How to exploit space and services to activate assets

BERLIN — Addressing guest desires is going to be key for creating “new experiences and revenues”, delegates heard at the International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) today in Berlin.

The innovation challenge meant finding original concepts and harnessing key trends in an environment of rising costs that have been eroding margins, noted moderator Jeffrey O, CEO, St Justine Hotels.

“We have no choice but to become better asset managers,” said Nicholas Clayton. president, GOCO Americas at GOCO Hospitality.

“People prefer mixed use for reasons of lifestyle and convenience. That means being more effective in the planning of projects and looking afresh at lobbies, rooftops and pools, while thinking about the dual complexities of spinning locations from a day to night function.” He added: “It is our responsibility to find what is complementary in the mix to create the most effective destination.”

Added Amar Lalvani, executive chairman, Standard International Management: “We challenge our team all the time to do what no one has ever done before. If anything, we are too rooted in current thinking and need to think outside the box much more.” But he added: “Yet there are things we do that other brands can’t. We have bumper cars and an ice-skating rink outside one of our resorts, and a rooftop nightclub with an indoor pool in another. Who you are can evolve over time.”

Sebastien Gottraux, vice president of Global Hospitality Investment Group (GHI) Group said that “while in the past, mixed-use tended to grow up around an office or retail asset”, as hospitality values per square foot grew, there would be the potential to anchor different functions around a hotel. He added: “On a revenue enhancement side, there is a big difference between institutional players and family managed hotels. We make money from finding lower hanging fruit; we can always find aspects of food and beverage (F&B) we can improve.”

Said Alexander Schneider, president, Nikki Beach Hotels and Resorts: “We come from F&B, so for us, activating every vertical is very important to us. For us F&B is part of the experience, it’s about being authentic, creating consistency. The room product might not be the killer product of the future, but the activation of the entire asset.”

Clayton suggested that health and wellness was also an incredible growth industry. He said: “Our clients see that wellness is up on the agenda of affluent travellers who are looking to enjoy mixed uses that compliment health and wellness experiences. Look at spas, supersized fitness, classes and so forth. From sports rehab to chiropractic medicine, alternative healing to nutrition, there is an opportunity to pair a full health and wellness experience to be even more of a magnet for that affluent traveller.”

The future of work is also a crucial factor in activating assets more fully, delegates heard. Co-working and remote working are both viable elements of successful hotels, with a significant part to play in future revenues.

“The merger of business travel and leisure is very tangible in some of our residences,” noted Schneider.

Added Gottraux: “The extended stay product in Europe is becoming a lot more popular and is very under penetrated compared to the US. In Dublin around 5 per cent is extended stay, while in the US, it’s above 10 percent. These properties have been performing very strongly thanks to their lean profitability margins. In the same building you can really leverage on that length of stay to build a buffer in occupancy.”

He added: “Branded residences is another trend emerging in Europe, which enables you to de-risk development or get better financing terms with pre-sales. You can also create stable revenue from  service charges. Lastly, co-working, although hard to monetise, is now required to attract transient guests, whom, after Covid, are looking to work as nomads.”