HOTELS report from Berlin: Development plans revealed

Some 1,700 delegates wrapped up their participation on Wednesday in the 15th International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin with panelists and one-on-one interview subjects talking about the need to invest even more in mobile platforms, while making sure personal service remains a priority in a world where reviews – good and bad – have gone viral. At the same time, emerging markets appear to present the best development opportunities in an era where North American and European hotel markets look and act more mature.

In reference to these emerging market opportunities, Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, said the hotel industry was “on the cusp of a Golden Age,” pointing to digital connectivity and the emergence of new middle classes as the key drivers of new opportunities.

HOTELS Magazine spoke with key players in hotel development. Here are some highlights from those meetings:

  • Barcelona-based Meridia Capital and its Chairman/CEO Javier Faust told HOTELS he is focusing further development in Latin America, where he hopes to grow his portfolio to seven or eight hotels within a few years in cities like Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City. He referred to Meridia as a “mini-Host (Hotels & Resorts)” and sees Latin America’s gateway markets as a great, low-risk opportunity.
  • In a meeting with Amy McPherson, president and managing director of Europe for Marriott International, the hot topic was Turkey, where the company already has six hotels and is expanding into markets such as Antalya. She is also working to increase Marriott’s mid-tier presence in Russia through a master partnership and likes the opportunity extended-stay is starting to present in central Europe as well as markets like Munich and Edinburgh. Marriott still manages about 80% of its hotels in Europe, but McPherson says the franchise model is taking hold and expects the company in Europe to reach a level of 40-50% franchised inside five years.
  • Rudi Jagersbacher, president of Middle East and Africa for Hilton Worldwide, said 14 hotels were under construction in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and he is working feverishly to fill the need for a team of 20,000 in that market alone. To advance plans in Africa, Hilton has set up a regional office in Johanesburg as Jagersbacher likes South Africa for focused-service conversions. Overall, he expects Hilton to double its portfolio in Middle East/Africa by 2015. Today, 53 hotels are open and 41 are in various stages of development, pointing to a deal for a new DoubleTree in Kurdistan as a sign of things to come.
  • In an impromptu interview with Bernold Schroeder, the 14-year veteran of Banyan Tree has since August been acting at the CEO of Jin Jiang Hotels, Shanghai, and he has big plans. Without explaining the complicated makeup of the group’s 120,000 rooms, the company’s 19 owned and managed hotels will become the new face of the company, according to Schroeder. It has 12 5-star hotels opening in the near term and has gone through a rebranding process to create the ultra-luxury J brand, as well as the more traditional 5-star Jin Jiang brand. A new collection of heritage and boutique hotels is in place to go along with a 4-star brand that remains under development, as well as the new 3-star Marvel brand. Schroeder is in the process of developing a new executive team with a strong local team complement. He says he has found the existing Jin Jiang team to be more polite, smart and contemporary in their thinking, and he added that global growth is the company’s next target to become the home brand of traveling Chinese. He calls global growth “a huge opportunity” and expects the first international management contracts for the Jin Jiang brand to come next year, if not sooner.
Overlooking the Grand Mosque in the center of Makkah, Hilton will manage 30% of the hotel rooms across six hotels at the Jabal Omar development.
Overlooking the Grand Mosque in the center of Makkah, Hilton will manage 30% of the hotel rooms across six hotels at the Jabal Omar development.