IHIF 2013 draws almost 2,000 delegates

The conference was opened by Kerry Gumas, Chief Executive Officer of Questex Media Group LLC, and Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Board Directorfor STR Global. Both welcomed and thanked the 67 sponsors of IHIF Berlin, in addition to the 191 speakers are programmed to present during the three-day event.

The programme kicked off with a presentation from Dr Thierry Malleret, Managing Partner of The Monthly Barometer, about the global economic outlook, which likened the pace of global change to “driving a car at 100 kilometre per hour into fog without being able to find the brakes”. He was followed by Malleret was David Fenton, Senior Economist, RBS who delivered an insightful economic overview with insight into the effects on the hotel sector, touching on the social consequences of the crisis and elaborating on fiscal consolidation, which he believes to be the ‘elephant in the room’ for both the UK and the US. However, he noted the resilience of the hotel sector throughout this period of uncertainty, drawing attention to the number of 2012 hotel openings. He advised caution regarding mergers and acquisitions, admitting he was unsure whether they were the best strategy for adding value and instead urged companies to focus on customer centric strategies to achieve this.

A Leonardo Hotels press conference was held in the afternoon to discuss the group’s recent acquisition of the Queens Moat House portfolio (Germany). The formal sessions for the opening day concluded with the presentation of the 2013 Young Leader Award to Carmen Hui, presented by Andrea Belfanti, Deputy Executive Director of the award’s sponsor ISHC.

Day two saw Gumas reflecting on the long standing relationship with Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), the world’s first hotel school, before thanking the students and presenting the establishment’s Director Michel Rochat with a cheque for $30,000. A session dedicated to Aligned Advocacy was then chaired by David Scowsill, President & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), alongside Martin Craigs, Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Airports, Joseph McInerney, President & CEO of the American Hotels and Lodging Association (AH&LA), and Thomas Windmuller, Corporate Secretary for the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The session focused on interconnectivity throughout the travel and tourism sector and touched on obstacles to industry growth such as restrictive visa regimes and punitive taxation levels.

The CEOs’ perspective on the global challenges facing the hotel industry was moderated by Nick van Marken, Global Head – Advisory – Travel for Hospitality & Leisure Industry Group Deloitte LLP. He was joined by Chris Nassetta, President & CEO of Hilton Worldwide, Richard Solomons, Chief Executive Officer at IHG, Arne Sorenson, President & CEO of Marriott International, and Frits van Paasschen, President & CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Topics covered included getting government attention, growth within Asia, technology and connectivity, and positive forecasts for the future of the hotel industry.

The day also saw Marriott International launch its Moxy Hotels brand, the group’s first entry into the 3-star hospitality segment in Europe and set to debut in Italy in 2014. Meanwhile, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced it had signed a franchise multiple development agreement (MDA) with Regional Hotel Chain to develop 15 new hotels in Russia by 2019, Hilton Worldwide announced plans to open 10 new hotels in Central Europe and Yoo Hotels launched two design-led hotel brands for smarter travellers; yoo and yoo Collection.

The final day of the conference opened to news that the international stock markets were returning to levels not seen since before the global financial crisis. Rallied by this information, delegates arrived for the IHIF Grand Prize Draw hosted by Michael Hirst OBE, Consultant, CBRE Hotels.

The draw was followed by a session titled “Innovate or be Damned” moderated by Anita Mendiratta, Founder & Managing Director of CACHET Consulting, who introduced David Rowan, Editor of Wired UK, who touched upon M2M (Machine to Machine) communication, the changing rules of hospitality and innovative technology ideas that build customer loyalty with a hotel brand. Nigel Huddleston, Industry Head for Travel at Google and Cyril Ranque, Senior VP, Global Market Management, Expedia Lodging Partner Services Group then joined the conversation with Rowan, discussing cloud technology, investment and consumer interaction.

The IHIF Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Majid Mangalji, President of Westmont Hospitality Group by Laurence Geller CBE, Founder and Former Chairman & CEO Strategic Hotels & Resorts, Chairman Churchill Centre and Jonathan Worsley. Following a video in which colleagues paid tribute to his achievements, Mangalji said: “I feel deeply honoured and when I was watching the video with those accolades, I wondered who they were talking about! I feel truly humbled”.

The final Gala Lunch and Keynote Speech concluded the plenary sessions for IHIF Berlin 2013. Dr Jacques Attali, CEO of A&A and President of PlaNet Finance delivered the Keynote Speech to the gathered delegates. Delegates, sponsors and the staff at The InterContinental Hotel, Berlin were then thanked by Kerry Gumas, Chief Executive Officer, Questex Media Group LLC for their continuous support.

The IHIF 2014 will take place from the 3-5 March 2014.