Business management & development

Day 2 began with a networking breakfast that offered options for breakout discussions across a wide range of investment topics, including key destinations such as Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Portugal. In keeping with this year’s deeper commitment to the issues surrounding sustainability, there was a networking roundtable, “Tech for Sustainability”. Afterwards, we headed back to the main stage for a session on investing in lifestyle-centred hospitality ventures. Christopher Norton, CEO, Equinox Hotels, said hotels will need to steal ideas from each other if they are to prosper. “The challenge for the traditional luxury brand is they’ve got to be more innovative and the lifestyle brands have to have better service,” said Norton.

Work from holiday Henri Wilmes, CIO, LRO Hospitality, shared his view on the increasingly blurred lines between personal life and work life, saying that traditional holiday resorts should start to provide proper workspaces for guests. Next Chris Nassetta, president and CEO, Hilton, made a great point that while leisure is leading in terms of Covid-19 recovery, it’s actually domestic travel that’s kept Hilton afloat. “Business that was 95% domestic is now 99%, or nearly 100%,” said Norton. Patrick Pacious, president and CEO, Choice Hotels International, commented on another trending topic at IHIF – serviced apartments – by sharing his belief that this trend has become a permanent shift due to increasing lengths of stay. One of the biggest changes seen by Dillip Rajakarier, CEO, Minor Hotels, has been in the families market, with many families trying to combine their children’s educations with a holiday. This has led to tutors travelling with families and so forth. Federico González, CEO, Radisson Hotel Group, was one of many to return to the topic of sustainability during the day. His point was that while the pandemic may have temporarily put ESG initiatives on hold, they will soon re-emerge as customers resume travelling and demand greener options.

Miriam Barnhart, product manager of sustainability and experiences, POHA House, then explained that while adjacent concept investment may be a newer trend, it is also a stable one. Barnhart said that creative spaces offer a sense of community and belonging, while also making the guest feel safe. Another pandemic-related subject covered was the ongoing migration of people from city-centre to suburban locations. The shared need here is a continued desire to work remotely but in a more social environment. Naomi Heaton, co-owner and CEO, The Other House, explained that hybrid models allow “for the best of both worlds” from a profitability perspective, while additional ADR gains are made

Hotel Management International /

through short-term transient bookings. In a discussion of senior-living, Jan Garde, founder, The Embassies, explained that “loneliness is the biggest fear” among the ageing population as life expectancy increases and, just like any other target demographic, these individuals expect and are deserving of premium experiences. Next during a hybrid working panel it was suggested that sustainability, culture and wellness should become the three pillars of success. Emmanuel Guisset, CEO and co-founder, Outsite, shared what he believes is the next growing trend in hybrid working – larger companies providing employees with memberships to work remotely.

Panels and the pandemic

Day three started in earnest with John Pagano, group CEO, The Red Sea Development, sharing his passion project in Saudi Arabia. “Sustainability is really not enough,” he said. By partnering first with scientists, rather than architects, Pagano has set the goal not just to ‘sustain’ but also to improve the destination by increasing the net conservation value by 30%. In an ‘Operational Models’ session, panellists revealed that they each reacted to those first few punishing months of the pandemic by throwing out the rule book. Dimitris Manikis, president and managing director EMEA, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Michael Deitemeyer, president and CEO, Aimbridge Hospitality, and Hubert Viriot, CEO, Yotel, agreed that working across the owner, operator, landlord and lender relationship structure requires high degrees of collaboration and flexibility. As Aimbridge set out to navigate the US state- to-state regulations set forth by the pandemic, Deitemeyer shared that the company formed a government affairs team to help staff on the ground to understand the ever-changing regulations and evolving customer concerns. Aimbridge also launched a charitable fund for employees to offer further support. Next Mahmoud Abdulhadi, deputy minister, Investment Attraction, Ministry of Tourism for Saudi Arabia articulated the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, with the country setting ambitious hospitality targets of reaching 100 million visits, creating one million new jobs, and bringing 400,000 room keys into the market. Abdulhadi explained that, alongside its environmental focus, the ministry is also deeply focused on the socioeconomic, cultural and financial sustainability of the country. General sessions closed with a final discussion of the industry’s ESG goals. According to David Kellett, senior director, Hotel Transactions, Invesco Real Estate, while some brands still cling to the argument that certain ESG initiatives conflict with their brand standards, it’s time to reframe such thinking. It was a fitting finale to a conference that has been all about thinking anew. ●

Opposite page: The 2021 IHIF saw global hospitality leaders, discuss the future of the industry.


The amount set up as a relief fund, which was made accessible to 290,000 employees, many of whom took advantage of the scheme with the average grant costing $400.

Accor 6%

The growth rate of the hospitality industry, with recovery to pre- pandemic levels seeming likely in 2023, depending on vaccine distribution.

World Economic Outlook 19

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