A lively Q&A session, moderated by HVS chairman Russell Kett, addressed factors likely to hamper recovery progress. ‘The challenge around financial forecasting particularly if you have London hotels, as well as the pace of the change – when will it come back and how will it come back,’ was a key issue for Arron Taggart of Cheyne Capital, with travel restrictions, lack of airlift and scarcity of MICE business highlighted by Jan-Willem Terlouw of Westmont Group.
Edwardian Hotels’ Peter Anscomb said the difficulty was the inability to predict hotel performance, which was ‘purely down to what the [Covid] restrictions allow’.
Environmental, social and corporate governance [ESG] has become a growing issue, said panellists. ‘We are being pushed incredibly hard on ESG now,’ said Taggart. ‘One of the key challenges is whether corporate travel will come back; if it does, it’s not going to be as before as it’s not consistent with ESG policies.’
Barclays Bank’s Tim Helliwell, citing recent research, said that Generation Z will pay a 30% premium for ESG. The panellists predicted a time that lenders wouldn’t lend to businesses that weren’t carbon neutral.
Whether or not branded hotels were in a better position going forward was also under debate, with some panellists arguing that assets and location had become more important than brand values.
‘Flexibility is now very important and brands can be very restrictive,’ commented Louise Gillon of Bank Leumi. She advised operators to be clear about their core business and to be realistic about what you can achieve over the next four to five years.