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April 16, 2008

Business tourism chief Hirst gets lifetime achievement award

At the 11th annual International Hotel Investment Forum held recently in Berlin, Michael Hirst OBE, chairman of the Business Tourism Partnership and former chairman and chief executive of Hilton International received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

In a career spanning 45 years, Hirst has held a number of senior positions in the hotel, hospitality, leisure and tourism industry. He started as a graduate trainee with the Forte Group in 1964, and was general manager of London’s famous Talk Of The Town Theatre Restaurant, as well as director for Forte’s leisure, restaurants, banqueting and outside catering interests.

Joining the Ladbroke Group in 1976, he was part of the team that built up its non-betting businesses, culminating with the acquisition of Hilton International in 1987. He was named Corporate Hotelier of the World in 1993.

Since leaving Ladbroke in 1994, Hirst has advised on hotel property investment with CB Richard Ellis, and is a consultant and director for other companies in the leisure and tourism sector.

He became chairman of the Business Tourism Partnership at its inception in 1999, having coordinated the report Business Tourism Leads The Way, which was commissioned for inclusion in the Government’s tourism strategy. Since then the Partnership, shortly to be renamed the Business Visits and Events Partnership, has spearheaded the drive for greater recognition for business tourism and a more competitive, high-quality and profitable sector within Britain. It’s now estimated to be worth £22 billion to the visitor economy.

Hirst was named Meetings and Incentive Travel Industry Personality Of The Year in 2003, and appointed an OBE for his services to tourism in the same year.

Reflecting on his career, Hirst said: “I’ve been fortunate in learning many lessons from my time in this great industry and within its many diverse sectors. Its vibrancy and creativity have always been a source of inspiration to me.

“Events are, to my mind, the 21st Century driver of visitor traffic around the world. The last 10 years has seen not only a significant increase in the recognition of the sector, but a dramatic rise in the value of business visits and events.

“International congresses, major exhibitions, sporting events and cultural festivals all have the power to attract large volumes and fill destinations regardless of seasonality. I have no doubt we’ll see many more destinations developing event strategies and more people planning their travel around such programmes.”

Hirst stressed that he has no intention of retiring just yet. “We’ve got the biggest event of them all coming up in 2012. I want to be very much part of the successful industry that stages it,” he said. “Seeing a London International Convention Centre open would also be a dream come true.”

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