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Press Release

08 Mar 2012

Day three of the IHIF – Awards and Fresh Perspective


Press Release: 8th March 2012


For Immediate Release


Day three of the IHIF – Awards and Fresh Perspective

Berlin, Germany- The third and final day of the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) started with the presentation of the IHIF Young Leader Award by Sean Hennessey, Chief Executive Officer, Lodging Advisors LLC to Alexandra Zubko, Vice President, Head of Global Strategy, IHG. Zobko’s who was attending the IHIF for the first time was delighted to accept the award and said that through attending the IHIF she had “enjoyed meeting a number of talented people from across the industry”. Michael Hirst, Consultant to CBRE Hotels who was overseeing proceedings for the final day said the award was a “well deserved recognition of the phenomenal contribution you are making to the industry”.

The panel session, “New Thinking from those who have Broken the Mould – Redefining the Art of Hotel Keeping” followed and was moderated by Nick van Marken, Global Head – Advisory, Travel, Hospitality & Leisure, Deloitte LLP and he was joined by André Balazs President & CEO, André Balazs Properties, Tyler Brûlé, Editor in Chief, Monocle and Founder and Chairman of Winkreative and John Hitchcox, Chairman, yoo. Balazs commented that developing a hotel was similar to a film production and clarified that the industry was one of hospitality not lodging and therefore he constantly strived to develop something with a strong personality. Brûlé pointed out that we must be mindful that the US and UK concept of service doesn’t automatically translate throughout the Asia markets and called for all those involved in shaping the industry to travel as much as possible throughout the emerging markets to better understand the audience and their expectations. Van Marken suggested that the “divorce between owner and operator has had a negative impact on the consumers experience and whilst it was positive for shareholders, consumers have suffered”. The panellists agreed and Brûlé said that “it’s all about humanity when you walk into the lobby of a hotel”. He has a concern that there aren’t enough good quality and experienced GM’s to run all the existing hotels let alone those in the developments pipelines across the world. Balazs made it clear that consumers expected the product offering to be highly differentiated and that differentiating your hotel on the basis that it has a comfortable bed is “frankly pathetic”. Hotels need to offer a complete package to guests. With reference to social media Brûlé cautioned that whilst there is a lot of chat he believes that real, face-to-face human relationships still endure. The session concluded with a plea to place benchmarking as a priority and this should be done by visiting hotels, not reading through pages of and statistics research.

Peter O’Connor, Professor Essec Business School, Editor-at-large Hotel Analyst Distribution & Technology moderated “New Distribution Parties – How Does the Industry React?” with Nigel Huddleston, Industry Head – Travel, Google UK, Cyril Ranque, Senior Vice President, Global Lodging Expedia, Andrew Rubinacci, Vice President, Distribution & Intermediary Sales, IHG and Ait Voncke, Managing Director, Groupon Travel France. O’Connor started by asking the panellists what role OTA’s play and how do they add value? Rubinacci replied by stating that “We don’t see the value of their [Groupon’s] model as it is highly discounted and research has shown it has no repeat business. Should things change, then I could see us possibly doing it.” Voncke challenged this by stating that Groupon was an “enormous communications channel - we reach 12 million people in France. It’s an acquisitions channel of people you would never reach. We sell experiences, not just rooms. We also have end-to-end lifecycle management of our customers, which is valuable.” When questioned on the recent press reports of Google’s use of personal data, Huddleston assured the audience that the information was used to target messaging more efficiently and said that Google was not “sleight of hand and very open” regarding the use of this personal information. He cited that the average customer views 23 sites before making a travel booking. Google feel this it too many and want to use the personal data to help reduce this amount. The panel all agreed that OTA’s are good at adopting new technologies and Rubinacci described IHG’s investment in mobile technologies and the return they have seen from £3 million to £148 million of mobile revenue in the last 2 years. Rubinacci said that IHG don’t see that “discounting rooms is any way to increase brand value or profitability”. Voncke argued that Groupon allows concentrated and focused marketing based on a specific geographical region and/or segment of society.  Huddleston observed that the priority for operators is to drive traffic to their brand .com sites and this would remain the case. All the panellists agreed that the booking window has been shrinking for some time and this was due to technological advances.  When asked whether Expedia should act as judge over hotels attractiveness, Ranque replied no as their objective was to provide the customer with as much objective information as possible on the hotel and through guest reviews to allow guests to make their own decisions. Huddleston concurred that reviews were important and heavily influenced purchasing decisions as well as being used in Google’s rankings.

O’Connor concluded the session by saying that given the complex landscape we are operating in and new systems emerging every day that present new challenges, what is the one thing we should be focusing on? Huddleston said that investing in a mobile platform is key. These provide hoteliers with a good source of information, help to build the brand and most importantly generate revenue. Ranque called for improved quality of service as the marketplace becomes more transparent. Customers have multiple channels to communicate negative comments which can be seen by many potential guests. Comments, both positive and negative should be captured and responded to. Improved, consistent high quality will reduce the amount of negative comments in the first place.


Editors notes:

Hosts of the IHIF Questex Hospitality + Travel

In Association with Bench Events


About Questex Hospitality + Travel

Questex Hospitality + Travel drives demand for travel and hospitality organizations as the largest multimedia organization in the world dedicated to these related industries. It includes a dynamic collection of strategic investment and deal-making forums as well as tactical services such as powerful lead generation tools, interactive online business solutions, world-class events and industry-leading publications to help hospitality and travel organizations drive revenue, productivity and value creation. Questex Hospitality + Travel operates throughout the United States and Americas regions, EMEA and Asia/Pacific through a variety of market-leading properties and services including International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) Berlin, North America Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference, International Hotel Investment Forum Asia Pacific


About Bench Events

Bench Events has a long track record of delivering, with its partners, the premier hotel investment events in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Bench Events’ Chairman, Jonathan Worsley, is one of the organisers and founders of the highly successful International Hotel Investment Forum now in its fifteenth year ( In 2005, he was responsible for launching the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai ( and in 2008 launched the Russia & CIS Hotel Investment Conference ( In 2011 Bench Events added two events to the portfolio, co-hosting the Central Asia and Turkey Hotel Investment Conference ( and launching Hotel Investment Conference Africa, in Morocco (


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