The hospitality industry has experiences yet another challenging year. As the shadow of the pandemic has receded, rising interest rates, volatile capital markets, geopolitical instability and staffing issues are just some of the issues having an impact on the markets. Despite these continuing challenging conditions around the world, the hospitality industry is confident in the future and its ability to adapt and innovate, embracing International Hospitality Investment Forum’s (IHIF) theme: Fortune favors the bold.

This year’s IHIF in Berlin in May saw over 2,500 delegates gather to hear from 230 world-class experts from hospitality real estate, asset management, and academia share insight and advice to help shape the sector, which included 550 investors that represented $74.9bn hospitality assets under management made up of inspirational talks, making important connections and deals, and plans for a strong hospitality framework the event’s mantra of “invest, involve, inspire” was clear to see.

Food and a positive Framework

Too kick off the event, Ian Goldin professor of  globalization and development at Oxford University, set the tone for the first day with an opening Keynote declaring hospitality “a good investment” and that investors need to recognize that now is the time to get in to the industry, encouraging a focus on experiential and dynamic places, “People are drawn magnetically to find like-minded people – being in the right place is becoming increasingly  important investors,” explained Goldin. The value of experiences was echoed in the following sessions ; Going places : travel Demand Evolution, led by Jenny Southan at Globetrender examined travel trends, While the panel on know your Unknowns: Data insights on performance, Pipeline ,Pricing heard from Carine Bonnejean , Christie & Co, Michael Grove, Hotstats, Robin Rossman, STR, Jan Hein Simon, Colliers Alternative Real Estate B.V. and Joe Stather, Questex as they identified opportunities for investors and reinforced the message to move away from old ways for survival.

The two new focuses of day one consisted of F&B and environmental, social and governance (ESG), which took the forms of F&B and ESG hubs offering guests statistics and guidance on designing and developing profitable concepts, with multiple breakout rooms and sessions as well. The first day also heard from industry leaders Sébastien Bazin, chairman and CEO of Accor, and Keith Barr, CEO of IHG, attracting keen investors and brands alike. Sharing his honest insights, Bazin discussed his journey with the brand and his hate of the term AI in hospitality: “There is nothing artificial about artificial intelligence, it should be called augmented intelligence. You need AI, but remember people want and need to travel to build moments and interactions so that can’t be replaced.” While the final session with Barr, who revealed he would be stepping down from his role at IHG for the past six years, gave a positive outlook for hospitality. “People aren’t buying TVs, cars and good, they are buying experiences, airline tickets, booking restaurants and hotels, and that’s a great sign,” he said.

In the business of experiences

On the morning of the second day, it’s not surprising that hotel investment took centre stage as guest broke off for breakfast round tables as the increasing cost of debt has had an impact across the sector and drawn interest over the investment landscape and trends attracting investors in the roundtable discussions. In the session Finding Finance: Securing the Best Term Sheet, banks and alternative lenders Jens Blomdahl of KSL Capital Partners, Bettina Graef-Parker of Aareal Bank AG and David Gorleku of Blackstone discussed how borrowers can increase the appeal of their projects to lenders and offset increasing margins. “Current debt is more expensive and less available. So, we have to have more of an asset-by-asset approach. We do like the leisure trend, we see that business travel will take longer to come back, but we have a long-term focus,” said Gorleku.

While, in the following CEO panel, Dilip Rajakarier of Minor Hotels, Katerina Giannouka of Jumeirah Group, Oliver Bonke of Deutsche Hospitality and Gilda Perez-Alvarado, Global CEO JLL Hotels & Hospitality examined the value of partnerships for competitiveness. Echoing Barr’s previous comments on the industry’s outlook, Rajakarier added, “The best is yet to come. Travel from China, India, and South America is coming back and we will embrace it.”

The afternoon of day two brought on the presentation of the 24th Lifetime Achievement Aware and 15th Young Leader Award. Following an interview, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Stavros Andreadis and Dr Andreas Andreadis for their tireless effort to expand and develop their Sani & Ikos resorts in Greece and across the Mediterranean. “We followed our dream and beliefs. We executed our plans well,” Dr Andreas Andreadis said on receiving the award, before thanking staff, partners, guests and investors. And, in recognition of the excellence of young emerging leaders in the hospitality industry, the presentation also honoured Florian Montaf from Apaleo with Young Leader of the year award.

After two days of panels and discussions, the IHIF conference was concluded by Professor Hannah Fry’s fascinating keynote speech The Joy of Data: The Mathematics of Shaping the Future, where she challenged the industry leaders to use datainformed approaches over data-led ones and let it be a part of the story, not the drive. IHIF also provided the perfect platform for several highprofile hospitality partners to announce key developments, including Questex’s management control of NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference following its event in June 2023, therefore, expanding its global hospitality portfolio.

Key developments

■ Saudi Tourism Development Fund announced future partnership with MINOR Hotels to develop multiple hospitality projects across KSA.

■ Corinthia signed a hotel management agreement to operate a luxury resort in the Maldives.

■ YAYS Group announced plans to expand outside Benelux and France. It will open its first hotel in Madrid at the end of this year and is hoping to open in a major German city in 2024.

■ Hospitality management company Kinsfolk & Co. has been launched. Born in London, but created with an international perspective, the company will be led by Paul Brackley, previously managing director of The Beaumont Hotel, Mayfair.

■ The launch of LyvInn, a new European-based hybrid hotel brand founded by Navneet Bali, which opened its first hotel in Frankfurt on 15 May.

■ The signing of an exclusivity agreement between Zeal Hotels and IHG Hotels & Resort for their first net-zero carbon hotel.

■ TDF announced partnership with Radisson Hotel Group to develop several hotels and resorts across Saudi Arabia.

■ Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Zeus International Hotels & Resorts have expanded their strategic collaboration with a new non-exclusive agreement to develop multi hospitality asset developments in the next few years under the Trademark Collection by Wyndham and Registry Collection Hotels brands. ■ Choice Hotels EMEA and Borealis Hotel Group have signed a strategic partnership agreement to expand their European portfolios. Through this agreement, Borealis will have the ability to franchise upscale and midscale hotels from the Choice Hotels EMEA portfolio of brands, across the territories they currently operate including The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Spain and Denmark and look for new opportunities in other European countries.

■ Hilton has signed a franchise agreement with Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative asset manager, and Event Hotels to open DoubleTree by Hilton Berlin Ku’damm. The hotel is set to become the first DoubleTree by Hilton in Berlin, following an extensive multi-million-euro remodelling. The hotel company has also signed a franchise agreement with Intersped d.o.o. Sarajevo to open Hotel Neretva Mostar, Tapestry Collection by Hilton and Hampton by Hilton Sarajevo City Centre, its first hotel in Bosnia & Herzegovina.