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Our esteemed panel of judges got together to discuss the Independent Hotel of the Year 2023 nominations, here is an insight into how the day went and how the tough decision was made to whittle down 111 fantastic nominations down to just 8.

Brenda Collin

Executive Vice President of Europe, Preferred Hotels & Resorts

Brenda Collins

Brenda Collin serves as Executive Vice President of Europe for Preferred Hotels & Resorts, overseeing the company’s growth and evolution in the region, as well as ensuring the retention and success of nearly 200 member properties across 25 countries in the region.  

Since joining Preferred in April 2013, Brenda has been instrumental in generating significant awareness of the Preferred brand among trade and industry audiences. In addition to strengthening engagement among existing member hotels, she succeeded in tripling the size of the company’s footprint in the region during a seven-year timeframe by spearheading representation of acclaimed hotel companies such as Nordic Hotels & Resorts and signing more than 50 new member hotels such as The Beaumont (London, England); Old Course Hotel (St. Andrews, Scotland); Pulitzer Amsterdam (The Netherlands); and Hayfield Manor (Cork, Ireland).

A Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and Chair of the organization’s London branch, Collin holds a B.A. in Hotel & Catering Management from Galway & Mayo Institute of Technology, as well as a Certificate in Hotel Real Estate Investments and Asset Management from Cornel University’s School of Hotel Administration. 

Dean Culpan

General Manager, South Place Hotel


Dean Culpan serves as the General Manager at South Place Hotel, the only hotel in within the D&D London portfolio of restaurants. Born and educated in South Africa, Dean initially trained and qualified as an accountant. However, driven by a deep-seated passion for hospitality, he pivoted his career towards the hotel industry. Dean's professional journey began uniquely as a safari guide, an experience that enriched his appreciation for service and experience.

Over the years, Dean transitioned through prestigious hospitality groups, including One&Only and IHG, gathering extensive knowledge and expertise, particularly in managing independent hotels. His career trajectory brought him to London 24 years ago, where he has since been a pivotal figure in the city's vibrant hotel scene. At South Place Hotel, Dean combines his financial acumen with his flair for hospitality, continually striving to enhance the guest experience and uphold the high standards.

Eloise Hanson

Editor, Boutique Hotel News


Eloise joined IHM in September 2019 as reporter for Boutique Hotel News and was promoted to editor in January 2022. As a multimedia journalist covering the global boutique, lifestyle and luxury hotel industry, Eloise spearheads BHN’s webinar and podcast series and contributes to daily news articles, a weekly e-newsletter and monthly features. 

In addition to BHN, Eloise regularly contributes to IHM’s three other B2B websites: Serviced Apartment News, Short Term Rentalz, and Urban Living News. The collective editorial team broadly covers the global hospitality and operational real estate industries, and helps to curate interactive thought leadership events.

Outside from IHM, Eloise also sits on the Institute of Hospitality’s editorial forum, which releases a quarterly print and digital publication. She often writes features as well as provide content ideas for upcoming editions. 

Jane Pendlebury

CEO, HOSPA (The Hospitality Professionals Association)

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Jane Pendlebury is CEO of HOSPA | The Hospitality Professionals Association. Her relationship with HOSPA was first as a sponsor and member, then - after volunteering her time assisting with the annual conference HOSPACE - she was taken on to run the Membership and Events office before being promoted to CEO in early 2016.  

Kickstarting her career with a degree in hotel management, Jane worked with both chain and independent properties. Thereafter, she spent many years assisting hotels and restaurants with their technology decisions around Property Management, Point of Sale and Revenue Management. This culminated into a role as VP and General Manager covering Europe for a global software house.

Jane is an enthusiastic supporter of hospitality and always remains a positive advocate for the industry!

Nick Maddox

Head of Risk, James Hallam Hospitality and Leisure

david noble

Nick is currently ‘Head of Risk’ at ‘James Hallam Hospitality and Leisure’, who are a specialist insurance and risk management provider to the hospitality sector.  His role takes him across the UK working extensively with a wide range of hotel properties, visiting 200+ locations each year, to ensure that they are able to fully comply with their statutory obligations, meet complex insurer requirements, as well as seeking to achieve best practice. 

With over 30 years of experience, he has been involved in a range of risk management initiatives, including the grading of risk compliance for which the team were awarded ‘Risk Management Initiative of the Year’ by the ‘Insurance Times’.  Currently, he has been working on the development of an online ‘Risk Proof’ software model that aids hoteliers in meeting compliance and evidencing due diligence, meaning that insurers are far more receptive to providing extended and more affordable insurance covers due to the reduction in losses.

His broad understanding of the insurance and hospitality industry has allowed him to tailor risk-based solutions that meet all parties and offer reassurance within unsettled times.

Peter Hancock

Conference & Awards Host

peter hancock

Peter Hancock is a professional conference & events host and after-dinner speaker. He is also an ambassador for James Hallam Insurance and was Chief Executive at Pride of Britain Hotels from 2000-2021, Group Publishing Director of Johansens from 1988-2000 and a hotel general manager in his early career, starting as a waiter in the late 1970s.

Peter is an Honorary Master Innholder, a fellow of HOSPA, a fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, a fellow of the Tourism Society, an ambassador for the Gold Service Scholarship, an ambassador for the Independent Hotel Show, an honorary St Julian Scholar, a member of the Professional Speaking Association and a fellow of the Guild of International Professional Toastmasters. Peter has one many awards including, Winner of the "Outstanding Contribution to the Industry" award from the Institute of Hospitality (2019), Winner of the "Outstanding Contribution" award presented at the Independent Hotel Show (2021), and Winner of the Hotel Catey for 'Outstanding Contribution' (2021).

Kalindi Juneja

CEO, PoB Hotels


Kalindi Juneja is CEO at PoB Hotels, the UK marketing consortium for British independent luxury hotels. Since taking on the reigns at PoB Hotels, Kalindi has strategically repositioned the brand with a new visual and verbal expression, including a new website, online magazine, gift range and annual coffee table book. This new direction builds on PoB Hotels' growing appeal to a wider, affluent audience strategically targeted by the brand, whilst underpinning its core values and equity of 40 years.

A passionate hotelier with over 20 years in the industry, Kalindi has worked with some of the most renowned privately owned hotels globally including instrumental roles at Relais & Chateaux where she was International Director, overseeing Regional Directors in Europe, South & Central America and South Pacific with an emphasis on her home market of UK & Ireland. She understands the luxury independent hotel sector and has a strong commercial focus, having worked on property, within an agency and also for luxury consortiums, she brings a unique blend of expertise to the role.

Kalindi has a degree in Hospitality Management and a qualification in Professional Marketing from The Chartered Institute of Marketing. She is enthusiastic about inspiring the next generation of hoteliers and is involved in a number of industry initiatives. Kalindi is a member of the Southeast Committee for UK Hospitality, on the Southwest Board for Hospitality Action, a fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, a judge for the MIALD and an ambassador for the Independent Hotel Show.

Petra Clayton



Petra Clayton is CEO and creator of hospitality marketing consultancy CUSTARD, which she launched in 2007 to deliver creative, strategic, and measurable marketing and communications solutions to the hotel, venue and hospitality supplier industry.

With more than 27 years in hospitality marketing, Petra is a frequent commentator on relationship marketing, wellness, digital PR, consumer behaviour, destination marketing and brand development. She has also relished the opportunity to share her marketing expertise with the industry through training and development as well as supporting industry organisations sitting on boards and committees including the Hotel Marketing Association and the Victory Services Club. Petra is also an ambassador for the Independent Hotel Show.

Sarah Duncan

ESG Consultant, author of The Sustainable Business Book and The Ethical Business Book.


Sarah Duncan is a Sustainability (ESG) consultant, and author of The Sustainable Business Book and The Ethical Business Book.

Through training and consultancy, she helps businesses understand the commercial and moral benefits of sustainable and ethical business practice.

She advises on how to make sustainability a genuine part of your business culture and day-to-day practice, not just a tick-box exercise (or race to be the ‘least bad’).

She started life in luxury hotels in London, before moving to Asia to work on various dining/country club and spa projects. She set up her own consultancy Sleeping Lion (now a certified B Corp) in 2005.

Simon Numphud 

Managing Director, AA Media

simon numphud

Simon has spent his entire career in the hospitality industry, from managing hotels and restaurants through to the last twenty years with the Automobile Association. As Managing Director, he is responsible for both AA Hotel and Hospitality services and VisitEngland Assessment services. This includes the various AA and VisitEngland classification and award schemes which in total numbers over 12,000 hospitality businesses

Simon is a fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, a member of the Southwest Board of Hospitality Action and Ambassador, Room to Reward Ambassador and regular judge for various national hospitality awards. Simon is passionate about mentoring, having been a mentor for Oxford Brookes University hospitality management students, an institute close to his heart having studied hospitality there himself during his formative years.

Su Pecha

Founder, ESP Business Development


Su is a foremost provider of business and media communications in the international hospitality sector. She founded her company, ESP Business Development, 25 years ago specialising in working with architects, designers, developers and others seeking to make a measurable difference in the world of hotels and resorts.

Since then, Su has assisted her clients in becoming spokespeople in their sector and their practices in becoming award-winning, sought-after firms delivering one-of-a-kind hotels and resorts in the UK and internationally. In the course of this work, Su has regularly written for leading publications about such issues as the changing attitude to luxury in hospitality, ethical travel and the power of design to affect experience, as well as the growing demand for hospitality thinking in adjacent spaces.

Veryan Palmer

Director, Headland Hotel Cornwall

Veryan Palmer

Veryan Palmer, Director at the iconic Headland Hotel, Cornwall, has grown up in the independent hotel industry, with her family owning The Headland for the last 43 years. She started her career at The Goring, before progressing through senior operations roles at Cliveden House and The University of Oxford.

A huge believer in the ability and skills of young people, Veryan set up a young person placement scheme for 14 to 16 year olds, achieving a 91% retention rate into part time roles following the annual placement schemes concluding each September. She is a champion of everything that makes independent hotels the magical and inspirational places they so often are!

Robert Richardson

Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Hospitality (IoH)

Robert Richardson

Robert Richardson FIH MI is the Chief Executive Officer of the award-winning Institute of Hospitality (IoH), the world’s largest professional body of almost 16,000 hospitality professionals worldwide, and a registered charity. IoH is dedicated to driving the recognition of the hospitality profession and uplifting its membership through lifelong learning, mentorship, and network-building.

A long-time member of IoH, Richardson built his career in the hospitality industry. Working his way up through the ranks from hotel floor staff to hotel General Manager, and now as CEO of IoH, he has a deep belief in making the hospitality industry open, inclusive, and accessible to all who seek to join it. In 2021, Robert led the Institute to win the Chartered Governance Institute UK&I “Diversity & Inclusion Strategy of the Year” award in recognition of these efforts.

Prior to joining IoH, Richardson served in senior management positions at major hotel chains including Hilton Worldwide, IHG and Ramada Jarvis, before applying those industry best practices to a few of England’s best independent hotels. For the last 12 years, Richardson served as General Manager across two independent, luxury properties, including a luxury boutique hotel and golf resort in the Kentish countryside, and a grade 2 listed coastal heritage property.  

A true people champion, Richardson believes that for organisations to succeed and thrive, people must feel they belong regardless of background or position. To this end, he regularly speaks on his efforts in the international and U.K. conference circuit and trade press, as well as contributing frequently to radio and podcast conversations in both his home country of the U.K. and abroad. 

Richardson was recognised by Hotel Designs on their 2020 Brit List as “one of the top 25 hoteliers operating in Great Britain” and on Boutique Hotelier’s “2022 Power List” as an “Industry Titan”, “one of the top 50 inspirational and influential hospitality professionals operating in the world today”. In 2022 Richardson was made an “Honorary Master Innholder” by the Worshipful Company of Innholders and was recognised in the USA produced “Global Hospitality” Magazine as “one of the 100 Most powerful People in Europe’s travel and Hospitality Industry” in both 2022 and 2023.

Additional recognition includes: Southern Enterprise Awards’ Boutique Hospitality Manager for two years running, the Shaw Trust Employer of the Year Award, for his work developing hospitality employment strategies for people with disabilities, Boutique Hotelier’s “2020 Power List” as a “Young Trailblazer”, and the Institute of Hospitality Judges’ Special Achievement Award. 

Richardson is also a trustee for the registered charity “Room to Reward”, a unique volunteer-recognition charity created to say ‘thank you’ to the inspirational volunteers who give up their time to make a difference to those who need it most.

Zoe Monk

Senior Editor, Boutique Hotelier

zoe mark

Zoe started her journalism career as a reporter on two b2b magazines in Essex, before moving to London to become Editor of Boutique Hotelier, the industry’s leading title for the UK’s independent hotel operators, just one year after its launch to the market. It’s here where Zoe got the bug for the hospitality industry; interviewing owners and entrepreneurs of exciting hotel businesses, breaking news stories and meeting inspiring individuals to help drive innovation and excellence within the sector.

Fast forward seven years and Boutique Hotelier has cemented itself as one of the industry’s best-loved bibles.