Twelve different companies from across the Czech Republic showcased their wares - from crystal glass to whisky - at the Hotelympia 2018 event at the ExCel exhibition venue in London’s Docklands this March, in an effort to promote and expand into the UK market.
The project initiative and planning, which was led in conjunction with CzechTrade UK, had started “six months ago” before the event according to Monica Slaba, an exhibitor and key account manager at J&T Wood (www.jtwood.cz) from Šumperk in the Olomouc region in northern Moravia.
The event, which harks back to 1935 at London’s Olympia when it was dubbed “the greatest exhibition in the history of catering” by Caterer & Hotelkeeper, saw the 2018 show comprise four sections - Foodservice, Hospitality Tech, Interiors & Tableware and the Professional Kitchen.
From its beginnings to the present day, Hotelympia has witnessed much over the past 83 years. As an industry with the current name it was born in 1952. In 1972 - the show saw the dark side - during the mining strike and had to be run without any lighting on the stands due to scare energy.
Then in 1992, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay won the title of ‘National Chef of the Year’ at Hotelypmia, where the final was held. And, the Queen Mother paid a visit to the show in 1988 - taking a particular interest in the Salon Culinaire competitions.
The Czech stand at this year’s event under banner of ‘United Crafts of Bohemia’ presented items from the various companies that could be sampled. As well as wood - furniture and flooring products, they included a prize-winning beer (from ‘World Beer Awards 2017’) in the shape of Jarosov (http://jarosovskypivovar.cz/), which is brewed around 100km from Brno in southern Moravia. Their beer labels are based on Moravian design motifs and certainly catch the eye. And, the taste of the beer hits the mark - crisp and superb.
Hana Dzirgas from digital market agency Little Greta (www.littlegreta.co.uk) headquartered in Prague, which has worked with Jarosov Brewery and has representation in Germany, the UK and the US, commenting said: “From our point of view the reaction was pretty good. And, I think the combination of tasting and showcasing…worked really very well for the presentations overall.”
Other exhibitors included Elite Bohemia, established in 1996 as one of the first private companies to re-establish the tradition of fine chandelier production; Český Porcelán (www.cesky.porcelan.cz/en) based in Dubi, western Bohemia, with their distinctive cobalt blue designs that incorporate vegetal motifs based on eastern Asian philosophy; and, a single-malt whisky called Trebitsch and produced at the Třebíč old town distillery, located c.65km west of Brno.
This whisky (www.trebitschwhisky.com) is produced according to the Scottish type whisky and the last drop available I tasted indicated it was up to standard. They also produce a plum flavoured ale (Trebitsch Angel), which is aged for sixty days in a lager tank and finished for thirty days in the barrel after the Czech single malt.
Radek Hejma, commercial director of Český Porcelán, was on hand to explain the finer points of the company’s porcelain that dates back around 150 years when businessman Anton Tschinkel initiated operations (c.1874). Today they employ over 200 staff at their factories and currently their biggest export markets are Germany and the Far East - Japan and South Korea. Following the show in London, Hejma indicated that the firm would be heading out to the U.S. in due course to exhibit their range.
As well as delivering porcelain with the “onion pattern” since 1885 (under the name ‘Meissen’) and since 1956 under the ‘Zwiebelmuster’ (Onion Decoration), for many decades the firm has been among four manufacturers in the world that maintain the so-called under glaze technology for porcelain. The term 'Onion Porcelain' is a symbol and notion of delicate beauty, which one can certainly see displayed in the company's extensive catalogue.
Hotelympia is scheduled to be held again in 2020. For more information on the show and exhibitors this year see: www.hotelympia.com
About the author: Roger Aitken is a freelance writer who contributes to Forbes (www.forbes.com/sites/rogeraitken) amongst other titles and was a former FT staff writer. In 2014 he was awarded a press prize from Czech Tourism on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.