More than 1,200 hospitality industry professionals traveled to Adelaide this week for the 13th annual Australasian Hospitality Industry Conference and Exhibition (AHICE) – an event which saw a number of major signings and announcements from hotels.
IHG has launched a new Holiday Inn in Adelaide and announced plans to open a Crowne Plaza on the New South Wales South Coast. Ascott Limited has announced the launch of the lyf brand in Australia with a Collingwood property due to open this month.
Pro-invest has discussed buying a hotel in Canberra, its second Sebel-branded hotel in the capital. TFE Hotels has revealed Adina and Vibe’s expansion into Asia with openings in Singapore this year. And Event has welcomed a Rotorua hotel into its Rydges portfolio.
La Vie announced it had secured exclusive rights to bring YOO Hotels to the Pacific, while BWH revealed it will bring the long-stay executive residence brand to Australasia. Meanwhile, Wyndham has announced new investments in South Australia with the McLaren Vale hotel among four recent signings.
A new cutting-edge industry body
Another key announcement and major talking point throughout the conference was the launch of the new Accommodation Australia industry association.
When asked who will serve as CEO of Accommodation Australia, President Leanne Harwood said:
“We will go to the market. We’ve come with a recruiting agency right now and we’re working on who that person will be. It is a fully transparent and fair process that we undertake.
A common theme across AHICE’s many roundtables was the importance of collaboration and unifying industry as one voice to tackle issues such as employment, skills shortages and sustainability, and the important role the association will have in this regard.
Global CEOs share their insights
A number of global CEOs flew in to attend the event in person, including IHG – EMEAA CEO Kenneth Macpherson, who is based in London; Jeff Wagoner, CEO of Outrigger (based in Honolulu); Chairman of Hilton – Asia-Pacific Alan Watts (Singapore); Marriott International President – Asia-Pacific (excluding Greater China), Rajeev Menon (Singapore); Far East Hospitality CEO Arthur Kiong (Singapore); LWT Asia-Pacific, Chief, Satoshi Konagai (Singapore); and Pro-invest Group co-founders Ronald Barrott and Dr Sabine Schaffer (Dubai and London).
During a panel discussion on sustainability, Pro-invest managing partner Sabine Schaffer explained that sustainability shouldn’t be reserved for luxury brands alone.
“Sustainability should be something that goes everywhere – it goes through all our workflows and work processes within the company – and from my point of view, it should go from the selected service hotel to the luxury,” she said. .
“Does the end consumer want to pay more? … If you look at the polls, they say they’re happy to pay up to 20% more for a sustainable stay at an express hotel, and spend about 30% more overall. This year in particular, after COVID. everyone is very aware of where the money is going, but it certainly pays off.
IHG’s McPherson spoke about the trend of wellness becoming a primary consideration for travellers.
“Building wellness as part of what many brands are going to have to offer will be a growing part of what we need to do in the industry, and we are doing it,” he said.
“The sustainability part is going to be vital for us as an industry and we’ve tackled that with our journey into tomorrow – which talks about people, communities and planets and makes some really big commitments around that. So that’s fine. really be the key. [Even] brand is talking about it, and it’s accelerating in the US and China right now. We’re just tweaking that before we put it on the market.
Outrigger CEO Jeff Wagoner discussed geospatial insights from a recent McKinsey study by the company. The study tracked travelers’ cellphone pings when they returned to the US mainland after traveling to Hawaii to better understand other places of interest to vacation travelers.
“It’s kind of weird,” Wagoner said of the power of the technology.
“What we learned is that the first place they went after Hawaii was San Diego, the second was Miami. And so we look at Southern California and we look at Miami [for future properties]. Miami would be a great launch pad for us in the Caribbean, and we’re also looking at a property right now in Cabo.
Marriott’s Rajeev Menon discussed the company’s impressive first-quarter results that were announced on Wednesday. The company announced an overall RevPAR increase of 96.5% compared to the first quarter of 2021.
“It was an exceptional quarter,” Menon said.
“Tony announced last night that we are restoring our dividends in the second quarter, which is incredible from a shareholder perspective. We will start buying back shares; our earnings EPS, incredible, 35 times higher than the estimate.
“The big announcement was that the US, which is the largest market with over 5,000 hotels, in April, RevPAR was stable through 2019. And the company is very optimistic about our pace of booking for the future. So from our perspective, whether it’s American or Asian markets like Australia, India, some of the other markets that have opened up, we’ve stopped talking about recovery in 2019, we’re talking about growth compared to 2019, which is incredible.”
More reports to follow on AHICE 2022