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Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay Resort to Open December 2020 in China

Accor announces its first Fairmont Resort in Greater China, in partnership with Hainan Keenwin Holdings. The newly refurbished Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay is set to open in December 2020 following extensive renovations to the property.

Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay is situated along the beautiful golden coastline of Haitang Bay. With views towards the diver’s paradise of Wuzhizhou Island and Yajia Daling Mountains, the resort has the best Feng Shui to bring harmony between travellers and nature.

Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay features a team of star designers and architects, which includes world-renowned interior designer Nick Winai Suansalee from Leo Design Group as well as landscape architecture by Francis Leung, the former Design Director of Belt Collins. The resort has the formal symmetry often found in imperial palaces, and offers a number of exquisite architectural gems that are destinations in their own right. In accordance with ancient Chinese architectural principles, a pair of Watchtowers forms the portal to the resort. Covered Lounge Bridges made from stone arches act as pathways to the lobby pavilion, providing rest, shelter and vistas of intricate cornices against the green surrounds. Within the lobby, precious detailed wood carvings on walls and ceiling friezes took more than two years to complete and demonstrate a sense of grandeur and profoundness. Its unique 1,200-meter long river is the world’s first sea water canal running within a hotel. Guests can take a dragon boat ride to reach guestrooms and all other hotel facilities whilst enjoying the ever-changing scenery and amazing landscapes. For those who wish to learn more about the resort’s relics, the Wood Art Gallery is a courtyard house boasting fine furnishings and artefacts from both the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty.

A spokesperson for the Sanya Tourism, Culture, Radio, Television and Sports Bureau said, “Sanya has been instrumental towards the development of Hainan as an international hub of tourism and consumption. The lush tropical paradise has grown its place on the world tourism map with features second to none. As a unique tax-free zone, Sanya will continue to attract the most recognisable international names to join this blessed land. The arrival of Fairmont at Sanya will be a milestone highlight of the year and a prime offering to travellers and locals alike.”

With only an eight-minute drive from Sanya Haitang Bay International Duty-Free Shopping Complex, the resort offers 523 guestrooms and suites as well as residential apartments, with some of these accommodations set within a new Fairmont Gold Tower. Fairmont Gold is the brand’s premier lifestyle concept of a ‘hotel within a hotel’ providing the highest level VIP services for the most discerning leisure and business guests. Contemporary furnishings with generous use of wood, textured carpets, soothing upholstery and soft leather enhance the relaxed elegance of the rooms. The resort is complemented by a distinctive villa area and features a 9-hole golf course.

The resort is home to a number of unforgettable dining destinations. All-day Restaurant Veranda demonstrates its authentic style through interactive dining with a global selection of market-fresh food, highlighting Southeast Asian elements and flamed-barbequed seafood selections. Chinese Restaurant Yuen Court is the place for fine Cantonese cuisine alongside contemporary Hainanese treasures. Ocean Lounge boasts the best panoramic resort vista for an afternoon tea with refreshing ocean breezes or evening drinks and tantalising worldly tapas plates against a stunning seaside setting. Culinary creativity knows no bounds, with unparalleled experiences from personalised themed dining at historic Chinese buildings to a sumptuous river feast, with countless picturesque settings throughout the resort.

Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay’s conference and banquet facilities include a 1,500sqm pillarless ballroom, nine meeting rooms, and a VIP function room, welcoming guests to celebrate special occasions, milestones and other important gatherings amid grand settings. Couples ready to commit can say ‘I do’ in a romantic Chinese inspired wedding pavilion set within a lush tropical garden.

The resort’s leisure amenities include a tranquil Willow Stream Spa, well-appointed Fairmont Fit gym, three outdoor swimming pools, kids’ club with indoor and outdoor play area, and a truly intimate Fairmont Gold Lounge.

“With the roll-out of the masterplan for Hainan Free Trade Port, Hainan Island will create impactful opportunities mostly with tourism services and high-tech industries. It is perfect timing for the arrival of Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay to China’s largest special economic zone, as Hainan continues to transform into a major international trading, financial and shipping center,” said Gary Rosen, Accor Greater China’s Chairman and Chief Operating Officer. “With Fairmont properties already in some of the world’s most famous destinations, the Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay will notably become a focal point of the Island and will exceed our leisure and MICE guests’ expectations with outstanding facilities and services. Turning special moments into lasting memories that could only be found at Fairmont.”

Li Liming, Hainan Keenwin Holdings’ Chairman, said: “We are confident to work with Accor on the operations of our property at Haitang Bay through its iconic luxury brand Fairmont, which is known across the globe for landmark hotels with unrivalled presence. We are very proud of this resort, well situated on Hainan Free Trade Port a unique destination in China. We anticipate that with the expertise of Accor and the brand excellence of Fairmont, we will be able to capture new markets once Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay is launched.”

Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay will open in December 2020 following extensive renovations to the property. The hotel joins a prestigious collection of some of the world’s most extraordinary hotels including the Fairmont San Francisco, Plaza New York and The Savoy London, both managed by Fairmont; the Fairmont Peace Hotel Shanghai; Fairmont Banff Springs; Fairmont Ajman; and the Fairmont Century Plaza Los Angeles.


Airbnb to Take the Supermarket Approach for Post-COVID Success

As a hugely successful and globally influential accommodations company, it is only natural that the press has zeroed in on this sharing economy juggernaut during the topsy-turvy news cycle of the COVID pandemic. But just because Airbnb had massive layoffs during the spring months and is pivoting towards long-term rentals does not mean that you should count this entity out as a direct competitor for your ‘traditional’ hotel.

In fact, Airbnb will likely end up leaner and meaner as a multi-purpose accommodations provider by this time next year. To understand why, consider what makes the average consumer opt for going to the supermarket versus a collection of specialized grocers.

True, the platform is still a bit on the ropes, at least as it concerns our brands. Superhosts and their ghost hotel units were devastated by the lockdown as their high monthly fixed costs forced many of them to shift inventory from short-term rentals into the long-term market; and once it’s in this latter pool, a unit is hard to swap back. Many also point to what on paper is the spectacular failure of Airbnb’s experiences vertical. Together, this could be seen as less overall competition for hotels moving forward.

But look closer and you’ll see that this accommodations juggernaut is setting itself up to become a more versatile platform for just about any form of non-purchasable living space a customer could want. This is why the supermarket model works – in a word, convenience.

Some consumers will want to go to their independent fruit market then to an organic butcher followed by a bakery or fromagerie, likely because the goods are of higher quality, made by niche producers and they can interact with trusted personnel to take advantage of their recommendations. But visiting all these separate entities takes time and there is no guarantee that such specialized shops will have everything that a certain individual needs at that exact moment. So, you go to the supermarket to get your fruits, vegetables, meats, bread, cheese and sauces; and just in case you also need more toilet paper, they have that on aisle three.

In this sense, it’s not just about the convenience itself but the guarantee of this convenience. One reason you go to a supermarket is that products that aren’t necessary on the weekly shopping list but are nonetheless available will ‘halo’ back onto whatever items are sought after on that particular shopping day. As ‘the everything store’, Amazon has also derived much of its success from this model in that you can buy books, gardening tools, dried spices and underwear all at the same time and all without leaving your home.

Applying this psychological foundation to Airbnb, the experiences vertical makes perfect sense even if it’s unprofitable on paper for the first few years after launch. The company’s core revenue generator is selling the equivalent of hotel rooms – staying to stay in desirable locations – and, like visiting a supermarket, even just the possibility of also purchasing experience to coincide with a short-term reservation means more customers will be drawn to utilize this platform over others.

Hence, with each new gross functionality added to Airbnb, it has more spokes on its wheel to keep the center cap of short-term accommodations spinning. Therefore, developing a long-term rental platform will benefit the company in the same way as it will mean more eyeballs going to the website and using the app, spurned on by the convenience of ‘one stop shopping’. And once people are comfortable with using the interface to find what they want, new habits will be formed and will be ever-harder to break.

Key for traditional hotels to grasp from all this is that a resurgent Airbnb after COVID will mean even more users on its platform than before the pandemic, which will inevitably result in a revived fight against ghost hotel operators, albeit in a few years once their liquidity has stabilized. Hence, we hoteliers must continue to push for a level playing field once the more immediate concerns of reshuffling our operations to meet the demands of the next normal are addressed.

Furthermore, consider how the supermarket analogy can work to your brand’s favor. If your primary business is derived from selling rooms product, then what ancillary services can you add to halo back onto this central revenue generator? This will be an interesting question to answer in the immediate pandemic aftermath as many costly operations that would give you this halo in a conventional sense – like a spa or restaurant – may no longer motivate guests, at least in the near-term. Remember to look for features or amenities that are relatively inexpensive, even when poorly utilized by guests, but will help draw people to consider your property in any top-of-funnel search.

All told, Airbnb is here to stay and is working to swiftly adapt to the challenges presented by COVID so that this lodging platform remains a competitor for traditional hotel brands for many years to come. For your hotel, there are many things you can learn from this company so that you are better prepared to capitalize upon the post-pandemic travel surge with the supermarket model being just one of them.


Radisson Hotel Group announces the introduction of two new brands joining forces under one roof at London Heathrow

This property is the first Radisson branded hotel in the United Kingdom.

The wing of the property has a total of 258 rooms, showcasing the Radisson RED design. The remaining 600 rooms follow the Scandinavian style of the Radisson brand, paying homage to the traditions of the hotel group.

The restaurants, lounges and bars shared by the two hotels provide a welcoming space to relax. The meeting and large event spaces are flexible and can accommodate groups and needs of different sizes. The hotel has two multifunctional conference centers and 41 meeting rooms, including 21 meeting rooms for unions or work groups. The property also offers a Pace Leisure Club, which has a gym, swimming pool, sauna and steam room.

Tom Flanagan Karttunen, Senior Vice President Northern and Western Europe of the Radisson Hotel Group, said, “The introduction of two dynamic new brands at such a major international airport is extremely exciting. This is our first Radisson and the second Radisson RED hotel to open in the UK, which is a significant milestone for the company. The thorough transformation of the property meets the ever changing and growing needs of our diverse clientele”.


Opening of a Moxy Hotel in Hamburg

Moxy Hotels are known for being trendy, comfortable, and affordable, so they mainly target the new generation of travellers who are more value for money sensitive.

In September, the well-known lifestyle brand developed by Marriott opened at the “Berliner Tor” S-Bahn station, close to Hamburg’s historic city centre. The hotel has 291 rooms and is operated by the Swiss company SV Hotel. SV Hotel regularly works as a franchise partner of the Marriott International Group.

The city’s economy is based primarily on its harbour and on the development of the HafenCity business area. However, the city also benefits from its tourist attractiveness, particularly thanks to event tourism and cruise passengers. The development of Hamburg is an advantage for the setting up of new brands and new hotel concepts, such as the following openings: the 236-room NYX Hamburg hotel in 2020, or the NH Hamburg Zentrum hotel in 2021 and NIU hotels in 2022. In addition, another Moxy hotel, the 220-room Moxy Hamburg Altona hotel, is due to open in the first half of 2021.

Hamburg’s hotels are performing well, so, as an indication, the occupancy rate reached 78.8% in 2018, while the average daily rate was around €117 the same year.

Accor-IHG: the hotel tie-up that never gets booked

Bryce Elder AUGUST 22 2020

Nothing is more powerfully frustrating, to misquote Victor Hugo, than an idea whose time will not come.

One of those familiar ideas came back around this week. Hotels group Accor of France has been working on a takeover of London-listed InterContinental Hotels to create the biggest company of its kind in the world, Le Figaro reported. As yet, Accor has not made an approach, the paper said; Sébastien Bazin, the French company’s chief executive since 2013, does not think the time is right.

Similar stories had been doing the rounds in the spring, shortly before coronavirus paralysed global travel. But variations on the Accor-IHG rumour predate Marriott’s $13bn merger with Starwood in 2016 — a deal that triggered a wave of consolidation within the lodging industry. A year ago Accor was the rumoured target and IHG its pursuer. Accor was on a list of IHG merger candidates put forward in 2014 by activist investor Marcato Capital Management, when talk of US predators had created a sense of urgency to find a European champion. Yet the timing, it seems, has never been right.

Geographically, the idea makes sense. Nearly half of Accor’s rooms are in the Asia-Pacific region, meaning it would plug into an IHG portfolio with around 60 per cent of rooms in North America. The combined group would have 1.6m rooms — around 200,000 more than Marriott, split approximately equally between Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Strategically, too, a deal has its logic. Accor’s stable of brands — Sofitel, Mondrian, Ibis, Mama Shelter — has a balance of rich and edgy to fit almost any neighbourhood. The IHG approach is much narrower — Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express make up most of its estate — but it offers superior growth prospects thanks to its early-mover advantage in Greater China, which accounts for 15 per cent of rooms and 30 per cent of its pipeline.

Cost cutting is another justification. Jefferies analysts estimate expenses synergies of between €100m to €150m, equivalent to about 7 per cent of the enlarged group’s predicted operating earnings for 2022.

IHG also offers experience managing franchises and partnerships rather than owning the real estate, which matches Mr Bazin’s favoured model. Under his tenure Accor has sold and leased back nearly all of its property. IHG’s long embrace of the same asset-light model meant it could navigate the great financial crisis better than rivals while still throwing off cash from disposals, culminating in the 2015 sale of its flagship InterContinental Hong Kong.

So why is it never the right time? Well, it is complicated. Accor’s market capitalisation of €6.2bn is significantly less than IHG’s £7.3bn (€8bn) value, the latter having rallied more than 70 per cent from March lows while the former hardly budged. The French group would therefore need the backing of its main shareholders, China’s state-owned Jin Jiang International and the Qatar Investment Authority, to effectively underwrite the share issue needed to fund any bid. Support from a private equity fund, such as Mr Bazin’s former employer Colony Capital, might also be helpful.

The proposal would not be cheap, nor easy. Institutions that dominate IHG’s shareholder register would probably be expecting upwards of £50 a share as a starting point — a more than 20 per cent premium to its current price — as well as requiring the preservation of its FTSE listing.

A plausible scenario would involve Accor bidding using one-third cash and two-thirds new shares. Using Accor’s stock as a currency to buy more richly valued peer risks appealing more to investment bankers than to shareholders, however. And given the levels of financial engineering required, it is unfortunate, to say the least, that S&P Global downgraded Accor’s debt to junk status this week.

The bigger question: Post Covid-19, is Accor-IHG still the right deal to chase?

Hotel franchise owners pay management companies double-digit percentages of revenues in the belief that a well-known brand will drive higher room rates. Name recognition is most valuable for corporate travel, which accounts for an estimated 60 per cent of IHG’s demand: about two-thirds of its rooms are in the business-friendly midscale and upper-midscale niches. How quickly those rooms will refill after the pandemic is unknown.

For leisure travel, brand safety has appeal when on a budget but uniqueness counts for special occasions. IHG has no budget market exposure and InterContinental, its luxury chain, is by design a more homogeneous experience than Accor flagships such as Raffles in Singapore and The Savoy in London.

IHG is a structure built to withstand recessions, not pandemics. It is in the main revenue collection agency for around 3,000 small businesses, mostly US-based and often corporate-reliant, that are now fighting to survive. The historic reasons why an IHG-Accor merger made sense no longer look quite so compelling. A bid could still come, but the time might never be right.


MGM Resorts to Lay Off 18,000 Staffers Beginning Monday

Cameron Sperance, Skift- Aug 28, 2020 12:30 pm

MGM laying off 18,000 workers is the latest testament that Las Vegas needs more than slot machines and poker tables to keep resorts running at pre-pandemic performance levels.— Cameron Sperance

MGM Grand exterior hero shot

The coronavirus pandemic’s prolonged impact on travel and major events that keep Las Vegas in business is taking a major toll on the employee headcount at MGM Resorts International.

The Las Vegas-based gaming resort company plans to lay off 18,000 employees — roughly a quarter of its entire pre-pandemic U.S. workforce — beginning Monday. The layoffs come nearly three months after Las Vegas resorts reopened from temporary shutdowns due to fears of spreading the virus. All of MGM’s Las Vegas resorts have reopened with the exception of the Park MGM.

“Nothing pains me more than delivering news like this,” MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle wrote to staff in a letter obtained by Skift. “The heart of this company is our employees and the world-class service you provide.”

The layoffs come less than a month after MGM Resorts reported a $1 billion second quarter operating loss compared to a $371 million profit a year prior.

Federal law requires a termination date for furloughed employees who are not brought back within six months. August 31 is the six-month date for those impacted by the letter issued Friday.

MGM plans to keep laid off employees on a recall list and rehire them as demand returns, according to the letter.

Workers who return by the end of 2021 will maintain current seniority levels and regain benefits. Healthcare benefits for the laid off employees will run through the end of September.

“While the immediate future remains uncertain, I truly believe the challenges we face today are not permanent,” Hornbuckle wrote. “The fundamentals of our industry, our company and our communities will not change. Concerts, sports and awe-inspiring entertainment remain on our horizon.”

The job cuts are a sour end to a month that began with Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActive Corp. taking a $1 billion, or 12 percent, stake in MGM Resorts. That investment was driven more by Diller’s interest in MGM’s ability to build out its online gaming platform.

Many of Las Vegas’s typical lines of business have yet to reignite following pandemic shutdowns. June was the third consecutive month of no conventions in the city, and industry analysts say it could be another six to 12 months before event planners are confident enough to host another major convention in the city.

“I don’t want to predict [2021] because I don’t feel I have enough insight into what might happen to the vaccine or the virus and no way to forecast that,” Las Vegas Sands Corp. President Rob Goldstein said during an earnings call last month. “But I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that Las Vegas is in a very difficult place.”

Atari Wants to Build Video Game-Themed Hotels

The first hotel will break ground later this year in Phoenix, Arizona. Another is being planned for Las Vegas. They promise to offer Atari-themed lodging, along with lots of video gaming experiences.

Michael Kan – January 28, 2020 

Atari Interactive thinks it has an idea to rekindle interest in the gaming brand: It wants to build Atari-themed hotels.

On Monday, the company announced it was partnering with a design agency to build at least eight video-gamed themed Atari Hotels in the US with the first one slated to break ground in Phoenix, Arizona later this year.

The idea is certainly unconventional, but Atari says the concept will connect with the public at a time when the market for gaming is exploding. Not only will the hotels provide Atari-themed lodging, but also lots of video gaming, including the latest VR and augmented reality experiences. In addition, some of the hotels will be designed to host esports events.

“Together we’ll build a space that will be much more than just a place to stay,” Atari CEO Fred Chesnais said in a statement. “Atari is an iconic global brand that resonates with people of all ages, countries, cultures and ethnic backgrounds and we cannot wait for our fans and their families to enjoy this new hotel concept.”

According to Atari, a design agency called GSD Group and movie producer Napoleon Smith III, who was behind the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot films, will manage the hotels’ designs. Meanwhile, the Arizona-based real estate developer True North Studio will handle actual construction of the first building.

Additional hotels are planned for Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Austin and San Jose. Interested customers can sign up at the website to stay up-to-date on the project.

In the meantime, Atari Interactive is preparing to launch a new retro-themed console. The Atari VCS is slated to start shipping in March starting at $249, and will let you play 100 classic pre-installed Atari games in addition to modern PC games.


Coronavirus: Hotels and Airbnb plan ‘fundamental shift’ after COVID-19 lockdowns

By Lauren Chadwick

last updated: 08/05/2020

As lockdown restrictions are eased in several European countries, many in the travel industry hope that with higher cleaning standards and social distancing, business can continue in a new form.

Nicolas Vigier, whose agency manages 60 Airbnb apartments, says he’s slowly seeing demands come in for summer rentals in the south of France.

“Before the crisis, our clients were 90 to 95 per cent foreigners. We had very few French people booking our apartments,” Vigier said.

But now his demand is entirely from France.

Domestic Airbnb reservations in the Netherlands and Denmark are at 80 per cent and 90 per cent respectively of what they were in April 2019, the company said.

Vigier said in France they cannot confirm reservations since people are not yet allowed to travel further than 100 kilometres from their homes.

But the demand is a glimmer of hope for an industry that’s been one of the hardest hit due to the pandemic.

Source: The Conversation (2020)

‘Severe and sudden impact’

“Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019,” said Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, as he announced staffing cuts at the company this past week.

For many, the change to business was abrupt. It wasn’t until the French government announced the lockdown measures mid-March that Vigier saw a significant drop in demand for Airbnb apartments, he said.

Hotel data benchmarking firm STR estimates that hotels that are still open globally are at less than 30% occupancy. In many European countries, the few hotels that are still open are only at 10 per cent occupancy.

Marriott hotel CEO Arne Sorenson said in a sobering video message in March that the coronavirus was “nothing like we’ve ever seen before.”

“For a company that’s 92 years old, that’s borne witness to the Great Depression, World War II, and many other economic and global crises, that’s saying something,” he added.

“COVID-19 is having a more severe and sudden impact on our business than 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis combined.”

Marriott saw a 90 per cent decline in business in China after the outbreak started, the CEO said in March.

Restoring customer trust in a global crisis

Airbnb has announced a new cleaning protocol for hosts that will launch in May that includes a learning and certification programme.

The protocol will also help to space out reservations in line with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to have 24 hours between people entering a room.

“Hosts will have access to expert-backed cleaning educational materials and will be supported to show that they take cleanliness and prevention seriously,” Airbnb said in a statement.

These new guidelines will be most “drastic” change to their daily work, said Vigier. It means they will have to have three days between reservations.

Hotels are instituting similarly stringent cleaning policies.

A spokesperson for Marriott said the hotel was adding to its cleaning protocols including “requiring that public space and guest room surfaces are thoroughly treated with hospital-grade disinfectants.”

The company is also testing “electrostatic sprayers” to disinfect entire guest areas.

“The concern seems to be around rebuilding consumer confidence and trust,” said Mark Ashton at the University of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

It will depend on “enhanced cleaning standards” and a “reduction of touch points” such as tablets or remote controls.

Whether someone picks a hotel or Airbnb, “depends on trust with the consumer as to whether they perceive that a hotel chain or independent hotel as perhaps going to be more reliable at delivering a higher level of cleanliness and sanitation,” said Ashton.

A potential recovery?

A spokesperson for Airbnb France said that there had been an increase in people on the website investigating spring and summer holidays close to home.

“Travel in this new world will look different, and we need to evolve Airbnb accordingly. People will want options that are closer to home, safer, and more affordable,” Airbnb CEO Chesky wrote in a note to employees.

Meanwhile, Marriott International said they were slowly seeing an increase in occupancy rates in China, including during an April holiday, where some hotels reached 60% occupancy.

But it will be a long time before things go back to normal.

“It will take a period of time for things to bounce back,” said Ashton. But there’s “a potential that hotels will consider increased automation and a move to digital” which might “speed up the adoption of those types of technology”.

It’s an area where Airbnb already has an advantage due to the ability to check in with an application and be in contact with a host via messaging instead of in person.

Vigier said they used to have someone greet every guest who stayed in an apartment, but it will be an easy change to allow guests to pick up keys in a box or at their agency.

In a crowded hotel, it could be more difficult.

“Do we have robots doing certain things, maybe taking bags, room service, sanitising areas?” asked Ashton.

He expects that digital changes hotels were expecting to implement anyway will happen more quickly.

“There’s going to be some fairly fundamental shifts,” Ashton said.


Accor and SBE Begin Global Expansion of Delano Hotel Brand Despite the Pandemic

Cameron Sperance, Skift- Aug 12, 2020 6:00 pm

The South Beach luxury lifestyle is making a hop across the pond.

The Delano brand, made famous by its original hotel in Miami’s South Beach, will expand to Europe with a property in Costa Smeralda on the Italian island of Sardinia.

The Delano Porto Cervo, slated to open in 2023, will be the first in an international expansion that will see the brand grow beyond its U.S. presence in Miami and Las Vegas. SBE plans to eventually grow the brand to properties in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Asia, the hospitality group announced this week.

“We’re not saying we want 50 Delanos. It’s not a number that we’re looking for,” said Chadi Farhat, SBE’s chief operating officer for the Middle East and Europe, in an exclusive Skift interview. “It’s more about strategic locations that we’d like for Delano to be around the world.”

The 68-room Delano Porto Cervo entails a complete redevelopment of an existing hotel, resulting in what Farhat says is a new-build project complete with a restaurant, lobby and pool bars, beach club, and fitness studio.

The Sardinian property may be a partnership between SBE, private equity firm Quianto Capital, and advisory firm Enma Capital, but a different SBE partner is helping the Delano brand go global.

Accor bought a 50 percent stake in SBE in 2018 for $319 million, an investment the hotel industry viewed at the time as fueling the Paris-based hotel company’s goal of expanding in North America. But Farhat said the Accor partnership is also assisting the SBE development pipeline around the world.

The Delano expansion starts in Europe, first with the Italian property and then a soon-to-be announced project in Switzerland, Farhat said. While Delano conjures images of South Beach, its global portfolio is expected to eventually grow to a mix of beachfront, countryside, and ski resorts.

“The elements of South Beach that make Delano special, like programming and services, will travel with Delano around the world,” Farhat said.


It may seem like an odd time to take the Delano brand abroad, given the catastrophic impact on travel due to coronavirus — especially to the luxury sector.

But SBE and Accor remain committed to expanding the Delano footprint, saying the brand is less vulnerable in the current travel environment than other upscale brands.

“We are not your traditional luxury or upper upscale hotel,” Farhat said. “We create destinations with our hotels.”

He points to the performance of the Mondrian — another SBE and Accor brand — in Doha, Qatar, as proof there is pent-up demand for luxury accommodations, even in the middle of a global pandemic. The hotel’s July performance was better than that seen in 2019 due to staycations, Farhat said.

Even the Delano South Beach saw “healthy numbers” in June before the surge of new coronavirus cases in Florida.

“It tells you the minute restrictions are lifted and with social distancing and health measures in place — which we are seriously doing — there will be demand,” Farhat said. “People will come back and travel.”

The current travel environment could even present further opportunities to build out the Delano brand.

Construction financing is extremely tight due to the uncertain economic climate, especially around hotels. Farhat — like executives at other companies like Hyatt and IHG — said there are still plenty of pent-up capital sources out there to help fuel a brand expansion.

But growth may come at someone else’s expense.

“Not only is there pent-up capital, there are great opportunities,” he said. “There are iconic assets you see in New York, iconic assets being foreclosed on that will create more opportunities for conversions for new brands coming in. The environment itself, yes, it is bad, but where there is capital, there are great opportunities.”


How COVID-19 can stimulate healthier hospitality leadership

Much has already been written about how travel and tourism will be irrevocably changed by the coronavirus pandemic. Optimists and realists alike are focusing on more environmentally friendly ways of reaching our chosen destinations, more sensitive ways of considering local culture and more sustainable, ethical methods of sharing and distributing the financial benefits of tourism.

But what about the hospitality and in particular the hotel industry itself? If there was ever a time for us to engage in honest, unflinching self-reflection, this is it. As travellers and vacationers are ready and willing to change their habits, so the hotel industry must look to reshape its practices for the future.

Responding to the crisis
Facing possibly the toughest situation it has ever encountered, the hotel industry now needs fresh solutions to these challenges. Management cannot simply fall back on “we’ve always done it this way”. In the post-COVID-19 marketplace, only different approaches and attitudes will succeed.

A new style of leadership
When the hotel sector goes back to work, the most urgent need will be to reassess staffing needs, operational procedures and ensure our guests return sooner than later. Ultimately, recoup lost income, re-establish cashflow and focus on the quickest returns on investment.

Operating structures will have to be pared-down and become more efficient. Leaner, more agile leadership with effective change management skills must create imaginative, practical plans to get businesses back on track.

Managers will have to adapt to the new situation with new-found agility. The days of a Hotel Manager shut away in a back office are over. They will need to be multifaceted: even more present throughout the hotel, taking care of guests and staff, mobilising their teams, coaching / teaching and leading by example. In this new climate of lower hotel occupancies and reduced income, one role per employee has become an unaffordable luxury. Staff will now need to be trained to take on a broader range of disciplines. Managers should emphasise the positive aspects of this: employees will enjoy more varied work and gain a wider range of experience to help them progress their careers.

Creative, cost-efficient business models will be needed for operations, sales, marketing, revenue management and distribution strategies. Trusted employees should be invited to contribute to management decisions; their perspective ‘at the coal face’ will help shape your recovery policy and make them feel more involved and valued.

It’s vital these new initiatives are communicated clearly throughout the business, to ensure they are adopted successfully.

Keeping your teams motivated
There are undoubtedly difficult financial decisions to be made, and it can be tempting to focus wholly on saving cash. But this is short-sighted. Hotel businesses which have laid-off the majority of their employees will find it difficult and expensive to recruit the skilled talent they need as the market recovers.

Conversely, firms who have furloughed as many employees as possible to give them some degree of security can expect greater loyalty and renewed commitment. Identify your core people and work hard to retain them.

Management who also display integrity and a sense of unity, for example by ensuring fair pay cuts during this difficult time, will be more highly regarded by the workforce after the crisis.

This is the ideal moment for top executives to show strength, empathy and vision. Employees will respond best to leaders who inspire through their energy, optimism and sense of purpose, and create a collaborative, environment that encourages and nurtures development.

Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive, now is the perfect time to invest in your most talented employees, for example by encouraging and providing cross-training. In the hotel’s immediate future there will be fewer staff, and employees and managers alike must be ready to use new skills.

Mitigating the impact on employees
For hotel staff, the pandemic has bitten hard, and with countries taking separate routes to easing their lockdown restrictions, it is unclear when and how the worldwide travel and tourism industry recovery will kick in.

This leaves many employees worrying about their income now and their job security mid to long term. The situation is especially tough for those already on low wages, with few savings, yet the anxiety is also felt right up to senior management. Are their positions safe? Would they be able to find a similar role elsewhere?

Great C-level leaders and managers are those who stay connected and communicate regularly with their employees, sharing objectives and building that vital sense of hope for the future.

Part of the recovery process must involve making the workplace more attractive and productive. Ensure the work environment is balanced, with genuinely equal opportunities and fair rewards for everyone. Revisit how you evaluate performance; is it an objective and positive system? Failing to address these aspects could lead to your talented employees looking elsewhere. 

Image and perception
Hotel leadership responses to the crisis have varied. Many have taken positive action. In the absence of paying customers, some hotels have opened their rooms to help isolate patients who are not critically ill, easing the burden on hospitals. Or temporarily taken in homeless people, who would otherwise be especially vulnerable to the virus. Others have kept kitchens running, to help feed emergency workers who haven’t had time to source meals for themselves.

These positive actions, displaying a spirit of generosity will mean these businesses are better perceived by potential guests. Those who have been distant and unsupportive during the pandemic will find that empathy and integrity are important, and guests and employees have long memories.

Goodbye old order, hello new era
There is a broad consensus that the travel and tourism industry cannot return to how it was before COVID-19. The lockdown has given guests, hotel business owners, directors, managers and employees time to assess how we all live, work, travel and relax.

Personal well-being, work/life balance, the vulnerability of the planet and a stronger determination to protect it, will change how hospitality is perceived and must perform in the future.

Some hotel businesses, however, seem to have learned little from the experiences of 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. Those who cling to the old, pre-COVID-19 model are unlikely to prosper. Companies and leaders with the sensitivity and emotional intelligence to address guest and employee concerns, with policies that demonstrate fairness and diversity, will fare best of all.

The pandemic cannot be ignored or wished away. For hotel employees at all levels, it should be seen as an incentive to develop fresh skills and become more valued and marketable, as multi-functional, hands-on and strategically savvy individuals. For hotel owners and management, this is the start of a new era: the opportunity to learn from experience and use the freshly gained insight to develop more dynamic, creative, sustainable leadership that is fit for a brave new world.