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Press Release

07 Mar 2013

Final Day Summary - IHIF 2013

BERLIN, Germany: The final day of the 16th International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) opened to news that the international stock markets are 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.

Hirst’s wakeup call and Grand Prize Draw was followed by a session titled “Innovate or be Damned” moderated by Anita Mendiratta, Founder & Managing Director, CACHET Consulting who introduced David Rowan, Editor, Wired UK.  Rowan began by referencing a recent visit to California where there is “healthy disregard for the impossible” and “a whole new way of thinking which is disruptive and re-inventing the rules”.  He said “the internet accelerates the speed at which they (the start-ups and entrepreneurs), threaten the incumbents. Rowan noted how tablets are becoming a commodity item. They are currently provided to school children in Indian for $20 as the Indian government are subsidising them for use within the education system. Rowan said that “ingenuity and innovation can solve problems” and that “opportunities truly are global now”, another reoccurring theme from this year’s conference.
Turning to machinery, Rowan said that current patterns are “changing how we interact with machines” and we can expect that M2M communication (Machine to Machine) will be the next big thing. Rowan firmly believes that “mobile internet is the single biggest opportunity in our lifetime”. He gave the examples of Snooze Box who provide portable hotels and questioned what the rules for hospitality are. He said they are changing and gave another example of room service and asked why these can’t be combined with local neighbourhood restaurants. He urged hotels to create innovative technology ideas that build customer loyalty with a brand. Rowan said when he was last at IHIF two years ago he was berating hotels for charging for basic internet access. Now he believes hotels should be providing super fast broadband connectivity. He likened it to giving complimentary cold water free of charge but then charging for hot water. He said “hotels need to give more power to the guests and let them interact with their systems”.

Mendiratta then welcomed Nigel Huddleston, Industry Head for Travel, Google and Cyril Ranque, Senior VP, Global Market Management, Expedia Lodging Partner Services Group to join the conversation with Rowan.
Mendiratta opened the Q&A with a quote from Frits van Paasschen, President & CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc taken from from the CEOs Perspective panel held earlier on the conference “there is as much risk, if not more, in inaction than action” and asked the panel how they make sense of technology and innovation in a way that makes sense for our industry? Huddleston replied that the way to achieve this was through “experimenting and testing”. Ranque agreed and said “innovation needs to be done incrementally through lots of testing. You get there progressively otherwise you lose customers. Constant testing and constant development is key”.

Mendiratta said there was tangible and intangible innovation and asked how can we think differently about innovation in our industry without purchasing large amounts of expensive hardware? Rowan responded by saying “The Cloud means anyone can start a business. You can rent space on the Cloud through Amazon”.  Ranque was sympathetic to hoteliers and said that “the investment question is a big one especially for hotel companies. Investment in technology is only a small part of the overall decisions they have to make on an annual basis as there are so many other important decisions to make when running a hotel. We as OTA’s don’t have a choice, we have to invest”. Huddleston voiced concern that “I have heard lots of conversations about assets and pipeline over the last few days but surprisingly few conversations about distribution and technology”. He reference Hotels.com who have done a very effective job with great results and all totally online whilst managing to add huge value.

Mendiratta then asked the panel “what is innovation?” Ranque replied that “it’s not being scared of change because people’s demands are changing very quickly”. He warned “don’t think what you did last week or last year will be what you are doing next week”. Huddleston said that “innovation is offering something the consumer’s value as key”.

Rowan said it was vital for “hotel company CEO’s need to go through the entire customer experience and take out any friction”. Huddleston said that “innovation is everyone’s responsibility. A company with a Director of Innovation have probably got it wrong. The whole team need to be involved in innovation”.

Mendiratta then asked the panel what they felt was the single most important area of innovation and where do we need to focus? Huddleston was clear that this was the value chain and it’s vital to understand where value is added and extracted. He said “consumer interaction is where many hospitality companies still have a lot to learn”. He firmly stated “there is no reason today not to have a mobile optimised site”. Ranque agreed with the importance of a mobile site for hotel companies but said that it was about mobilising the end to end experience from research to booking, then during the stay and gathering feedback afterwards. Huddleston added that hotel loyalty programmes need to be online as well.
Mendiratta concluded by asking the panel what still surprises them. Huddleston said “there is still a culture of negativity around people who stick their necks out. We need to give permission to encourage lots of trial and error to create truly innovative companies”. Ranque said “you can believe you have the greatest idea but until you have tested it and it is demanded by consumers, it is worth nothing”. Rowan concluded by saying “I am amazed how quickly the peer to peer economy has become a viable alternative to the mainstream economy. Watch your backs! Emotional connection is established through peer to peer economy, (friend recommendations and reviews) and these are far more powerful than corporate mission statements on hotel websites.

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, Chairman, Bench Events and Board Director, STR Global. Geller welcomed Mangalji to the stage and described Westmont as the largest private owner and operator of hotels in the world. Geller then read out a list of words he would use to describe Mangalji: a negotiator, energy, brilliance, word is his bond, a negotiator, perceptive, good judge of character, a negotiator, visionary, bold, courageous, caring, family man and a negotiator! Delegates and Mangalji were then treated to a video with congratulatory messages from Richard Solomons, Sam Plimton, Chris Nassetta, Dan Neidich and Arne Sorenson who have all worked with Mangalji over the course of his career.

Geller asked Mangalji how he felt receiving the award; “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”. Mangalji took the opportunity to thank his family who are a constant support and said that the most important ingredient to Westmont’s success is working as a team. Geller asked Mangalji what is next for Westmont. Mangalji referenced how they originally diversified out of North America into Europe and that they feel that this really is a never ending business that is full of opportunities. Their company ethos is to “get up every morning thinking they are going to learn something new today”. Mangalji said that his father is “his guiding light” and he thanked him for giving him a long rope when he first started. Geller asked whether Mangalji was optimistic about the future given the current volatilities around the world. Mangalji echoed a theme that has been bought up several times over the course of the conference that difficulties and downturn provide opportunities and with solid teams on the ground, these challenging times can be well managed. He observed that downturns are generally followed by good times. Mangalji struggled to answer Geller’s final question on which hotel group “Arne’s, Richard’s or Chris’” he would buy if he could and concluded with his thanks to his family, colleagues and friends.

The final day 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 3-5th March 2014. Keep the Date and we hope you can join us for another spectacular event that promises to deliver productive networking, thought-provoking sessions and an environment where deals get done!

Editors notes:

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 and the Middle East. Bench Events’ Chairman, Jonathan Worsley, works in association with the highly successful International Hotel Investment Forum which is now in its sixteenth year (www.berlinconference.com). In 2005, he was responsible for launching the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai (www.arabianconference.com); and in 2008 launched the Russia & CIS Hotel Investment Conference (www.russia-cisconference.com).  In 2011 Bench Events added two events to its portfolio, co-hosting the Central Asia and Turkey Hotel Investment Conference  (www.cathic.com) and launching the Hotel Investment Conference Africa which in 2012 was held in Nairobi, Kenya (www.africa-conference.com ). www.benchevents.com.

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Emily Newman
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