Austria-born Wolfgang M. Neumann has been president and CEO of The Rezidor Hotel Group since 2013, having joined the group in 2011 as COO. The company, based in Brussels, Belgium, is part of Minnetonka, Minn.-based Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.
While Neumann is now leading brands in EMEA, such as Radisson Blu, Radisson Red (a lifestyle-select, millennial-inspired brand, which opens its first property, this April, in Brussels) and Park Inn, the bulk of his career, thus far, was spent with Hilton International, where he held various GM positions at Hilton hotels in Brussels, London, Paris and Frankfurt, and was also, at one point, president, Hilton Europe & Africa.
Neumann will be part of the International Hotel Investment Forum and sit on the CEO panel, alongside Wyndham Hotel Group's Goeff Ballotti, Hilton Worldwide's Chris Nassetta, IHG's Richard Solomons and NH Hotel Group's Federico Gonzalez Tejera. The panel will be moderated by Deloitte's global head of hospitality, Nick van Marken.
Ahead of IHIF, Neumann offered his takes on 2016, how social media is impacting the hospitality industry and how the industry is facing down terrorism—something Neumann had to deal with head on after November's terrorist attack on the Radisson Blu in Mali.
IHIF: How do you foresee 2016 shaping up as it relates to the global hospitality industry: What will be the big stories or trends in investment, technology, distribution, etc.?
Wolfgang M. Neumann: The global hospitality landscape is moving fast: the digital revolution, changing loyalty patterns and the ever-extending power of influencers and social media are dramatically altering the face of our industry. It's essential we now both innovate and work harder than ever before to win the hearts and minds of our guests—our revenue generation teams and all of us need to fully embrace the shifting dynamics of the market place.
IHIF: How are the goals and strategy of The Rezidor Hotel Group aligned or disparate from that of Carlson Rezidor as a whole?
Neumann: As the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, we pursue two global focus areas: we develop and align our brands across the world, and we drive revenue generation across the continents.
IHIF: You are part of the prestigious CEO panel at IHIF. The panel will focus on "challenging the industry leaders with news and issues of the moment. How are the current events affecting the industry? How are hotel executives dealing with new challenges/threats?" What do you think will be the big topic of discussion and what's your take on it?
Neumann: We are were devastated by the terror threats and attacks of the past months and feel with the families and friends of the victims. But in all sadness it was also unique to see how an entire industry stood together and faced the challenge. International travel and tourism is a sector with a fighting spirit, and a very resilient sector. Such events do hit on the short-term, but experts do not expect any major long-term impact. It is important that we drive and develop our business and stand out together.
IHIF: 2015 was a year of consolidation—we saw it with the announced Marriott/Starwood and Accor/FRHI mergers—as hotel companies looked to grow scale, potentially as a way to fortify themselves against disruption (OTAs, Airbnb). Do you expect more big-scale M&A in 2016? If so, where?
Neumann: Consolidation will certainly continue within our industry: who wants to be big, needs to think big. But I do not want to speculate about concrete deals, there are so many rumors ongoing. Time will tell!