The AHC Regional Roundtable - North West
28th March 2019
The first of The AHC Regional Roundtables - Learn | Network | Be Inspired took place earlier this month in what will develop into a series of conversations throughout the provinces to truly understand the opportunities, challenges, trends and concerns for those operating within the UK hotel industry. The event was kindly hosted by Cycas Hospitality in their recently opened property, the first dual-branded hotel in the north of England combining IHG’s Crowne Plaza and Staybridge Suites brands.
The opening presentation from HotStats indicated that energy invested in intensive focus on the P&L and realising small, marginal, accretive gains would lead to wider gains and improvements in profitability; a neat link back to The AHC conference theme for this year; “Unlock Your Potential”.
For the operators gathered around the table, the burning issue was recruitment, training and retention within the sector. One attendee suggested the cost to replace a single member of staff was between £5,000 - £7,000. The reoccurring and circular argument over the perception of the industry amongst potential new recruits, other industries and policymakers was tabled and initiatives like Hotel Future, the training hotel in Central Manchester, cited as solutions, in part, to this issue. Making the operating finances more transparent to members of staff was proving positive as was removing fixed roles amongst employees and encouraging multi-tasking which was promoting a feeling of ownership. The workforce, and arguably society is shifting with a move away from large corporates towards independent businesses in which employees can express themselves, feel included and have more freedom.
The changing role of the GM was discussed at length. Ravi Kathuria, CEO at Talash Hotels Group said; “CEOs must now input and no longer just be behind the scenes.” He writes a monthly newsletter which is sent to all employees (known internally as the “Talashians”) creating a personal connection with his team. Another attendee commented that; “the biggest change to the GM's role in the last 20 years is ownership. Meeting the expectations of all the owning stakeholders (some of which are opposing) drags you away from the operational elements.The balancing act is a pressure.”
The conversation inevitably turned to marketing and the acquisition of guests. Adam Hamadache, CEO at DHM warned of Google’s dive into the OTA space and their quest to “become the ultimate tool for everything”. He said; “time will tell whether Google entering the hotel space is friend or foe”. All the operators agreed they were spending considerable energy, time and money developing their own websites to encourage direct bookings.
Amidst a backdrop from STR forecasting declining RevPAR in Manchester, supply remains robust with 26 new hotels coming online over the next 5 years. Whether this leads to challenges with occupancy and rates remains to be seen but there was agreement that the region had grabbed the Northern Powerhouse initiative with both hands. However, as the North West becomes more of a global destination, international visitors will arrive with high expectations both of the city and its hotels. Stephen Miles, Co-Founder of Hospitality Associates said; “we’re not competing against one another as much as we’re competing against Paris, New York and San Francisco. That is who guests are measuring us against.” Operators must pull together, along with authorities, to create a space that is clean, safe and welcoming to visitors from around the world.
Several of the key talking points from this conversation will feature on the conference programme for The AHC 2019. More information on this and future Regional Roundtables can be found at www.theahc.co.uk
Our sincere thanks to those that attended the inaugural AHC Regional Roundtable:
- Shaun Skidmore, Senior Director - Specialist Markets – CBRE
- Kit Abram, Senior surveyor – Cushman & Wakefield
- Adam Hamadache, CEO – DHM
- Kevin Haygarth, Co-Founder/Director – Hospitality Associates
- Stephen Miles, Co-Founder/Director – Hospitality Associates
- Paul Munro, Reginal Director North West - UK Construction North West – ISG
- Martin Davies, Director - Hotels & Leisure – Lambert Smith Hampton
- Tom Magnuson, CEO – Magnuson Hotels
- Ravi Kathuria, CEO – Talash Hotels Group
- Stephen Hargreaves, CEO – The Cranleigh Boutique
- Adrian Ellis, General Manager – The Lowry
- Kelly Andreasson, Commerical Director – The Lowry
- Peter Heywood, Managing Director - Flatcap Hotels