Is the sector running on empty carbs? 

IHIF is a temple to empty carbs. It doesn’t matter about your high falutin’ intentions about how this year you’re going to run every morning at 5am, then get into your overnight oats washed down with kombucha, by mid-afternoon you’re up three pretzels and thinking about downing your first beer. 

But away from the years this is taking off and back to the sector. Is it too running on an unsustainable diet? It has, since the end of pandemic restrictions, been high to the point of delirium. The feeling, particularly in the luxury segment, is that you can pretty much charge what you like and they will come. 

And this feeling continues to feed those hungry for sustenance after the lean years. Looking ahead, NH Hotels’ Yuan Fang told the conference that the group was “confident that the strong ADR in the luxury universe will be maintained”.

The public mood at the event was punchy. On the sidelines, there were whispers that the first quarter had not been a continuation of the all-you-can-eat rate feast, but a patchy and quavering period. It may be that, finally, the pent-up demand is spent. 

This is good news for those who fancy doing some deals, which was the primary constituency in Berlin. Carine Bonnejean, managing director – hotels,  Christie & Co, told the assembled: “You need a trigger for people to sell” and this would clearly be it. 

For the operators, perky rates have eased the pain of rising costs, which will bite all the harder if there is a correction on the way. The good news is that the sector has learned much in the past few years and it now has levers to pull.

 Cheval Collection’s Daniel Johansson reminded attendees that luxury need not mean team-heavy operations. For the company’s guests, luxury meant “space and flexibility” and the beauty of serviced apartments meant that they came with a side of limber operations. 

Technology had made its way out of the far corners of the conference and delegates were demanding more. Global Asset Solutions’ Alex Sogno said: “We don’t have a lot of say in what technology we are given by the operator – AI should be available for when you call room service, it should be available in different languages. It’s frustrating. The OTAs do it – 20 years ago the hotels gave away the keys to OTAs and they’re doing it again.

“Amazon, Google, they know you really well, because they collect your data. Are we collecting enough data to serve the customer better? There is an opportunity for operators to use this, but they outsource it. Those things need to improve.”

Alliants’ Tristan Gadsby reminded operators of the importance of getting the building blocks right. He said: “We’ve been running AI for the past five years, but the most influential technology in the sector is the mobile phone. Messaging is a tool which people use every day and hotel brands need to recognise that.”

He added that technology was not just for the guest. He said: “The workforce in hospitality has changed and the tools we give them must be consumer-grade technology. We have to start enabling people who work in hotels.”

And once enabled, said Mews’ Richard Valtr, team members needed to be treated as assets, alongside the property itself, and the guests, when assessing a hotel business. He warned that the sector needed to look at all a hotel’s spaces to maximise its revenue. 

Valtr said: “Revpar is my most hated word, it’s what makes this industry a cottage industry, when we should be the most successful part of real estate. The rooms are not the whole property. More and more hotels are getting into models such as extended stay – we need to get to 100% usage of spaces.

“It’s important to know what the opportunity cost is of not having double occupancy. If you decide to forgo that, that’s fine, but you need to think about it from a maximalist point of view.”

There is a feast still out there to be had and one which won’t lead to regret and unsightly bloating. 

Scroll to Top