One thing is certain: The global hospitality industry is primed for continued advancement, but outside forces continue to bombard it from all sides.
Operating hotels has never been a more multi-faceted job. It's no longer, "set it and forget it," not when there are a deluge of channels at hoteliers to disposal—but channels that come at a price.
The distribution challenge is without question the focal point of the industry now: online travel agencies convincingly now the go-to resource for consumers to research and ultimately book hotel rooms, something that comes at a huge cost to hotel owners and operators.
How the industry deals with the OTA situation was front-and-center during one of the early IHIF panels, with the likes of Google, Expedia and Booking.com making their cases in regard to their value and service to the hospitality industry. Read the full coverage, here.
Dovetailing with distribution is the overall evolution of technology and its impact on the hospitality space. It's a topic that David Rowan of Wired is fully engaged in. He offered six tips for hoteliers on how to embrace the guest, through technology:
- Embrace connectivity
- Design against friction points
- Interact on guests' own terms
- Accept the power shift. "People decide, not the CEO."
- Radically personalize
- Tell a more authentic story.
Safety & Security
Meanwhile, the world continues to be an unsafe operating environment, with nefarious forces at work. That is why hotels need to be as vigilant as ever to ward off and defend against them. That was the crux of this session, wherein IHG's VP of global safety, Helen Loughborough, and PwC global head of cyber security and data protection, Stewart Room, laid out how to protect against both cyber crimes and terrorism threats.
Pre-IHIF, we published an in-depth article on the state of safety and security in the hospitality industry. You can access it, here.
On the Floor and Up Close
To get a true sense of where the industry is, there is no better course of action than to go straight to the horse's mouth: the executives that run the day-to-day operations. Hilton Worldwide CEO Chris Nassetta gave us an exclusive sit-down, where he discussed his company's chosen path of organic growth over M&A, why the REIT spinoff was the right move and how to shift consumers to their owned channels. You can watch the full video, here.
We also hit the floor with an early stop at Wyndham Hotel Group's booth, where we found Wyndham Hotel Group CEO Geoff Ballotti, who was eager to share his thoughts on the industry (it's great now and will continue to be), his company's turn to branded content as a way to engage guests, launching Super 8 in Germany and why the company will always look to add new brands, if they fit. That interview can be found, here.
We also got up close with provincial German brand Steigenberger Hotels, and its CEO, Puneet Chhatwal. While the group's three brands are still focused on Europe expansion, having a hotel in the U.S., is still on the docket. See what he had to say, here.
Getting a sense of the overall industry is the forte of consultancies such as JLL and Colliers. We picked brains of JLL's global CEO and head of hospitality Mark Wynne Smith, and Colliers director of hotels for EMEA, Dirk Bakker. They let us in on where the hospitality is now, where it's going, what Airbnb means long-term and why the industry is still ripe for consolidation. Their interviews can be found, here.
One of the strategies we employed this year was to engage our audience as much as we could through stories, interviews, video and speaker profiles of IHIF delegates and panels before the conference. The feedback we received was extraordinary.
Meanwhile, one our more popular speaker profiles was of Jennifer Fox, the president, international for FRHI and president of the Fairmont brand. On FRHI's announced merger with AccorHotels, Fox said: "It will generate the scale needed to drive the next phase of growth for our luxury brands."