2017 Speakers

Nadine Higgins - MC

Nadine Higgins is an in demand MC, corporate host and facilitator. She is well known as a business journalist, newsreader and television presenter having previously hosted AMP Business, Breakfast and Seven Sharp on TV1, and reported and presented TV1 News. She also works for Newstalk ZB.

Nadine is an in demand MC, particularly for conferences that require a sharp and enquiring mind to tackle complex issues. Now in her third year as the New Zealand Hotel Conference MC, Nadine brings with her a wealth of business knowledge.

Keynote Speaker: Kaila Colbin, New Zealand Ambassador, Singularity University

Kaila Colbin is the New Zealand Ambassador for Singularity University. She is also a co-founder and Chair of the non-profit Ministry of Awesome, Curator of TEDxChristchurch, Chair of the New York-based Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, Deputy Chair of CORE Education Ltd, a board member of Canterbury Development Corporation Holdings Ltd and a Certified ExO Consultant with ExO Works.

A native New Yorker, Kaila speaks English, Spanish, French and Italian, holds a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Cornell University and has been a serial entrepreneur since the age of 22. Her purpose in life is to be an uplifting presence.

Keynote Speaker: Greg Farrell, Executive Director, Aedas Interiors

Greg Farrell has over 30 years of design experience and leadership specialising in hospitality and residential design across the globe. As Executive Director, he leads the Aedas Interiors Hospitality design team, based in Hong Kong and is involved in many Aedas Interiors hospitality projects globally.

Greg’s knowledge and experience have been gained working across all sectors of the hotel industry from the select service, lifestyle, and boutique to the luxury end of the market. Whilst involved in setting the overall design direction, theme and mood of each project, Greg is particularly focused on early stage planning, especially guestrooms, where he aspires to create intuitive, interactive and dynamic spatial experiences.

Keynote Speaker: Adrian Littlewood, Chief Executive, Auckland Airport

Adrian Littlewood was appointed Auckland Airport’s chief executive in 2012. He leads the senior management team and is responsible for setting the strategic direction and working with the Board to drive travel, trade and tourism growth. During his time as the company’s general manager retail & commercial, Adrian led strong growth and development of non-aeronautical revenue lines.

The airport recently announced it plans to invest $1.8 billion in infrastructure by 2022. Adrian was one of four tourism leaders who commissioned a major study into New Zealand's tourism infrastructure needs and funding options (known as the McKinsey report).

Keynote Speaker: Eric Murray - World Champion

Learn how to become the best and stay the best from the man who was able to outsmart the competition. Eric Murray is a two times Olympic and eight times World Champion Rower. In the space of eight years, Eric and Hamish Bond have never lost a race, amassing an incredible 71 consecutive race victories at 24 World Rowing events. It hasn’t been without its hurdles but these have been overcome by grit determination and a willingness to strive to be the best.

Eric is a good-natured ‘Kiwi Bloke’ who lays it all on the table. He speaks about staying motivated, challenging yourself and being able to differentiate when to follow and when you need to be a leader. Learning the personal attributes that he’s used in his sport will enable you to get to the top in your chosen field.

Keynote Speaker: Alan Watts, Chief Operating Officer, Asia, Middle East & Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group

Alan Watts is responsible for IHG's operations across 267 hotels in nearly 40 countries and territories and oversees the region's hotel performance systems and processes.

One of the largest hotel companies in the world, IHG currently operates five brands in the region: InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Express and Hotel Indigo.


Melissa Alexander, General Manager, Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier and Glacier Country, Scenic Hotel Group

Melissa Alexander has been with the Scenic Hotel Group since 2009, joining the company under the Graduate Trainee Manager program. Melissa is currently the General Manager for the Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier and Heartland Hotel Glacier Country.

Passionate about the untamed, natural wilderness the West Coast has to offer, Melissa has fully immersed herself into tourism within the region. She is a director on the Tourism West Coast Board, representing the Westland District from Haast to Hokitika, and is actively involved in promotion groups. In her spare time Melissa is a volunteer fire fighter. 

Bruce Bassett, Tourism 2025 Advocate, Tourism Industry Aotearoa

Bruce Bassett’s main focus to promote industry use of the Tourism 2025 Growth Framework and for ensuring it evolves with the changing operating environment.

Bruce is leading TIA’s Sustainability project and advancing the actions stemming from the National Tourism Infrastructure Assessment project that was released earlier in 2017. 

Bruce has extensive tourism-related experience.  Prior to joining TIA held a number of tourism policy and research roles with the public sector. 

Paul Burnaby, Investment Manager, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise

Paul focuses on attracting strategic investment into greenfield tourism and infrastructure assets. He is responsible for the day to day running of the Government's hotel investment attraction strategy with the goal to accelerate the supply of quality hotel rooms in New Zealand.

Before joining NZTE, Paul worked for an international management consultancy based in Washington DC specialising in infrastructure, where he managed multiple energy and water projects for development banks and country governments.

James Chappell, Global Business Director, Horwath HTL

James Chappell is the London based Global Business Director of Horwath HTL, the world’s largest and most experienced hospitality consulting brand. James and his team are responsible for the growth, marketing, business development and support for the 50 offices in 39 countries that make up the group.

Originally from the world of advertising, James started in the hotel business in the best possible way, by accident, and has never left. James did a three-year management trainee course at the famous boutique hotel, Lydmar, in Stockholm before leaving to join consulting firm Overlook Hospitality Management with a brief to develop new products for the industry.

One of these became The Bench, which revolutionised the way performance data was collected and used in hotels. James was Managing Director of The Bench for five years before becoming Managing Director of STR Global, the company formed by the merger of The Bench, Deloitte’s HotelBenchmark and Smith Travel Research.

Ross Chin, Managing Director, Jireh Hospitality Group

Ross Chin has embraced the role of a shepherd, steward, and servant leader as part of the management culture of Jireh Hospitality and the Auckland City Hotel. He is passionate about sharing his journey in finding the joy and satisfaction that comes from discovering and fulfilling one's calling in work and life. 
From 2003 - 2008 Ross was involved in property development projects in New Zealand, including the Auckland City Hotel. He took on the leadership role in Jireh Hospitality and Auckland City Hotel in 2007. Although Ross missed his calling as an NBA player, he has been a keen basketball player for over 30 years.


Iain Cossar, General Manager Tourism, Sectors, Regions & Cities, Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Iain leads MBIE’s Tourism, Sectors, Regions and Cities Branch, which supports the Ministry’s purpose to stimulate New Zealand businesses. This includes working to create the regulatory, policy and other supports necessary for a more dynamic business environment; ensuring productive sectors, regions and cities where we sustainably derive greater value from our natural environment.

Iain has held a number of senior management positions across MBIE and the broader public service, including Treasury.

Tony Everitt, Asia/Pacific Tourism Consultant

Tony Everitt is an independent Asia/Pacific tourism consultant based in Japan.

Tony has 25 years’ experience developing Asia/Pacific visitor markets and destination capability. He has held executive roles with Tourism New Zealand and Tourism Australia and has also been Chief Executive of Destination Queenstown and South Pacific Tourism Organisation. Tony’s work in tourism has seen him based in Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Fiji, China, and Indonesia.

Jo Finnigan, General Manager, Hotel St Moritz

Jo Finnigan was appointed Hotel St Moritz General Manager in early 2016 having spent over a decade as second in charge as Director of Sales, Distribution and Marketing.

The property is one of Queenstown’s finest boutique hotels positioned within the MGallery by Sofitel collection by parent company AccorHotels. She is currently leading the business through the final stages of a $4 million-plus investment in its room inventory.

Renowned as an articulate leader and business dynamo within the industry, Jo's time at the property has seen it win multiple tourism and business awards.


Michael Gordon, Acting Chief Economist, Westpac NZ

Michael Gordon has been part of Westpac’s economics and strategy team since 2006. His responsibilities in that time have included currency and interest rate strategy, coordinating the team’s inflation, growth and financial market forecasts, and conducting a variety of research on areas such as the labour market, house prices and macroprudential policy.

Previously he worked at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand as a senior analyst in the Financial Stability department.

Lani Hagaman, Executive Chair, Scenic Hotel Group

As Executive Chair of Scenic Hotel Group, Lani Hagaman oversees the company’s 18 hotels throughout New Zealand and the Pacific. Scenic represents New Zealand’s largest privately owned and operated hotel business and is unique for having a network of hotels in both metropolitan cities and provincial centres, as well as tourist markets in the Pacific

Lani’s career with Scenic Hotel Group began in 1987 when she was employed as a financial controller. Today she sits at the top table directing the Group’s future direction and growth with her Board of Directors. She is passionate about tourism as well as Scenic’s involvement in local communities and is a very active philanthropist, continuing the legacy established by her late husband Earl Hagaman

The Hagaman family’s interests also incorporate extensive landholding and property developments nationally. Lani is the current chair of the Helen Anderson trust – a centre that provides support for people aged 18 and up with mental and physical disability. 

Peter Hamilton, Director Valuation & Advisory Services, CBRE

Peter is CBRE's Director of Hotels Valuation & Advisory Services for New Zealand.

He brings extensive international experience to this role, having worked for CBRE in the valuation of hotels and going concern assets in its Auckland, Sydney and London-based teams. In these roles he has been responsible for the valuation of single assets as well as considerable portfolios.

Lindsay Leeser, Vice President Development Pacific & Franchise Operations, AccorHotels

Lindsay Leeser is responsible for the development and growth of the Accor network within Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

Lindsay Is also responsible for the operations of the AccorHotels Franchise network which includes some 85 hotels across the region.

Gillian Millar, AccorHotels Senior Vice President New Zealand, Fiji & French Polynesia

Gillian Millar was appointed to the role of Senior Vice President Operations for AccorHotels New Zealand, Fiji and French Polynesia in April 2017, based Auckland. This is the first time a female leader has held this strategic role for New Zealand’s largest hotel operator.

Gillian is responsible for managing AccorHotels interests in the region. In New Zealand this includes 32 hotels, 4300 rooms and 10 brands which generate over $304 million in revenue. There are 24 managed and eight franchised hotels amongst the growing portfolio ranging from the luxury of Sofitel through to the ibis, ibis Styles and ibis Budget economy brands as well as the Pullman, MGallery, The Sebel, Grand Mercure, Novotel, and Mercure brands.

Jesper Palmqvist, Area Director Asia Pacific, STR

Jesper Palmqvist is based in Singapore as Area Director Asia Pacific for STR - leading the company and regional team in sales, strategy and development for the wider region.

He has spent more than two decades across supplier and aggregator sides in hospitality, online travel and IT, across smaller and regional companies as well as global corporations such as Orbitz Worldwide, Wyndham Hotel Group and Groupon.

As a strong supporter of simplified big data facilitation he works to increase the engagement with data intelligence and clarify the decision making for hospitality, research and investment companies in Asia Pacific.

Stephen Patterson, Head of Auckland Property Finance Team, BNZ

Stephen Patterson has over 20 years in real estate advisory, finance and private equity in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. In his current role he manages a team of property financiers providing construction and investment finance.

He was previously an investment director of a fund in London where he was responsible for investing equity into asset backed trading businesses such as hotels, housebuilders, and aged care, across Europe.

Steven van der Pol, General Manager Business Development, Arrow International

Steven’s experience in construction and development spans over 40 years, including senior roles within the management of Arrow International.

He is instrumental in driving some of Arrow’s most prestigious projects, particularly in the hotel and tourism sector where he has contributed to the Sudima Christchurch Airport Hotel, Te Waonui Forest Retreat, Te Pania Hotel, Quest in Invercargill, Dunedin and Napier, Aurum Hotel, Rydges Christchurch, Peppers Bluewater Lake Tekapo, Mt Hutt Ski Field, Terrace Downs Club House and many others. .

Steven’s attention has been focused more recently on Christchurch, where Arrow is making a major contribution to the rebuild, following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Arrow ...