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Winners of the 2014 Hospitality Awards Named

Conference was held at the brand new SLS Las Vegas Hotel and featured the Industry's top executives in boutique hotel segment

Los Angeles, CA, September 24, 2014 - We are pleased to announce that the 3rd annual Boutique Lifestyle Leadership Symposium was a huge success.  The hospitality industry's top boutique, lifestyle and luxury brand executives and independent property owners, who gathered in Las Vegas at the newly opened SLS Hotel & Casino, were warmly welcomed to the symposium with electronic signage on the hotel's billboard located and viewable from the renowned Las Vegas Strip.  The conference, powered by BLLA, served up an array of gourmet food, Las Vegas style entertainment and thought-provoking educational sessions over the 3 day event.

Highlights of the conference included the Gala Dinner & Awards ceremony where 2 finalists and 1 boutique hotel property (and its owner), who played a key role in shaping the boutique and lifestyle hospitality industry in 2014, were crowned as the winners.  The recipients were:  Doyle Graham Jr., Founder, President & CEO of The Valencia Group, as the BLLA Hotelier of the Year; The Castle Hotel Orlando - a Kessler Collection property, as BLLA Boutique Hotel of the Year (award accepted by Richard Kessler, Founder & CEO); and Tara Lazar, owner of the Alcazar Hotel Palm Springs and 3 affiliated restaurants, as BLLA Person of the Year. Both Doyle Graham Jr. and Richard Kessler were interviewed on video by BLLA's BoutiqueHotelTV and will be posted on later this week.  Tara Lazar was not in attendance; Frances Kiradjian, BLLA Founder, accepted the award on her behalf.

Each Keynote and panel discussion at this year's Symposium included a mix of great speakers which included some very memorable quotes.  Read the collected quotes here:
  • From Arash Azarbarzin, President, SBE Hotel Group - "Biggest environmental plus was reuse of the old Sahara Hotel structure. Green=Reuse. All of us have to hustle to deliver on our vision and our promise. AGAINST ALL ODDS is the theme for this building."

  • From Niki Leondakis, CEO of Commune Hotels - "It's about connecting with people on a shared set of values.  In order to inspire everyone around you, you have to work on yourself."
  • J.F. Finn, Partner of Gensler - "Hospitality is an art. We don't follow trends, we lead the conversation."
  • From David Gutstadt, Managing Director, Hospitality, Related/Equinox - "What is a boutique hotel? Different from sameness."
  • From Sheenah Rogers of Anstice Communications - "Content is the new currency. There's no story without an audience. Quality is more important than quantity."
  • From Rafat Ali, CEO of Skift - "The mindset of the millennial traveler is the mindset of the MODERN traveler. Coolness, boutique, lifestyle, local - that is what the future of hotels is about; don't see any of the old-timer hotel brands winning."

Among other take-aways from the conference are:

Founder and CEO Rafit Ali of Skift, a cutting-edge travel intelligence company that offers news, data, and services to professionals in the travel industry and professional travelers to help make smart decisions about travel, uncovered some of today's biggest travel trends. A few of the biggest trends included the rise of the alternative hospitality space with the boom in experiential travel and the rise of mindfulness in travel. "Accommodations are acting more and more like community portals by introducing guests to popular local experiences, turning them into living exhibit," said Ali.

The concept of adaptive reuse prevailed as the 2014 Boutique Lifestyle Leadership Symposium took place September 17-19 at the recently launched SLS Hotel Las Vegas, an SBE project in partnership with Gensler, The Penta Building Group, and Philippe Starck, that retained 70% of its original bare bones of the former historic Sahara. Reshaping the north end of the strip, they're redefining how Vegas approaches new hotel developments. It's no longer about spending billions of dollars to demolish old buildings. "It's a journey of destination and tenacity," said SBE Hotel Group President, Arash Azarbarzin. Old buildings like the Flamingo and Paris need "an infusion of creativity" and adaptive reuse provides a "more cost effective way - the way of the future - and from a sustainability standpoint, it makes sense."

One of the latest trends for consumers in the lodging industry has become the search for the unusual. CEOs & COOs from Crystal Cruises, Luxury Frontiers, Generator Hostels, & Uniworld Boutique Riverboat Collection revealed some of the ways they are catering to the growing need of adventurous travelers who are looking for accommodations that are not "typical" hotels. Josh Wyatt, Partner of Patron Capital Partners, shared how Generator Hostels is "creating the next generation for travel worldwide" through its innovative and fast growing international hostel brand. Frank Stork, Partner of Luxury Frontiers is leading the movement in experiential, luxury travel - tree houses in unique locations developed around ecological values and sustainable construction. Stork explains how "social media is extremely important in the luxury space" when it comes to growing a global resort brand. 

Health and wellness become top priorities for travelers and hotels are rebranding to focus the physical and mental wellbeing of their guests. Because of the increasing interest in having a wellness experience and the bump in revenue, this trend has transformed into a growing segment of the travel industry. "It's important to establish your unique viewpoint on how you're catering to wellness," said Tracey Anne Latkovic, Corporate Vice President of Canyon Ranch. CEO Polly Johnson of SpaEquip, a global spa company, described how "spas allows for the opportunity for human to human connection that allows hotels to create a personal relationship - it's what the big chains can't do." She explains, "You want the experience to be about humanity, it's not always about technology." 

BLLA THANKS the following exhibitors and sponsors for their support of the 2014 conference:  DIAMOND SPONSORS: CohnReznick, Frontgate Contract, Greenberg Traurig, La Bottega, Roomer, Suitelife By Venture, Yo!dog Marketing.  Anstice Communications, BDK America "the Teaching Of Buddha," Clairvoyix, Compass Group / Foodbuy, Dollar Shave Club, EPIC/Edgewood Partners, Fabricut Contract, Gilchrist & Soames, Guest Driven, Innovative Hospitality Concepts, Joya Distributing Inc, Laurastar USA, Kind Traveler, LATHER, National Specialty Underwriters, Pacific Direct Ltd, Pigtail Media, Porcelanosa USA, Rainmaker, Reid Witlin, Republic Furniture, Revinate, Sandra Costa Design Group, Sferra, Status Solutions, Stellé Audio, The Penta Building Group, Travel Tripper, Tumi, Inc., Universal Points, Vizergy.

About The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA)

The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) is the first and only alliance association dedicated to uniting the world's independent boutique and lifestyle hotels and small brands. Created to be the unifying voice of this distinctive subset within the hospitality industry. BLLA's goal is to unite the world's collection of boutique & lifestyle properties and the suppliers that sustain them, offering them the opportunity to successfully compete on a level playing field with major hotel companies, as well as market themselves to meet the ever-increasing demand from discerning boutique-seeking clients. For more information, or to become a member visit  BLLA Events and BoutiqueHotelTV are divisions of BLLA.

Contact: Frances Kiradjian / +1-818-883-4363

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