AHC Day One: UK hoteliers seizing opportunities
AHC Day One: UK hoteliers seizing opportunities
12 OCTOBER 2017 7:25 AM

Hotel News Now recaps the first day of the Annual Hotel Conference with takeaways, quotables, photos and more highlights from the event.

MANCHESTER, England—Hoteliers in the United Kingdom hotel industry have been slapping each other’s backs all year, and the joy was evident at the opening of the two-day Annual Hotel Conference.

Among reasons for optimism: U.K. hotel metrics are seeing noticeable jumps, supply is remaining low, and developers and bankers are walking in step with all the other industry players.

The principal cause is that people are continuing to travel, in increasing numbers and with European cities as their prized destinations.

It feels good to be part of these lovefest hotel conferences, but there are clouds—albeit clouds with silver linings. These shadows are coming from those who never get invited to these industry shindigs; that is, “normal” people with shifting levels of disposable income, as well as those with job skills the industry needs but who are being pushed out of the U.K. jobs market due to political posturing, rising protectionism and slow trade growth.

Trevor Williams, CEO of Trevor Williams Consultancy and former chief economist at Lloyds Bank, told the conference that “2007 to 2016 was the first 10-year period (in the U.K.) to see average weekly earnings fall in real terms since at least the middle of the 19th century. Prior to the financial crisis, real average earnings typically grew by around 18% over a given 10-year period.”

And therein lies one of those industry pluses inherent in the conference’s theme of “embracing change, seizing opportunities.” Whichever way the world goes, the savvier hoteliers will spot trends and find ways to capitalize on them.

Point in case, “higher prices of overseas vacations might not have been funneled through to the wallet due to hedging, but these deals are reaching maturity,” according to a presentation by CBRE’s David Bailey, senior director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Joe Stather, associate director of investment advisory.

That means increased staycations through 2019 and beyond, until things settle down around Brexit, they hinted.

So, with Brits potentially staying at home, and overseas travelers targeting London and, increasingly, the U.K. regions, I firmly believe AHC 2018 will still be seeing hoteliers buying the rounds down the pub.

Williams felt similarly. He told conference attendees that in the next year “inflation will fall and real disposable income will rise.”

“In 2018, (gross domestic product) will be less than 2%, but that is still positive, and no one is talking about recession,” he added.

Photo of the day

Sometimes it’s nice to see change has not occurred in every aspect of hotel life. Case in point is the 1970s GPO 746 (700 series) Bakelite telephone in my room at the Principal Hotel Manchester. (Photo: Terence Baker)

Quotes of the day
“A tipsy buggy driver drove into our golf-course lake and tried to sue us because we had no safety barriers. … Someone stole the lead off the roof, and English Heritage complained we were not properly looking after our 13th century hall.”
—Greg Dyke, owner of Saxon Hotels, explaining some of the hurdles he’s faced in the hospitality business. Formerly, he was director-general of the BBC and former chairman of The Football Association.

“(The staffing agencies we work with) are having a hard time getting people to sign up. They are having to rent houses out to encourage people to come over, which harks back to 40 years ago.”
—Nicholas Northam, managing director of Interstate Hotels & Resorts

Tweet of the day

Even as hoteliers hunker down at hotel conferences, the industry moves on at the same pace, with Patrick Fitzgibbon, Hilton’s SVP of development for Europe, Middle East and Africa, announcing the Manchester debut of the Hampton by Hilton brand.

Slide of the day

A cartoon sketch of a dog in glasses always gets a conference’s attention. Business advisory CBRE underlines numbers (ca)-nine to four of regional U.K.’s RevPAR champion cities. By the way, Edinburgh took the top spot. (Photo: Terence Baker)

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