Article Summary:

The opening day of the Hotel Investment Conference Europe in London focused much on the issues of sustainability, from an environmental footprint and financial standpoint.

Primary Category: Conference Coverage

Secondary Categories: Development, Europe, Financing, News, Sustainability

LONDON—Hoteliers attending Day One of the Hotel Investment in Europe Conference, better known as Hot.E, time after time, panel after panel, mentioned the “S” word: sustainability.

The annual gathering of hoteliers in London did come just a few days after global protests, largely led by younger generations calling for governments to properly address climate change and related geopolitical problems.

Those gathered in the Hilton Bankside hotel were not so naïve to suggest that change would come to the hotel industry without a profit and savings angle to it, but the takeaway was that sustainability is what both guests and hoteliers desire, and is necessary throughout the footprint of hotel development and operations.

Speaking on a keynote panel titled “The European leaders’ outlook,” Cody Bradshaw, managing director and head of international hotels at Starwood Capital Group, said he saw change coming.

“As contracts and (hotel management agreements) come up, (sustainability) is where hotels will differentiate themselves, because up to now they did so only with their brands. It will be hugely exciting over the next 10 years, and this will be a challenge to the big hotel brands. … Budget luxury is leading the charge,” he said.

Sustainability also had several mentions during a panel titled “A focus on debt.”

Yes, bankers also have listened to global activists led by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swede who has captured the world’s attention.

The bankers were, of course, talking about the sustainability of capital structures, but an underlying message seemed to be that there is no point in hotels cutting down on waste if the debt is not sensibly stacked and hoteliers are sent into the world of competition with unfeasible boxes of hotel rooms.

At that panel, Michael Young, relationship director for hotels and leisure at bank Santander, said, “Yes, we are all working in a competitive environment, but we do not want to chase the next transaction only to be not sustainable.”

The goal is to make sustainability permanent in all aspects of a hotel’s cycle and exit, and with guests, employees and now the C Suite all pointing in the same direction, there is every reason a successful outcome is possible, especially as the hotel industry has such an obvious role to play.

Breaking News of the Day
Sustainability is not always possible.

The first day of the conference started with the backdrop of the liquidation of the world’s oldest travel group, Thomas Cook, which was unable to continue trading despite the offer of £900 million ($1.1 billion) from its majority shareholder, China’s Fosun Group.

Creditors demanded Thomas Cook, founded in 1841, come up with £200 million ($250 million) of its own cash, and that was where the stumbling block lay.

The demise of the group will have devastating effects at least in the short term on many hotels in markets such as Turkey and Spain, although the company has shifted emphasis from Spain due to that country’s accommodation stock being more expensive lately.

Tweet of the Day

Quotes of the Day
“Sustainability is becoming a core driver, but I do not see that many people putting their hands up and saying, ‘yup, I am going to do that.”—Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future, speaking about what the industry might see in the next five to 10 years and perhaps refuting the conference’s ebullience so far around issues of sustainability.

“There’s two things you need to know about the Benelux countries—Brussels wants tourists, and Amsterdam doesn’t.”—Robin Rossmann, managing director of STR, diligently summing up two European capitals.

1 Comment

  • Joan Eisenstodt September 24, 2019 3:44 PM Reply

    I'm trying to sort this out. On the day of the worldwide climate strike when students and adults all over the world demonstrated against inaction on climate change, I posted questions in social media to ask where the hospitality industry - hotels, destination marketing orgs, meetings-related groups under the umbrella of Meetings Mean Business or even under US Travel - were - if they'd organized to join the strikes. I was told by many, more involved in sustainability than I, that there were to the best of their knowledge, no organized actions.
    States in the US are outlawing small plastic bottles of in-room amenities. It seems the equivalent of meetings that do not produce handouts on paper (regardless of the need for learners) -- and truly a cost-saving measure for groups v. an attempt at sustainability. Too the cost savings seems to be the goal for hotels that have made the decision to eliminate plastic bottles or to offer points or dollars to guests to not have their rooms cleaned -- it's all bottom line v. environment driven. So then when cities are under water or there is not water (again) to serve to guests or do laundry; if food can't be grown like it cannot not in many places - then what? Will 'bottom line' become a differently viewed priority? Perhaps all those who spoke care not for the next generation of guests or workers or even facilities. How sad that we who focus on tourism can't see the declining forests.

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