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People and planet most important, says Accor CEO

Accor CEO & chairman Sébastien Bazin said people and planet should be placed at the heart of every decision for the future of the hotel industry.

In the live interview - The Big Conversation – Experience, Innovation, Profit – at The International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) on Thursday 5 May, the hotel leader, responsible for 54 global hotel brands, said ESG ‘won’ over brand standards when questioned which factor was more important.

He said: “A brand should have strong DNA but accept that the same brand may have a different design and way of operating in different regions, so ESG wins. What people want to know is what are you doing for children and the planet? Go for planet-friendly decisions.”

Bazin, whose frank discussion with Alexi Khajavi, Group President, Questex Hospitality & Travel, covered loyalty schemes, changing customer needs and business goals for the future, also said people were at the heart of a hotel’s success.

“50% of what makes lifestyle successful are the teams, the people,” he said, before concluding with advice to hoteliers of the future to put ‘part of your stomach’ into the business.

“It will be successful if it is who you are. We [hotel companies] must leave discretion to people running hotels.”

Bazin’s thoughts on people and planet – two of the key themes of IHIF 2022, were echoed through many sessions running on day two of the conference, which also saw former Best Western CEO David Kong pick up his IHIF Lifetime Achievement Award and Theo Bortoluzzi, Business Development Manager, Kerten Hospitality awarded the IHIF Young Leader Award 2022.

Day two’s programme began with Finnbar Cornwall of Google exploring key trends informing current traveller behaviours.

His findings revealed a return in travel demand with a rising interest in sustainable travel. In the last year, there has been a 4,500% increase in searches asking ‘what can I do about climate change’ with more than half of those seeking information on those making the changes.

With consumers struggling to make sustainable travel choices, Cornwall suggested the industry communicate its actions around sustainability while being prepared to ‘adapt and evolve’ the messaging.

Flexibility and innovation were buzzwords heard in sessions throughout the rest of the day.

In the Future Focus Panel: Hybrid Concepts and Hospitality Innovation Michael Widmann of PKF hospitality group, urged hoteliers to ‘look beyond your circle of trust for inspiration’ and suggested they ‘steal ideas and adapt them’.

“We need to go through the world and pick up the best ideas. Stealing and adapting them to your needs is not a crime.”

Panellist Sharan Pasricha of Ennismore said innovation was led by guests, particularly around check-in times, and the business had become more flexible as a result.

“In the last 24 months we have had to reassess and look at the business in multiple ways. We became more flexible because that’s what customers wanted. You can now check into the Hoxton at midnight and check out at 11:59pm the next day.”

Inflexibility was identified as a barrier to retention and recruitment in The People Issue: Addressing the Talent Shortage. Panellists echoed the thoughts expressed in sessions throughout the conference – the way the industry approaches recruitment needs to be braver and not rely on prescriptive job descriptions, but instead tailor the role to the person.

The conference concluded with a keynote from Nick Jones, CEO and Founder, Soho House Group. In his opening Jones likened his brand to a warm bread roll: “Not too cold, not too hot, but we make people feel good but the most important thing is that we are relevant.”

Focusing on one of the key themes of the conference, Jones reinforced the importance of focusing on your people – your employees and your guests.

“People want flexibility and a hybrid version of the life they had before the pandemic. We have to offer that. There is no cookie cutter, every time we open a house we start again with a blank sheet of paper, we look at how we can make things better for the customer. It’s the most important thing to get right! This is why hospitality has to innovate, to continue to improve and grow.”

Alexi Khajavi, Group President, Questex Travel and Hospitality, said: “IHIF 2022 was a phenomenal success for not only Questex but more importantly, for the hospitality sector. It proved that the sector is not only resilient but fundamentally advancing much faster and stronger than anyone anticipated.

"The breadth and quality of our audience this year surpassed the record set in 2019 and we couldn’t be more pleased for our sponsors, supporters and partners. We delivered an event that is important for hospitality but also the wider event industry that reinforces that act of bringing people together and creating community.”


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