Opening remarks for IHIF 2014 show economy no longer in crisis

The 17th International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) opened to a delegation of close to 2,000 this afternoon. Kerry Gumas, president & CEO, Questex Media Group and Jonathan Worsley, chairman, Bench Events welcomed all delegates from across the complete range of the investment community. Worsley thanked the 52 members of the advisory board and the 200 participants scheduled to speak, present and moderate over the next three days.

David Fenton, senior economist, RBS set the scene with a presentation on The Economic Landscape. He reassured the audience that the developed economies of the UK, USA, Japan and the Euro Zone are in a better economic place now verses Q1 2013. He noted that the question dominating the economic landscape was whether it was necessary for monetary policies to be set at emergency levels?

Relaxing the settings, however, means that we are speaking of an economy that is no longer in crisis. If the policies were to be relaxed, Fenton said, we are in for a bumpy ride to normalization. Looking at the emerging markets, there exists a challenging environment for investors over the next few years. Fenton’s concluding point referenced recent research by Goldman Sachs – The Ladder of Spending. The research charts consumer spending through commodities, to durables and then services from different markets across the world. The report forecasts significant demand for high-end durables in emerging markets. Both domestic and international tourism fall into the service category that appears in the later stage of the cycle. Fenton says the tourism sector will see significant growth in the next 20-30 years according to the results of the report. “There will be a 268 percent growth in global tourism over the next 20 years.”

Simon Johnson, specialist markets, CBRE Hotels moderated the following session with panelists Elizabeth Winkle, managing director, STR Global, Chris Day, managing director, Christie + Co and Michael A. Fishbin, Global & Americas Hospitality Leader, EY, who discussed The Industry Landscape. Winkle warned of that whilst the sector was seeing positive results in terms of occupancy, low rates are limiting RevPAR achievements. She referenced a recent survey by showing a significant amount of domestic travel in the Euro Zone region and that some of the hardest hit areas in Southern Europe are showing positive signs of recovery.

Day spoke to hotel transactions and noted appetite for new developments across the UK, suggesting that the remainder of the Queens Moat House (QMH) portfolio would come to market soon. He warned that “pricing was critical” and referenced the early signs of competitive bidding for Rocco Forte’s The Lowry Hotel, Manchester in the UK. He said we had “moved out of the dark days of 2009 when hotels outside the heart of London and Paris were incredibly difficult to sell” and that “more and more banks were expressing a willingness to lend to the hotel market at reasonable loan to value ratios.” Johnson asked each panelist for a specific prediction for the coming year in the industry. Winkle responded that the key was that “more effective pricing is required, or we will miss the opportunity.” Day said “prices will increase by 10-15 percent in the core markets, for both single assets and portfolios, in the next 12 months and Fishbin predicted a clear focus on growth with significant M&A activity to be seen in the USA. 

Peter Shaindlin, COO of Halekulani Corporation, ended the day’s discussions on a high note with his keynote address, Brand Blur: The Benefits and Perils of Brand Alliances. Shaindlin, who oversaw the partnership between famed fashion designer, Vera Wang and Honolulu’s Halekulani Hotel to create the Vera Wang Suite, reiterated the importance of brands having a clear vision before forming any strategic relationship. Shaindlin noted that brands often end up in a ‘race to the same place,’ creating partnerships with leading brands as imitation, instead of focusing on innovation and differentiation. All brands on the search for brand alliances should refer to a select list of partnership criteria, taking into consideration the purpose, benefits, risks, alignment characteristics – from reputation and quality to company culture and values, duration and projected ROI value. Shaindlin stressed in his final takeaway, prior to any partnership criteria, it is imperative to understand your own brand first.

The second day of IHIF 2014 starts tomorrow at 08.30 CET at the Hotel InterContinental Berlin with opening remarks from Kerry Gumas, CEO, Questex Media Group.