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13th Nov 2019

Unlock the Potential: The Future of the Hotel Sector

Investing in the staff you have, giving opportunities to the young and inexperienced, and life after Brexit, were all on the agenda at this year’s The Annual Hotel Conference (The AHC) held in Deansgate, Manchester.

With a theme of ‘Unlock the Potential’, the high-profile industry event, now in its 16th year, attracted over 900 delegates including hoteliers, owners, operators and managers who were joined by developers, architects, consultants, marketeers, investors, bankers, advisors and government agencies.

Over two days, the conference delivered practical and educational knowledge and advice, while addressing the key issues of the day.

Investment in the young

The morning session focused on giving opportunities to young, perhaps inexperienced, people as the basis for growing a strong, stable workforce.

The opening keynote was delivered by Dr Neslyn Watson-Druee who drew on her own experiences as a high-performance coach to explain how opportunities offered to young people can allow them to unlock their own potential which then greatly enhances your business.

This was presented alongside an economic picture described by Simon French, chief economist at Panmure Gordon & Co. He explained that although continued uncertainty exists for investors and hoteliers, the UK market remains relatively buoyant.

Labour force

The biggest challenge faced by the industry is - and will continue to be – a labour shortage. According to the day’s speakers this is only likely to worsen after Brexit and many of the presenters talked about their post-Brexit preparations. Development of staff and staff retention featured heavily. And there was a focus on creating talent in-house which can be shaped to reflect your business’s core values. It was asserted that this would offer more benefits to a business in the long-term rather than buying talent in.

A focus on talent

During a round table discussion, which included the likes of Stephen Cassidy, senior VP and MD from UK and Ireland, Hilton and Kevin Charity CEO at Coaching Inn Group, Oyo’s Jeremy Sanders talked about their two primary areas of business focus going forward: technology and talent. He also spoke of Oyo’s rapid expansion. Despite only being founded in 2013, Oyo is now the world’s third hospitality chain of leased and franchised hotels.

Solid investment

On the second day, during a series of breakout sessions, there was a focus on property and asset management. It was stated that although there has been a lack of portfolio deals, more single transactions are happening in the UK market.

Also, hotels appear to still be a solid investment choice compared to other real estate options at the moment, particularly for overseas clients.

Development funders remain fairly limited in a very cautious market. There has been a slowdown in development finance and lenders are becoming increasingly rigorous and demanding when analysing investment options. Overseas lenders are also reducing their appetite in the UK due to the B-word.

Working together

Hotels are working hard to turn dead space into revenue-generating space. One of the initiatives being taken up is to introduce co-working space. Co-working is an area of the commercial sector which has grown significantly over the last five years. Henry Riley is now working with clients operating in this field and has a good understanding of the challenges faced by this type of business in the London commercial market.

In addition, Henry Riley is also well placed to advise clients on the cost of transforming existing space to create new revenue streams for their businesses. This could include introducing shared office space within their buildings, particularly in well-connected city centre locations.

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Lewis Hodgkinson Leisure Sector Head

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