The 17th session of the Global Lodging Forum was concluded by a strategic round table, during which international hotel group leaders clearly demonstrated their will to be on the offensive to regain control in areas where other actors have begun to dictate their own laws as well. The priorities are clearly for a new organization of the teams; tighter control over the distribution; a global presence without engaging capital; and to challenge brand marketing. "On the European market, which still accounts for 70% of the operating margin, we set up an organization centered around brands with real leaders, which I expect to completely redefine their respective business models," said Yann Caillere, Chief Operating Officer of Accor.
"This is to combat the uncontrollable rise in operating costs by finding new resources to improve profit margins. For a listed company, below 15% of EBITDA, we are in danger! ‘We have so far focused on a geographical organization, with a redistribution based on development priorities, but I am sure that we will return soon enough to a structure where the brand will be the priority," says Didier Boidin, IHG Vice-President of Operations for France, Benelux and Southern Europe. "It is difficult to maintain an outlook that is also focused on operational strategies when the range of brands is evolving from 3 to 5 stars."
The implementation order for battle is also a subject as vital as development. "By bringing Louvre Hotels, an organization that is highly concentrated in France and a little on Europe, together with the highly decentralized structure of Golden Tulip, we have resisted the temptation for centralization, to keep the challenger spirit of a start-up that characterizes us," explains Pierre-Frederic Roulot, President of Louvre Hotels Group.
"We opted for a network structure with a high degree of autonomy focusing on priority development areas, operating as multiple hubs, close to the consumer as well as investors. We had grown seven times the size of our pipeline in a few years."
For Jean-Gabriel Peres, President of Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, the challenge is in human resources: "We used to supplement field teams to support the growth of our supply. Today, it is also vital to recruit high caliber professionals to counter the expertise of OTAs for online distribution. We must be at the same level of competency in headquarter functions." The battle with the other hotel groups is moving into new development land, ceasing to take a role that reflects on risk.
"It is probably more important to be the first in Ghana and enjoy its position as a pioneer than to arrive in nth position in a busy, even solid, market. Our challenge is to choose the right destination before the others."
CEO of Alain Ducasse Enterprises, Laurent Plantier is an ardent supporter of the asset light strategy: "For a company that does not have substantial capital like ours, but a high reputation, relying on separate ownership of hotel operators who want to outsource catering, is a tremendous advantage to expand our business throughout the world. We would not be here without the generalization of the asset light strategy."
New CEO of Steigenberger Hotels & Resorts, Puneet Chhatwal, remembers his years at the head of Rezidor Hotel Group Development. He keeps a great pragmatism to negotiate development contracts with the ambition to exceed the natural boundaries of Germany and Austria. "To be stronger, we need a presence in major European cities. We just opened a beautiful showcase for Steigenberger on Avenue Louise, the Champs-Elysees of Brussels, and 2013 will be a landmark year for the Steigenberger brand in international markets. Today we have to analyse the conditions necessary for a visible and profitable presence in emerging markets."
For its 17th session and the second session in a row at the Hotel Bristol in Paris, the Global Lodging Forum, held on the 25th and 26th of February by the MKG Group has attracted a record number of participants and speakers.
For two full days, over 600 participants gathered in the salons of the Faubourg Saint-Honore to benefit from three detailed analyses of market trends; 3 keynote addresses from international personalities from the world of tourism, economy and the luxury industry; 8 round tables and 1 master class on the major themes of the hospitality industry: innovation, trade, development, distribution, human resources, customer relations and the luxury business. Fifty panel members from the hospitality world from 15 different nationalities from 38 hotel companies, financial institutions, and schools delivered, without jargon, their vision of the market and accepted a confrontation of perspectives and solutions in the context of crisis that has permanently settled in Europe.Behind the accumulation of figures, which make the Global Lodging Forum one of the most important industry meetings in Europe, the alternation of analysis sessions, debates and coffee-breaks to allow for the creation of a friendly climate of exchange, reflection and unique business in France.
Whether through keynote speeches by Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General, Nicolas Baverez, historian and economic expert, Thierry Fritsch, President of Chaumet jewelers or Maud Fontenoy, UNESCO ambassador for oceans, the many participants of the Global Lodging Forum benefited from a unique perspective and being in direct contact with industry items as diverse as international tourist flows, economic policy, the requirements of the luxury sector, or the protection of the environment.
"On many issues affecting the hospitality industry, whether concept innovation, development needs or distribution control, France and Europe are already advanced and provide solutions or experiences that deserve to be highlighted. The growing success and the internationalization of the Global Lodging Forum show that we are on the right track," says Georges Panayotis, MKG Group President. "Paris is a crossroads of reflection for professionals. Ideas that were developped and expressed through the sessions of the Forum can be found in the strategies of many forerunning hotel groups."
Photo caption (from left to right): Yann Caillere, Groupe Accor, Jean-Francois Ferret, Relais & Chateaux; Didier Boidin, InterContinental Hotels Group ; Pierre-Frederic Roulot, Louvre Hotels Group; Genie Godula, Journalist France 24; Georges Panayotis, MKG Group; Puneet Chhatwal, Steigenberger Hotels & Resorts; Jean-Gabriel Peres, Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, and Laurent Plantier, Alain Ducasse Entreprises.