Annual Hotel Conference Manchester Review

Somewhere in Asia?, Parts of a European city?

No, its October. It must be Manchester where we joined clients, colleagues and associates and other sector specialists at the Annual Hotel Conference (AHC).

Douglas Grant reviews some of the outcomes...At the opening of the conference,AIB’s economic overview touched on the essential underlying strengths of the UK economy (whether ‘in or out’). Low interest rates are likely to continue, and our low regulation economic environment is anticipated to remain attractive to foreign investors whatever flags we fly above our buildings. Challenges are in productivity and in rising wages-both of immediate relevance to the lodging and hospitality industry. Going forward ….

...the character of UK Plc was not expected to alter dramatically but policy decisions on migration, industrial strategy and regulation (would these be permissive or restrictive, aligned or divergent, protective or global?) will shape things to come.

UK Hospitality sets out the case for the sector to relevant government sources. As the third largest employer and valued economic driver (9% total UK jobs, £130bn turnover industry,£24bn of visitor spend) it is increasingly seen as a barometer for the economy and put its scale in the context of other perceived value industries (motor cars, oil and gas etc). The uncertainty factor is affecting businesses and challenges remain in the high street, in coastal towns regenerating their tourism offer and in the availability of staff (particularly of kitchen and service related skills).

Finance and funding for projects got a good airing with increasing acceptance of the sector as an attractive cash producing alternative to other forms of real estate and we had insights to the challenges and sophistication of both funding packages and at a more operational level we saw insights in to asset management and the need for even more specialist expertise in the increasingly sophisticated but highly competitive dining/restaurant and bar sector.

The established Property Management Systems and Back Office Systems are reportedly being challenged by disruptive nimble lean start-ups providing user friendly bespoke solutions, especially in the independent hotel sector. This along with the extraordinary level of investment in technology by the OTAs in maximising their distribution makes it a challenging time for the industry’s traditionalists and late adopters.