Christie & Co had a strong presence at the conference, as usual, with representation from our hotel brokerage, valuation, consultancy and finance teams, keen to hear the latest in the industry and enjoy the vast networking opportunities with attendees across the sector.
With this year’s topic being ‘Innovate to Elevate’, discussions centred around advancements in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) within the world of hotels and how this can enhance business and add value to hoteliers. Alongside this, broader conversations around funding opportunities, consumer insights and operational developments were covered.
The general consensus is that technology and AI are areas that owners and operators will continue to invest a substantial amount of time and resources into to meet evolving consumer demands. The positive impact on operational and cost efficiency as well as improving customer experience is widely advocated, but the conference brought a caveat to the fore. Rather than investing in technology for the sake of it, a justifiable cost-return on investments should be considered and research into whether there is demand in every type of business to introduce cutting edge tech or whether this would actually deter your target market.
As was to be expected, this year’s conference also touched on all matters Brexit and how the nature of the UK’s departure will be pivotal in shaping the future landscape of not only the hospitality sector, but the wider economy going forward. The buzz-word around this was ‘uncertainty’, therefore considerations on business after March 2019 have been a depiction of various scenarios, but with an acknowledgement that a resilient and needs-based sector such as hotels is well placed to manage new challenges.
On the finance side, lenders remain both comfortable and confident about lending within the hospitality sector. In addition to the main high street banks, there are a number of new debt providers keen to support investment into the hospitality industry, including a number of European funds. Furthermore, it was a clear message from the banking panel that gone are the days of lending on an LTV basis, with banks now focusing on the serviceability of debt through the viability of hotel trade and profitability.
Generally, there is a sense of optimism for the next 12 months in hospitality, with excitement around the new opportunities coming out of the growing use of technology but also awareness of headwinds that face many businesses. As ever, the AHC provided an excellent opportunity for stakeholders across the industry to share their thoughts, ideas and questions on a sector that we’re all resolutely passionate about.