The hits keep coming

I spoke to Anders Nissen with clockwork regularity over the years. Once a quarter, to ask him how things were going with the company, where he saw the opportunities, what was intriguing him about the sector. In between times I would pick his brain on his favourite topics: the brands and where it made sense to have them, active ownership and the evolution of the lease model.

‘The thing is, Katherine…’ he would begin and then I would scribble down his thoughts in whichever random location I found myself, ‘phone pressed against my ear. For several years it was a park bench on Bath golf course. He would be in the office, sometimes on a sunny balcony while supposedly on holiday. There was always time for that which we in hotels all love; talking about hotels. 

He was always positive. He saw opportunity in Brexit where the rest of us were packing our bags and cracking out the phrase books. The weaker Sterling would bring more tourists in, which is what London needed with so much extra capacity. And it did. 

The pandemic, he said, would mean that local brands would mean more to consumers and the global brands would have to compete for the attention of the guest, a comment made a year ago which we are now starting to see come into play. He hoped it would lead to change, opening the door for independent hotels, bringing a modernisation of management contracts and a new version of franchises and changes to lease agreements.

He could be relied on to make contentious comments about the brands when on stage and made for a great quotable panellist. He wanted to see the flags put their money where their mouths were, share some of the risk and generally participate in the business of hotels.

On the other side he wanted owners to work harder, to be more involved with their hotels and build those relationships with all the stakeholders, including the brands, to create better, more profitable properties. Pandox wasn’t afraid to take back hotels and run them itself, leading by example. 

Anders expected Pandox to grow as a result of the pandemic, rising as it always did, able to spot opportunity. Every quarter I asked if this was Spain and every quarter he said Spain was great, lovely, love to be there, but was too expensive. 

Every conversation always ended with an invitation to whatever event Pandox had coming up next. ‘You have to come, come and meet…’. Anders loved to bring people together. Half the people I know I met because of Anders, or at a Pandox event. Events sewn together with humour, dogs, chairman dressed as Chinese emperors. 

The hotel sector has lost a lot this pandemic and, once the rug of government support is pulled out later this year, there will be shifts which will change how it looks for years to come. But it is the loss of people like Anders, Diane Scott and Arne Sorenson where the real pain is felt. 

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