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IHIF: Global CEOs expecting solid 2015

Arne Sorenson Marriott IHIF

By James Wilkinson at IHIF in Berlin, Germany

The CEOs of Accor, Marriott, Best Western, Choice and Jumeirah have told delegates at this year’s International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin, Germany, they are expecting a solid 2015.

Marriott International’s President and CEO, Arne M Sorenson, says he’s expecting 2015 to be a strong performing year for the company, on the back of a solid 2014.

Speaking on the CEOs panel at the 18th International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin, Germany, this week, Sorenson said while 2014 was solid for the company, “2015 will be even better”.

“There’s renewed optimism in places like India and there’s strong RevPAR growth around the world,” he said.

Other members on the panel – Sébastien Bazin Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Accor; Stephen P. Joyce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Choice Hotels International; David Kong, President and Chief Executive Officer, Best Western International; and Gerald Lawless, President and Group Chief Executive Officer, Jumeirah Group – all agreed, with a consensus amongst all participants that 2015 was looking optimistic for the industry globally with lower oil prices and interest rates contributing to this.

IHIF 2015 CEOs panel

When the issue of whether Airbnb was a concern for Marriott, Sorenson said “probably not”.

“Even as it has grown, we are still putting up record occupancy numbers,” he said.

“It’s primarily a leisure play and at a lower value… but it is bringing in new travellers and it’s expanding the pie for all of us.

“They haven’t had an impact so far, but we are watching them,” Sorenson said.

Joyce agreed, saying new offerings like Airbnb were “big with millennials”.

“It is something the hotel business should be looking at as it is very relevant for our customer set,” he said.

When considering China and the 300,000 of the global 1.3 million rooms in the development pipeline coming from there, Bazin believes that the partnership recently agreed with Accor, Huazhu and China Lodging will be the key to their success in the region.

“I don’t believe in competing with the Chinese operators. You need to be there, you need to be visible so the decision is to partner and then you must decide who to partner with,” Bazin said.

On technology, Sorenson said he felt strongly that it is important that people get value from booking directly with them and referenced the recent move to provide free WiFi to all Marriott members when they book directly.

Lawless said if “technology is not helping to personalise the customer experience, it is not working”. He said that converting the 10 million hits on the Jumeirah website last year into as many direct booking guests as possible was one of the company’s priorities.

Kong strongly believes that “people are looking for experience when they travel” and being able to provide this is a significant part of success.

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HM flew to Berlin with British Airways. BA flies to Berlin 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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