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The AHC 2021 - Day 1

Day one kicked off with an opening keynote ‘Charting the Path to Recovery - Macro View of the UK Economy’ from Vicky Pryce, Chief Economic Adviser for the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), who examined the trajectory of the UK economy and assessed the likelihood of a V-shaped recovery.
Thomas Emanuel, Director of STR, followed with his talk ‘Decoding the Revenue Data’ in which he gave over 900 attendees comprehensive industry analysis — including how the UK has consistently outperformed Europe as a whole, and that Q3 UK occupancy had returned to pre-covid levels: however, London and other large cities lag behind due to decreased international travel.
In ‘Profits & Pricing’ Michel Grove, Chief Operating Officer at HotStats, and Joe Stather Director, OPRE, Hotels, CBRE Hotels, asked do hotels still appeal to the investor community? Their discussion drew the conclusion that investor demands actually outstrip supply, pointing towards the growing alternative real estate market.
In the riveting panel discussion, ‘Accelerating Rebirth of UK Travel & Hospitality’ between Stephen Cassidy, Senior Vice President & Managing Director UK, Ireland & Israel, Hilton, Marc Crothall, CEO, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Kate Nicholls, CEO, UK Hospitality and Sean Worker, Managing Director & Principal, T5 Strategies & The Adapters Business Architects & Advisors, information was shared about the upcoming and uncertain six-to-nine-month period to come out of what is being coined ‘economic long covid’. Marc added that for hoteliers now, the real challenge was focussed on staying competitive while consumer expectations are on the rise.
Following lunch and more networking, delegates took their seats to hear from Hubert Viriot, CEO, Yotel, Nicholas Northam, Executive Vice President, Interstate, Chris Dexter, CEO, Kew Green and Camil Yazbeck, Senior Vice President and Head of Development, Accor, who reopened the Vision Stage to dissect the post-covid industry landscape. Addressing the staffing crisis, Viriot stated that staffing was not a new issue, “it’s always been challenging to attract hospitality staff,” however he pointed to the advantages of embracing technology to “streamline processes and transform jobs into multi-tasking roles that are more exciting and dynamic.”
Northam added that for Interstate “We have had 79,000 applications for roles we have advertised. It’s not a labour shortage, it’s a skills shortage. We’ve started apprenticeships to tackle this."
Three hugely inspiring leaders took to the stage - Satya Anand, President EMEA, Marriott International, Dimitris Manikis, President & MD EMEA, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Karin Sheppard, SVP and MD Europe, IHG - for ‘Rebalancing the 3 Ps: People, Planet, Profit’ Hosted by Ufi Ibrahim, CEO, Energy & Environment Alliance, they discussed the characteristics of a ‘good brand’, and how people are increasingly conscious of ESG and travel has become more purposeful. Manikis said “ESG brings a unique opportunity to bring back young people into this sector. The future leaders of our industry — doing the right thing for humanity will bring the right people back.”
Before being whisked away for hotel tours and the AHC after-party, the first day was concluded on the Vision Stage by a series of short stories from the past 18 months — including sessions from Mike Baxter, CEO, House of Gods and Ben Martin, Global Director Hospitality Advisory Services, HKS. The stage and the end of day one closed with a short Q&A with Jonathan Langston, Co-founder and Chair of the Advisory Board, The AHC.


The AHC 2021 - Day 2

The second day launched into action on the Vision stage with Clare Anna Gamon, Chief Commercial Officer London, Rock Partners, Lionel Benjamin, Co-founder, AGO Hotels, Adela Cristea, Vice President, Head of Business Development UK & Ireland, Radisson Hotel Group, Sam Barrell, Director Of Real Estate Development, Sonder and Tim Walton, Regional Vice President of Development for Western Europe, Marriott International.
They were brought together in conversation under the title of ‘Development Strategies in a Post-Pandemic World’ there was much talk around the pandemic, and how it has affected the way people pitch to owners. Alexi Khajavi, President, Travel and Hospitality at Questex, set the discussion by posing the view that “the whole rental model of guaranteed rent is no longer sustainable. We are in a new world. The time when an owner would sit back and wait for the rent check to land is gone.”
Tim Walton stated that “it’s an opportunity to be creative around deal structure. We’re actively seeking third-party operators on who we can activate lease tenancy agreements.” Whereas Lionel Benjamin said “To show landlords the commitment we sign up for, we are now paying rent quarterly and in full. Our rent covers you and we take care of the CapEx in your property. Be more adaptable. Demonstrate track record – not only that you can talk the talk. It’s about total alignment – brand, operator, and investor around the table so ultimately the guest benefits.”
Over on the Innovation stage a panel discussion into the experience economy with Deirdre Wells, CEO, Visit Kent, Asli Kutlucan, Chief Development Officer, Cycas Hospitality, Stuart Booth, Director of Sales, UK & Ireland, BCV, A RateGain Company and Jon Colley, Executive VP of Acquisitions & Development, PPHE Hotel Group, discussed accelerated changes in customer demand, meaning that hotels had to change how they looked after the guest experience.
Are the big brands capable of adapting to the next generation of travellers’ needs, or is it down to others in the industry? A particular point of debate centred around what hotels can do to encourage and retain talent.
Back to the Vison stage for ‘Serviced Living — Capturing the New Demand’ hosted by Eloise Hanson, Editor, Boutique Hotel News, who was joined by Robert Godwin, MD, Lamington Group, Andrew Fowler, Co-Founder, Locke Hotels, and Simon Walford, Development Director UK, Staycity Group. They came together to examine the growing demand for later living, co-living and student living accommodation within the serviced living sphere.
Andrew Fowler made the salient point that often within this industry “it is about quality, not square footage. You can’t be all things to all people, but you can try and offer a better-quality offering; serviced living attracts people into the market that haven’t been before. It’s a cultural shift in the way we operate and sell.”
As the conversation moved to ESG, Robert Godwin of Lamington Group made clear his strong feelings “with passion and intent there are ways to deliver truly sustainable buildings” and shared his company’s mission to deliver fully net-zero carbon hotels in their portfolio.
Lamington Group has recently launched Room2 Chiswick, its first net-zero carbon offering which is 89% more energy efficient than other hotels in the UK. It’s 100% electric, has a blue roof that can hold 50,000 litres of rainwater that filters down for use in the hotel and is covered with 200 tonnes of soil to grow a green roof to encourage biodiversity and insulate the building. Occupancy sensors inside the building manage heating lighting and cooling to provide energy efficiency savings.
In ‘Power to the People,’ Chris Mumford, Founder, Cervus Leadership Consulting, David Orr, CEO, Resident Hotels, Thomas Greenall, CEO, Bespoke Hotels and Harry Cragoe, Owner of The Galivant / Costel Hotels joined forces to address the supply of labour that has resulted in awareness amongst hotel managers of the wellbeing of their staff.
Harry Cragoe said his business “is all about creating happiness” and he wants happy employees because it means guests are likely to be happy. At The Gallivant, mini-bonuses of £10 are handed out each time a staff member is name-checked by guests giving end-of-stay feedback. Monthly totals can be as much as £300-£400, said Harry.
Harry Cragoe also spoke of the need for empathy to fully embrace mental health awareness. He said: “There are many people who overtly may seem fine but actually aren’t fine. We encourage staff – especially the guys – to open up about these things. I have had conversations – tricky conversations – of a sort which two or three years ago I would not have expected to have.”
David Orr, CEO, Resident Hotels, added it was important for employers to be thoughtful, to be aware, to provide training in mental health care. He also said it was hard to underestimate the impact of the pandemic on staff, not least because of strain caused by guests frustrated by lockdown restrictions and guidelines.
After lunch, delegates were captivated by a candid interview with the football pundit and hotel operator, Gary Neville. In the interview, conducted by David Bailey, Principle, David J.Bailey Ltd, Neville said that “the traditional mentality of hospitality workers is to be there and to see it through. We have to create better packages and improve work-life balance. The young generation won’t work in the same conditions.”
When posed with the question of how the pandemic affected him and his hospitality business, Neville was very stoic in his response, “Trust and flexibility. Empathy and compassion. People come first. Hospitality staff have been treated poorly for far too long and the pandemic has highlighted that for me."
With The AHC being hosted in Manchester, Neville was proud to say “I want Manchester to thrive. I want more 4 and 5-star hotels, restaurants and bars. I want us to grow a fantastic city and I would like our hotel legacy to be a part of that.”
We believe this has been the best AHC yet, a testament to both the innovation, integrity, and resilience of our industry and all of the people within it that collectively want to strive for excellence and change for good.
Huge thanks to all who attended!