The 17th edition of the World Hospitality Awards took place earlier this week – an annual event which celebrates all that is great within the global hospitality industry. The event was held in the glorious Salon Opéra of the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand, the largest ballroom in Paris.

The 800-plus guests matched the exquisite surroundings. Both globally renowned hotel groups and independent hoteliers were in abundance at the ceremony and all were in great spirits, excited about the evening and the potential to be recognized at the highest level.

A string of awards were presented at the ceremony; some were voted for by independent jurors from the industry, and others were chosen that night by those who attended the event. The awards recognized initiatives which enhanced innovation, communication, and sustainability. A Lifetime Achievement Award was also presented to François Branellec and Alain Jacquier; two historic figures in French hospitality.

I was incredibly honored to not only attend the event and be surrounded by all that is great about the global hospitality industry, but I also presented the award for the Best Initiative in Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility to Meliá Hotels Zanzibar. Sustainability is a topic which is very close to my heart, and something which I think every company can work to combat to make our world a better place not only for ourselves, but for our children, and this hotel resort demonstrated this.

The resort, which is situated on the exotic island of Zanzibar, is contained within a 40-hectare estate and provides spectacular, uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. The resort offers a private beach, ringed by a natural coral reef. High tourism levels have inevitably impacted the resort, bringing employment opportunities and infrastructure development. However, environmental degradation has also occurred in and around the resort, as well as conflicts between investors and local communities regarding resource exploitation.

The popular resort wanted to ensure that it looked after the local environment as well as its own profits and implemented a Global Corporate Social Responsibility Model to improve the employability of young people, reduce poverty in the surrounding area and generally increase the quality of life for the local people. These values are also closely aligned to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) – a UN initiative.

After the awards were handed out, Wolfgang M. Neumann, CEO of Carlson Rezidor gave an inspiring speech, which he began in Chinese as a tribute to the new Chinese owner of the leading hotel group. This was also a reminder to the fast-paced industry that the increasing growth of the Chinese hospitality sector shouldn’t be ignored. It has been predicted that China will be home to the largest programme of new hotel construction the world has ever seen. If China’s hotel development continues at its current pace, it would see at least 150 new hotel rooms open every day for the next 25 years.

The World Hospitality Awards has always been an event where those who have excelled in the hospitality sector can be celebrated, and this year was no different. I would finally like to say congratulations on behalf of Sealed Air to all of those who won and were named finalists – keep up the good work! I hope to see many of you at next year’s event.