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And the award for the most boring award goes to....
By Yeoh Siew Hoon - thetransitcafe.com
Sunday, 13th May 2007
 
Our writer is suffering from a case of awards ad nauseum as she sits through another meaningless awards ceremony. In fact, she deserves an award.

I have always believed we suffer from a surfeit of awards in our industry. Almost every week now, I receive emails telling me that so-and-so hotel has won a so-and-so award. So much so that I now automatically delete anything that has the word "award" in it, so there.

I once sat through an awards ceremony where they gave out 52 trophies in 20 minutes. It was like watching cattle being herded up for branding in the pen.

Today, we have everyone falling over each other to give out awards but the amazing thing, for me, is that everyone then falls over each other to win them.

It's mass adulation amplified . I remember when I was covering the advertising industry, creative folks gave it a ruder term – those that didn't win of course.

See, that's the thing about awards. Winners are happy, no matter what they win, and anyone who doesn't win, and then whinges, is labeled a sore loser – so no one really dares to whinge, in public anyway. (Let's face it, awards are made to please those who win, and those who give. It's like this mutual admiration club.)

But behind the scenes, I have heard much griping. "It's always the advertisers who win" is the most common one said of awards given by publications.

Well, thank goodness, it only takes advertising dollars. When Kim Cattral, the actress, won a Golden Globe 2003, she said, "You've no idea how many men I've had to sleep with to win this."

At Arabian Travel Market recently, I lost count of the awards ceremonies that were going on at the same time. There was Business Traveller, World Travel Awards, DEPA Hotel Awards, to name a few.

Out of curiosity, I attended the DEPA Hotel Awards. I was interested to see what had changed. I had been on the panel of judges last year in which a group of us had been locked in a room for two days, poring over tons of documents and submissions and going through them, one by one, and scoring them by criteria after criteria. It was one of the most thorough judging processes I had ever taken part in.

Well, this year, they decided to dispense with the process. Instead hotels were asked to submit nominations online at depawards.com. Nominees were asked to visit the website to view all nominations so that they could be properly armed and informed when they attended the awards ceremony. I can just see hoteliers doing that, by the way.

During the night, each of us was given a hand-held voting device. We were then asked to vote for our choices. While the brochure said that a "video presentation of the contestants would be made to aid judgement", well, this just wasn't possible – imagine sitting through 50 videos, the night would go on forever.

So we were just shown a slide of each entrant and we were asked to push a button. Well, guess what, because the room was full of nominees and invited guests, they voted for themselves. Who can blame them? So whoever had the most friends in the room stood a better chance of winning than say, someone who didn't.

As I watched the event slide from fun to farce, I looked at the winners' faces. Some were elated, of course. But one or two were shocked.

It is said that one is judged by the company one keeps and if you end up in an awards ceremony where a five star brand is being nominated alongside a three star facility, well, you've got to wonder why you were even there in the first place.

Hoteliers tell me that awards are important because they make the staff happy (and I applaud those who place their awards back of the house where they belong), and it gives confidence to customers. But if the awards are less than meaningful, then how can they be meaningful to your team and customers? Aren't we shortchanging them, and ourselves, in the process?

Don't get me wrong – I don't think all awards are worthless. Some are done well. They are judged rigorously and they truly honour the worthy recipients in ceremonies that are organised well, and with class. But what often happens is, with each passing year, organisers inevitably fall into the trap of wanting to please everyone and in the process, end up pleasing no one.

After the awards ceremony, I overheard a conversation between two hoteliers debating the merits and demerits of awards.

One said, "There are too many now. I think the most meaningful ones are the Conde Nast ones."

Yes, that's the one everyone wants to win and wants to trumpet about. Conde Nast Traveller's 2007 "Hot List", which was issued this month, names 138 new hotels and resorts, 95 new restaurants, 25 new nightclubs, and 75 new spas.

I guess I will be getting at least 138 press releases soon then.

To end, I'd like to quote actor Michael Caine: "Oh, what a shock. My career must be slipping. This is the first time I've been available to pick up an award."

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators,  write a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".
  She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is 'free to do, and be'.

Yeoh Siew Hoon's other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com . Get your weekly cuppa of news, gossip, humour and opinion at the cafe for travel insiders.
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