15 March 2018
BERLIN (March 15, 2018): Last week, over 2,300 delegates from over 80 countries gathered at the InterContinental Hotel in Berlin for the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF). This marked the largest delegation in the events 21-year history. This year also brought 70 sponsoring companies supporting and exhibiting during the event and over 800 companies represented across the conference.
The theme for this year’s forum; Reaching New Heights, was present throughout the conference programme and the exhibition space, including the new Tech Hub. The Tech Hub was created to reflect the consistently changing nature of the industry and provided an innovative space for the hospitality industry’s leading minds to discover the latest in technology and data solutions to progress their business. The conference theme was also relevant to the news released throughout the event. This was dominated by Carlson Rezidor announcing a rebrand to Radisson Hotel Group and the launch of an ambitious five-year operating plan to position the business as one of the top three hospitality companies in the world. Further news released during the conference is available here. Inspirational key note speaker, Cathy O’Dowd delivered a captivating and emotional recount of her quest to, quite literally reach new heights, as she, having skillfully become the first woman to successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest from both south and north sides, then attempted a new route on one of the world’s top 10 mountains – the Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat.
The conference programme was carefully curated to feature the most prevalent topics across the hotel investment community and the overall sentiment was one of optimism, certainly from a trading perspective as Robin Rossman, Managing Director at STR presented the Global Investment Outlook 2018 and noted that occupancies now are almost 10% higher than they were in the previous peak during 2008 and that “during 2018 we expect to see another year of 5%+ RevPAR growth across Europe.” This was echoed by investors during a session discussing investor intentions in 2018 which opened with the following from Keith Lindsay, Managing Director, EMEA, CBRE Hotels who stated “there is a wall of money looking at the hotel sector at the moment” and noted that “2017 was a bout of frenzy and with all the capital formation happening at the moment, 2018 is likely to see more of that.” The CBRE Hotels investor sentiment survey claimed that 37% of investors are looking for capital growth in 2018, against 24% in 2017.
For all the positive current and forecast statistics, there was a note of caution throughout the discussions and presentations. Coley Brenan, Partner, Head of Europe, KSL Capital Partners, said “there are clouds on the horizon, a lot of industries will be impacted, ours included, but I remain positive” and this note of careful optimism was also noted by Megan Greene, Managing Director and Chief Economist at Manulife Asset Management who provided the economic outlook and noted that the combination of dangerous high debt levels, low productivity and low inflation mean that “secular stagnation is here to stay”.
As always, emerging talent and commitment to the hospitality industry was recognised and 2018 saw the IHIF and ISHC Young Leader award introduced by John Fareed, Managing Director of Horwarth and Chairman of ISHC and presented to Tina Yu, Senior Vice President at KSL Capital Partners and the IHIF 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Adrian Zecha, who was interviewed by Liv Gussing Burgess, Managing Director, Luxury Hotel Consulting.
Alexi Khajavi, Managing Director EMEA & Chair of Hospitality + Travel Group, Questex said “as an event, we are never arrogant enough to assume that people will simply attend the event and work tirelessly throughout the year to create the best conference experience possible. This mirrors the hospitality industry’s quest to constantly deliver new and unique experiences for its guests. We’re delighted to have hosted the most successful IHIF in its 21-year history and look forward to receiving feedback and using this to shape the 2019 event.”
The ever-popular global CEO panel drew a crowded room to hear Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO, AccorHotels admit that he was wrong when “four years ago when I was here I thought that brands could matter less, but I was wrong. Brands are like a group of friends, for every occasion you can count on them for a different purpose and that’s what clients want. They provide a short cut in a very crowded world and have enormous value”. Keith Barr, CEO, IHG hinted at an “acquisition of luxury brand to sit above InterContinental very soon” whilst, turning to innovation, Bazin reminded us of the relative infrequency that hoteliers see their customers when compared to Amazon, Google and Facebook and that the challenge for the industry is to “increase the amount of times we interact with our customers”. His point to well remember though is “Facebook, Amazon and others are missing the last mile as they never meet the customer. We do. They will never do it as it is capital intensive.”
The final day of the event focused on innovation, investment and new business opportunities. Salient and reoccurring points from the plenary sessions included the need for organisations to encourage experimentation in order to create a culture of innovation. Peter Verhoeven, Global Director of Partner Services at Booking.com said of experimenting within Booking.com “we need to accept that we fail more often than we succeed. Hopefully we don’t make the same failure twice. That is how you go forward, slowly and gradually.” He pointed to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning as ways of moving faster in innovation. Speakers from Expedia, NH Hotel Group and Village Hotel Club discussed the impact of Virtual Reality (VR), voice technology and block chain on the industry and widely agreed that these innovative technologies have the ability to better the industry, with the correct implementation and analysis.
All of the final day session discussing innovation agreed that progress and development in this area had to be customer centric and investment in innovation should always be based on a consumer need.
A selection of photos from the event can be accessed here.
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