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The Independent Hotelier Award is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the independent hotel sector. An independently spirited pioneer, recognised for excellence, with a reputation for pushing boundaries and creating exceptional guest experiences. Above all, the winner is someone committed to the development of their team, the success of their establishment and the industry at large. View the 2024 shortlist below! 

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2024 Shortlist

Kees Hensen and Mascha Smit

Kees Hensen and Mascha Smit

Their passion lays in discovering and developing hospitality concepts, preferably in monumental buildings with the Triple A philosophy; attention, authenticity and craftsmanship. Attention for people and the planet, craftsmanship, origin of the products and enjoying the work together are central focus points. Being authentic and staying true to yourself plays a major role for them.

While Kees Hensen, a seasoned hospitality professional, is always looking for innovation and new concepts, Mascha Smit translates the concepts to the (hotel) operations, sales & marketing. Together with their third partner, Bjorn Massop (responsible for Food within the concepts), they mainly work from Hotel Villa Ruimzicht.

"Our strength is to anticipate to the constant change, and keep improving,". Automation plays a crucial role in this, wherever they can make systems work for them we will do so. However, never at the expense of attention to their guests and employees.

The three entrepreneurs own himgroep (Horeca inspiratie maatschappij).

Within the himgroep, they work together with ambitious fellow entrepreneurs who want to start their own hospitality business. The himgroup includes; Boutique Hotels GLD (with Hotel de Wereld, The Church, Villa Wanrooy and Villa Ruimzicht) and Foodbars GLD (with LEV@de Wereld, LEV foodbar Doetinchem and LEV by Mike).

Nicky van Westenbrugge

Nicky van Westenbrugge

Nicky van Westenbrugge is an energetic, creative and strategic visionair with a passion for travel, food and writing.

Since 2012 she has started several hospitality concepts in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Hotel Parkzicht, restaurant Thym, foodstands Beef and Libee, pizza restaurant Hout and currently in development: a luxury hotel and restaurant in a monumental monastery.

She calls her employees ‘family’, is a sucker for sunsets, trusts her intuition and loves to enjoy life with her husband (and co-owner), two sons, family and friends.

Nicky is currently in a role as strategic, conceptual, and commercial director with a strong eye for people and culture.

Creating a positive work environment is a top priority. Achieving positive results and guest satisfaction becomes easier when an environment of positivity is created, where everyone can thrive. With sincere attention to the guests, the team can emphasise on their needs and exceed every expectation. This is achieved through fostering open communication, implementing growth and development programs, promoting sports and health initiatives, and supporting each other personally.

One side of Nicky's responsibilities is maintaining their existing businesses in alignment with their vision, concept, values, and goals. The other is to creatively and strategically develop new hospitality projects. Currently, they're in the process of transforming a monumental monastery into a luxury hotel and restaurant.


Paul Suy

Paul Suy

Paul's company manages several hotels but Yalo is the special one! He met the owner for the first time in 2016 and was immediately enthused by his plans of bringing something new to Ghent by converting an old office building and shopping gallery into a hotel. With Paul's expertise in openings and management of hotels around Europe, both branded and unbranded, he knew what was trending in hospitality and what people were looking for. As a born and raised Ghentian, Paul had a very good idea of what his city needed.

With a team of experts in construction, branding, interior design, culinary and lifestyle they created Yalo from scratch. The base line “connect to the good life” is taken seriously. Whoever comes to Yalo, be it staff, hotel guests, locals visiting the restaurant and bar or companies organizing their meetings, the team want them to spend a good time.

Key values of Yalo are the fact that it is owner operated, design driven, has an open house mentality integrated in the local community, and as a member of Green Globe they take sustainability and social responsibility seriously.

Paul's role is quite simple. He guard and translate their values on a daily base and focus on making sure their staff are fully engaged, their guests experience a consistent level of service and hospitality every time they walk through the door, and their property owner receives a premium return on his investment. And all that while making sure all stakeholders continue to connect to the good life!