the HIX seat: recovering from Covid ‘all together now!’

Wearing his most comfortable slippers – working from home really does have its perks – our columnist Joel Butler, co-founder of HIX Event, explores the power of ‘all together now’. Can the events industry and the hotel design community work in tandem to recover and reopen following the Covid-19 outbreak? Let’s talk about it…

Profile image of Joel Butler, Co-founder of HIX

A quick scan of this morning’s headlines gives us the three Rs of this young and already-challenging decade; ‘Risk, Reopening(?) and the R Number’.

As an event organiser it’s important to read beyond the headlines, to consume the full story and then ‘crack on’ with a stoic, pragmatic optimism. Because in all my years of making design events, this is the most starkly reflected and shared challenge that I’ve faced together with our community. Put simply, events and hotels are currently closed and recovery from Covid is needed.

So once the risk factors are mitigated and the global creaky chorus of the opening of event and hotel doors sings out, it’s the next R that remains the goal; Recovery.

Of course re-opening and recovery are not the same thing, the former can lead to the latter but true recovery will likely call for real change in the way we design our experiences. The fact that both the events and hospitality industry rely on people means that perhaps a good place to start is with our personal recoveries.

It’s too early to understand how the pandemic has changed us, but a year of social distancing, lockdowns and wearing slippers for 95 per cent of our waking hours must surely change us, right? 

Social commentators have spoken about a shift towards self-compassion as a resource for managing stress during and after the pandemic. Not the same thing as self-pity or self indulgence, Dr. Kristen Neff describes self compassion as “a connected way to relate to ourselves…a recognition that it can be hard for all of us.”  This is relatable to all of us right now and the challenge for hotels is to create spaces and experiences which allow for and encourage self compassion.

Another element of our shared personal recovery relates to safety and comfort. As well as our health and wellbeing, we’ve worried about friends and family, about global political unrest, and about which tier we’ll find ourselves in when we get back from the shop. It’s not surprising that our homes have become bubbles of comfort and security. So how will hotels create an experience that feels like home, working with the paradox of making a truly ‘special and memorable’ stay whilst designing the cosiness the guest’s living room? 

“The return to events and hotels represents the chance for joyous, communal celebration and togetherness. Imagine that; being all together now.” Joel Butler, Co-Founder, HIX Event.

Thirdly, ‘All together now’. Since the first few weeks of Lockdown 1.0 we made this our theme for HIX. An event for the hospitality community is always going to be about warmth, celebration and togetherness and the long wait to get back to face to face will only accentuate this. However, a sense of absence, isolation and often loneliness have been experienced during the pandemic with friends, families, colleagues and communities being kept apart. The return to events and hotels represents the chance for joyous, communal celebration and togetherness. Imagine that; being all together now.

By understanding our guest’s personal recovery we begin to understand and plan our industry’s recovery. Self-compassion, safety and comfort, and ‘all together now’ are just a few of the topics we’ll be exploring at HIX in November, applying these conversations to hotel development and design. By which time the headlines should be infinitely more positive, with the front pages being dominated by the new 3xR’s; ‘Recovery, RevPAR and Refurbs’.

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Main image credit: HIX Event

An image of Joel Butler and HIX Event animations

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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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