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Global Hoteliers optimistic about 2012

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BY JAMES WILKINSON IN BERLIN, GERMANY

The world’s leading Hoteliers are confident of 2012 being a strong year for the hotel industry despite the financial uncertainty clouding Europe.

Speaking on the industry leaders’ panel at the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin, Germany, the Hoteliers – including Accor’s Chairman and CEO Denis Hennequin, Carlson’s Chairman and CEO Hubert Joly, Choice Hotels’ President and CEO Steve Joyce, IHG’s Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Richard Solomons and Starwood’s President and CEO Frits van Paasschen – were all confident of the year being a strong performer, particularly on the back of a positive fourth quarter to finish off 2011.

“The emerging markets are powering along (and) performance is strong around the world,” van Paasschen said. “As an industry I think we are on the cusp of a golden age.”

Solomons said IHG was also recording strong growth from emerging markets – particularly China – while business travel has also been a key to the company’s success.

“Business travel has come back significantly in the last couple of years,” he said.

While he didn’t go as far as van Paasschen’s golden age forecast, Solomons is still quite positive about the direction the hotel industry is heading in.

“If you look at the tailwinds for the industry, they are very strong,” he said.  “There are opportunities all over the place.

“Even if it gets tougher, if you have the right brand on your hotel, you’ll be fine,” Solomons said.

Financial issues in Europe haven’t dampened Joyce’s view.

“In Europe, things are a little slower, but it’s still positive, while Asia remains strong,” the Choice Hotels CEO said. “Barring something unforeseen, 2012 looks solid.”

Carlson’s Joly is also positive about Europe, a market that continues to grow significantly for Carlson Rezidor, particularly with development.

“If you look back at 2011, it was a very good year,” he said. “It is (still) an environment where there are a lot of opportunities.

“While the world is struggling, it’s so far so good for the hotel industry,” he said.

Joly said business travel would be a key for the company in 2012, and especially so when financial conditions get tougher.

“To get business done, you can’t do it over the phone… you need interaction,” he said.

Accor’s Hennequin added: “I’m cautiously optimistic. Corporate is in a very strong situation (while) Europe is still a very strong proposition for travellers from emerging markets.

He said brand growth in those emerging markets – such as India, China and Brazil – was the key to success.

“Emerging markets are national before they’re international,” he said.

Still on China, Solomons said IHG was still planning on launching a Chinese brand because “that’s where we see the growth”.

This year’s International Hotel Investment Forum attracted 1500 delegates from 60 countries, making it the most international yet according to organisers Questex.

A British Airways Boeing 777

HM flew to Berlin with British Airways. BA flies to Berlin from Sydney via London and the author recommends flying in Club World (Business Class), which features flat-bed seats, hundreds of hours’ entertainment on demand, a great selection of wine and some of the best meals in the sky. For bookings, visit www.ba.com

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