Celebrating women leaders in hospitality at IHIF 2019

On International Women’s Day we are proud to celebrate women’s leadership in hospitality. The International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) programme always strives to represent as diverse a group of industry leaders as possible. This year’s event, which took place in Berlin earlier this week, was no different. 

We were inspired by the vision shared by over 50 women leaders representing a broad range of hospitality sectors from investment firms to hotel operators, lenders, asset managers, technology providers, designers, destinations and more.

Here is a snapshot of what some of them shared on stage at IHIF 2019.



Maud Bailly, Chief Digital Officer, Accor

As Accor’s Chief Digital Officer, Maud Bailly is in charge of Digital, Distribution, Sales and Information Systems – a key role in the group’s strategy. She joined a discussion on blending technology and the customer, which covered the latest hotel tech trends, empowerment and securing buy-in from front-line staff, and managing customer data. “Today’s reality is digital, she said, so it’s worth investing in”.


Mai-Lan de Marcilly, Director and Head of Hotels Europe, KKR

Mai-Lan de Marcilly, KKR director and head of hotels in Europe, discussed the trends in global money movement, and noted there is a new interest in hotels from companies that traditionally weren’t looking at this asset class. Commenting on how to manage challenges such as political instability, she observed: “Unfortunately, it’s almost turning into the norm. It’s not only Brexit or the U.S., there is more volatility everywhere”. For investors, she said, the key is to “invest into assets and asset classes that can navigate potential risks going forward”.


Sonia Cheng, Chief Executive Officer, Rosewood Hotel Group

Sonia Cheng, CEO of the Rosewood Hotel Group, joined the event’s Global CEOS Panel for the first time. She was confident about her company’s prospects in an uncertain economy: “brands like us which innovate and standout will always do well” she said.

According to her, non-traditional marketing methods are most likely to succeed today. She views all of Rosewood’s guests as influencers in their own way: “Think of marketing differently,” she said. “We are opening the Rosewood Hong Kong in a few weeks, so at the end of last year we created a teaser campaign. Normally we would do some ads, but instead we did an exclusive preview dinner event with 60 people. This created so much noise.”


Merilee Karr, Chief Executive Officer, UnderTheDoormat

Merilee Karr, CEO of home-sharing service UnderTheDoormat and Chair of the UK’s home sharing industry association, noted the growth of her side of the industry : “In five years' time, I think every one of the major hotel brands will have a home-accommodation brand in their portfolio”.

In hospitality, Karr said, collaboration is key. “In an industry that is growing at 30 percent each year, there's space for a lot of players in this market. And I think for all of us, it's about growing the industry and growing it responsibly—setting standards and being clear about what those are to everyone," she said. 


Marloes Knippenberg, Chief Executive Officer, Kerten Hospitality

Kerten Hospitality’s Marloes Knippenberg shared her experience of leading a company that covers a range of hospitality verticals, from serviced apartments to branded residences to hotels and F&B. 

To take the business beyond hospitality, Kerten has focused on technology and how the next generation of travellers is using it. “We've been talking for years about millennials,” said Knippenberg, “but we're now talking about Generation Z.” What millennials and Gen-Z want, she claimed, is to have their data used efficiently to create a seamless experience. “When you look at the infrastructure that we're building at the moment [and for the] coming three years, we can actually really push to the clients what they want, when they want it, where they want it, without us pushing any of the owners to invest crazy amounts of money into new technology,” she said.  


Laura Miller, SVP & Global CIO, IHG

As CIO of IHG, Laura Miller has presided over the launch of a new Guest Reservation System (GRS) in collaboration with Amadeus. At the IHIF Hotel Tech HUb, she discussed the project's impact on operations, revenues and the custoemr experience, with a closer look at data analytics and personalisation, operational efficiencies, IOT and the role of infrastructure, as well as APIs, connectivity and data availability.

Lindsey Ueberroth, Chief Executive OfficerPreferred Hotels & Resorts

Lindsey Ueberroth, CEO of independent hotel brand Preferred Hotels & Resorts, joined a panel discussing the initiatives that will have the most positive impact on customer satisfaction. She argued that as travellers are increasingly focused on experiences, promoting a lifestyle is more important than promoting loyalty. “What do you offer the traveller beyond when they're staying at your property?” she asked the crowd. “How can you provide a one-of-a-kind experience that may be associated with one of your hotels? How do you pull the lifestyle elements into that loyalty programme?” 


Other leading women speakers on the IHIF 2019 programme included representatives of: Aareal Bank, Airelles CollectionAliseda InmobiliariaAXA IM - Real Assets, Beekeeper, BvB Hotel Management & Strategic Development, CBRE Hotels, Choice HotelsChristie & Co, Ciel Capital, CommerzrealConran and Partners, Copeland Hospitality, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, Drees & Sommer GmbH, Eastdil Secured, Expedia GroupGovernment of PortugalHoCoSo, HVS, ISHC, LHM Hotel Management Company, Louvre Hotels Group, LVMH,Meliá, NH Hotel Group, PPHE, Radisson Hotel Group, Sarah Miller and Partners, Sonder, Spa Strategy, STR, SUPPER MagazineU CityUK Hospitality, WELL IntelligenceWilson AssociatesYotel.

Hosted by

Questex Hospitality Group

Our Other Events

The Annual Hotel Conference (AHC)

7-8 October 2020
Manchester, UK

Mediterranean Resort & Hotel Real Estate Forum (MR&H)

19-21 October 2020
Tivoli Marina Vilamoura, Portugal

Israel Hotel Investment Summit (IHIS)

20–21 November 2019
Hilton, Tel Aviv