Meet the STAY WYSE Executive Board Candidates

With the STAY WYSE Annual General Meeting just around the corner, STAY WYSE would like to introduce you to the four candidates who have so far thrown their hat in the ring for the upcoming board elections at WYSTC 2013. If you are still interested in running, there is still time to do so before the AGM. Simply complete the STAY WYSE Declaration of Candidacy.

Full voting STAY WYSE members can vote for their preferred candidates during the AGM or by assigning their proxy vote here.

STAY WYSE currently has three board positions available and the following four candidates have stepped forward:

Philip Houghton

Starboard Hotels (HOAX, Smart City)


50-221fe3c5c9339a34078bfb40f2eaf6d2_photoPhilip’s entire working career has been in the hospitality sector. Philip’s background with FTSE 100 companies including Whitbread, DSGI, Bass and Allied provides him with branded, multi-site expertise to steer Starboard from start-up to a sizable entity in the hospitality business.

As one of Starboard’s owners and a Director, Philip is responsible for driving Starboard Hotels’ business development activity across both the hotel and hostel sectors.  In directing the internal due-diligence process Philip identifies projects that are a strategic fit with Starboard and conducts the due diligence to determine if they will deliver acceptable returns to the stakeholders.  Philip is an active member of the Board team charged with delivering the new opportunities.

Philip brings his wealth of experience and network to bear when seeking and appraising new opportunities.  Philip has expertise in branded and independent hotels, branded restaurants and the backpacker hostel sectors.  This ability to match an opportunity with the right trading solution is borne out by Starboard’s excellent track record in value generation.  Philip is a franchisee with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Wyndham Hotel Group and Choice Hotels and is a recognised industry leader by the senior teams at all the major hotel companies.  Philip also lead negotiations with Quintain (FTSE listed) and owns the on-going relationship as Starboard provide management services into the IQ student accommodation division.

Going down the branded route is not always the best way to drive value and Philip has expertise in the unbranded sector too.  In recent years Philip’s leadership in the hostel sector has seen him taking a Board role on both STAYWYSE and WYSETC.  Philip is currently the Treasurer of STAYWYSE.

Philip also has responsibility for the day to day operations of Starboard’s hotels and hostels portfolio.  The hotels trade under Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Days Inn and Quality Hotel brands – all of which are award winning and leading performers in their markets.  The hostels, Smart City Hotels and HOAX, are also leaders in their markets with strong trading performance.  Philip has defined the hostel operating model and brand standards, equipping Starboard with the tools to facilitate further growth in this sector.  Philip’s FTSE background has ensured Starboard operate to the highest standards which is supported by external scrutiny by stakeholders and Starboards’ attainment of Investors In People (IIP) and ISA 9001 and 14001.

In 2012 Starboard announced a joint venture with Union Hanover Securities to bring the first 5 star hostel to Liverpool in the form of HOAX Liverpool along with Hopskotch Street Kitchen and Bar and in 2013 the first commercial deal at The International Quarter, Stratford City.
Philip has a BA Honours degree in Hotel and Catering Management and an MBA.  He is an active industry professional regularly contributing to conference in both the hotel and hostel sectors.

Statement of Intent

I am currently the Treasurer and STAYWYSE and a Board member of WYSE Travel Confederation.  Whilst relatively new to these roles I believe my contribution has helped move both organisations forward.  There is no doubt there is more to do and I hope to get the opportunity to help steer both organisations in driving benefits to their members and the wider industry sectors they represent.

I hope I am given the opportunity to continue to contribute by the members both current and future who I would be honoured to represent.

Steve Lowy
umi Hotels


55-6373fa75eb7edd1088dc2409157ba8a9_steve-croppedFor the past ten years I have devoted my working life and a great deal of my personal time to the hospitality industry. My time in South East Asia after my hospitality and tourism management degree cemented my love of travel and time in Australasia and the USA followed. Travelling and working abroad taught me a great deal, gave me inspiration and confirmed to me that I wanted to develop my own hospitality business whilst helping others take their first steps into the industry.

I began managing hostels in 2004 (having trained as a chef in my earlier years!) , after which I then developed my own hotel brand, umi Hotels. The brand is focused on youth and attract many youth travellers every year. I opened two UK locations and partnered with a third, a hotel in Moscow. My experience and insight as a hotelier led to the development of a successful online booking engine to help both my hotels and other independents increase direct business. I then established a hospitality and travel marketing agency brand that specialises in helping independents with their marketing, training and business development needs. This means that I now get to help a range of businesses, from overseas hostels, student accommodation providers to well-known hotel brands, do more for themselves and realise their goals. All of my businesses host interns and work placement students almost continuously and I regularly speak at academic institutions both in the UK and abroad. I am proud to have developed staff members from graduates through to management and to have received recognition for my work with young people.

I believe that every business within the hospitality industry plays an important role, but particularly the youth travel entities including hostels and student accommodation, that drive tourism in an economy. I was honoured to be chosen for the inaugural STAY WYSE – ISTC skills exchange that took place in early 2011 in Cambodia, something that has stayed with me to this day. I have enjoyed my years on the board of STAY WYSE and it is something that I feel I can continue to contribute too in the future.

Statement of Intent

I would like to continue on the board of STAY WYSE for a number of reasons. Firstly, I believe I can contribute a broad view of the accommodation industry, due to my work as CEO of umi Digital, which can assist our member with regards issues that may have hit other sectors of the accommodation industry previously. I also believe my insight into digital trends, can assist STAY WYSE and association deliver meaningful educational pieces for the youth accommodation sector.
Secondly, I would like work with the board, and the confederation, to reinstate the STAY WYSE skills exchange, that was so successful a few years ago. It would be great to provide more opportunities for our member organisation to help those less fortunate than ourselves in developing countries.
Finally, I would like to work with the STAY WYSE chairman to constantly look at improving our provision to our members in regards resource, education and networking opportunities. I have enjoyed my years on the STAY WYSE board, and would love to continue to support the drive to increase the awareness of the importance of youth accommodation provision globally.

Charlie MacGregor
The Student Hotel


charlieI was brought up in the student housing industry. My father started a student housing company in 1982. He developed the first purpose built student residence in the UK; it was built for Edinburgh University. The company, called Peaston & Co Ltd, expanded to develop properties all over the UK and even stepped into Europe in the early 90’s.

In 2000 I had the chance to purchase the family business. I took this opportunity and continued to develop projects throughout the UK. I eventually broke the company up and sold all assets in 2008 to focus on mainland Europe.

I have seen over the years that student housing, as we know it in the UK, has been built and operated mainly by property developers. This was started by my father and is nowadays often lead by equity or finance companies looking to maximize profits from this very stable market. The consequence of this often means that most projects don’t have a soul or are lacking energy. Most facilities, such a gym or café, are just there to tick a box or to attract the best yield.

When I started my own company in 2003 I vowed to change that. At The Student Hotel we have created a company, which looks and treats the students as guests. We are very conscious of the fact that the year the student stays with us is probably the best year of their life. It is often the first time they are away from home, the first time they are in a new city or county. They are taking their first steps towards adulthood, and they are doing it in our care.

We are focused on making sure their time with us is one of the best years in their lives. We focus on delivering a high quality package for them. All our rooms are fully furnished to a very high quality. All services are included in the rent and we have extensive, fully incorporated and integrated common spaces on the ground floors. We focus on the community and the whole experience of their stay.

We have pioneered using 2 established models, the hotel model and the student housing model. This has many benefits and I believe is an ideal way to run student housing.

We are leading the way in providing world-class accommodation for young people. We are pushing the boundaries by doing things like our Live & Learn program with internal classes (language or MBA courses) within our properties.

The Student Hotel is expanding rapidly. We have 1105 rooms open this year, 1,652 rooms in 2014 and 2,922 in 2015. While NL is our base and home country, we have plans to expand internationally. We are now in discussions with our investors, The Carlyle Group (the 3rd largest private equity group in the world), about these expansion plans. We aim to be the first international student housing company on earth J

The team that we have built up is also world class. We have all skills needed in house, from the property acquisition and development right through the construction phases and onto operations and running the properties. Everybody is excited and dedicated to building The Student Hotel up to something very special. As our motto says “Enjoy the moment, be happy & smile”.

Statement of Intent

I want to share this experience and help improve the experience of students during their stay or on their travels. I would love to be able to help others optimize their models and continue to learn what this market is looking for on a daily basis. By joining STAY WYSE believe I will be able to achieve this goal.

I believe that STAY WSYE should also focus a bit more on the student-housing sector. This market has proved to be an incredibly strong sector and will continue to grow in the short and long-term future. The way students study today is dramatically different than 10 -15 years ago. Their needs are constantly changing and the accommodation that they are looking for is changing each year. STAY WYSE has huge expertise regarding youth travel and by focusing on the way they study and how that fits in with their accommodation needs and travel wishes makes a lot of sense. This information will benefit all members and ultimately the young traveler.

I think that I can add a fresh pair of eyes to STAY WYSE. My experience of the student housing sector combined with the fact that I have created a new sort of student housing company means I can really add value to STAY WSYE. With the huge experience that the board already has we can really explore new ideas together.

It would be a great honour for me to be on the STAY WYSE board. I see what STAY WYSE is doing and I fully support the plans and I would love to play a small role in this.

Ulises Ortega
Mundo Joven Travel Shop


  • ulisesArchitect .
  • Post-graduate studies in Business Direction in the IPADE (Instituto Panamericano de Alta Dirección de Empresas).
  • Designer, real estate developer and Hotel Operator promoter, particularly in housing and hotels.
  • Co-founder and Vicepresident of Marco Polo Hotels. (The first Business hotels in Mexico).
  • Co-founder and President of “Small Grand Hotels” (87-97)
  • President of Hostelling International Mexico since 2004.
  • Founder and Chairman of Mundo Joven Travel Shop since 1995.
  • Member of the FYITO Executive Committee (2001-2006)
  • Member of the WYSETC Executive Committee (2006-2012)
  • Chairman of the WYSETC Executive Committee (2010-2012)
  • Co-founder and Chair of STAY WYSE (2009-2013)
Statement of Intent
I would like to stand for election for the STAY WYSE board as I believe I can help with the transition to a new chairperson, this will also help with continuity within the association.

If you are still interested in running, there is still time to do so before the AGM. Simply complete the STAY WYSE Declaration of Candidacy.

Full voting STAY WYSE members can vote for their preferred candidates during the AGM or by assigning their proxy vote here.