IHIF events, attended by the industry’s most senior leaders and leading organizations, provide the ideal backdrop to learn about critical investment trends in every region of the world, with particular emphasis on Germany, Russia, Turkey, Asia, Brazil and North America. Sharing his professional insights this month is David Kong, who is celebrating his 10th anniversary as president and CEO of Best Western International. This hospitality industry leader has more than four decades of experience and is a veteran IHIF delegate. He oversees Best Western’s nearly 4,200 hotels in more than 110 countries, which annually generate more than $6 billion in revenue. His brand strategy has included establishing three tiers, raising standards and establishing marketing partnerships with high-profile organizations, including Harley-Davidson and Facebook.
HM: What regions of the world are you excited about in terms of hotel development moving forward—for Best Western, but also for hotel development in general?
Kong: At Best Western, we use a scoring model to identify where our focus should be in global development. We use criteria such as population, GDP, education level, hotel density, attractions, availability of natural resources, etc., and we look at the growth trends as well as the absolute numbers. Not surprisingly, China and India are top markets identified in this model. In addition, Indonesia, Thailand and some other Asian countries also score high. Outside of the Asian continent, we are also excited about South America, certain regions of Africa, Russia and the former Soviet Union countries.
HM: What travel industry trends are having a big impact on hotel deals and even operations these days?
Kong: The extended-stay segment has broad appeal to travelers and developers. It is marginally more expensive to build, but there are cost efficiencies in operations. Just about all major hotel companies have launched extended stay brand(s).
HM: How often do you travel in a given month?
Kong: About 50 percent of the time.
HM: If you could have any job at any Best Western property, what would it be?
Kong: The industry has become much more complex. An effective general manager needs to be good in sales, marketing, revenue management, operations, cost management and also have a keen understanding of distribution channels and technology. I like the challenges of multitasking, so I would enjoy being a general manager.
HM: If you could offer hoteliers one piece of advice, what would it be?
Kong: Don’t give your guests any reason to try out your competition. That means staying ahead of your competition, proactively eliminating any complaint and, most importantly, constantly looking for ways to impress your guests.
HM: You served on a panel at last year’s NATHIC event, providing feedback to hospitality school students presenting their hotel innovations. What is your advice for students considering the hospitality industry?
Kong: The hospitality industry is an exciting industry with many opportunities. At the earlier stages of one’s career, it’s more important to gain a broad perspective than to worry about what position one is in. My advice would be to focus on building a solid foundation, so when opportunities knock later, you will be ready.
HM: What makes an industry event good? What makes IHIF events unique and what can you accomplish at these forums that you might not otherwise?
Kong: A successful industry event is one that provides the forum to learn and to network. IHIF events usually feature insightful industry leaders who we can learn from, and also the opportunity to meet “movers and shakers.”
* Russia & CIS Hotel Investment Conference (RHIC)
October 20-22, 2014
In association with Bench Events
* North America Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (NATHIC)
November 19-21, 2014
* International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF Berlin)
March 2-5, 2015
In association with Bench Events
* Thailand Hotel Investment Conference (THIC)
May 12-13, 2015
Asia Pacific Tourism Destination Investment Conference (APTDIC)
Date and venue to be announced
* CATHIC Turkey & Neighbours Hotel Investment Conference
Date and venue to be announced Istanbul, Turkey
➔ Meet the IHIF team
VP, global events Questex Hospitality + Travel Group
Event director Questex Hospitality + Travel Group
Event director-Asia Questex Hospitality + Travel Group
Conference manager-Brasil Questex Hospitality + Travel Group
Business development manager Questex Hospitality + Travel Group