A Review of the Future Hospitality Summit in Saudi Arabia: Insights from Guy Lean

The Future Hospitality Summit, held at the beginning of May in Riyadh, was a dynamic showcase of Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning tourism and hospitality industries. For Guy Lean, a first-time attendee on his inaugural visit to Saudi Arabia, it was an opportunity to witness first-hand the incredible growth potential in the region. From bold mega-projects to the cultural shifts happening across the country, the summit offered valuable insights for businesses eager to explore new opportunities. 

Vision 2030: A Unified Strategy
One of the central themes of the summit was Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030—a strategy designed to attract 150 million visitors to the country. Guy noted that everyone he spoke with, from ministers to business executives, was fully aligned with this vision. It was clear that the leadership-driven, KPI-oriented approach had permeated every level of the industry. “The first topic of conversation is about the Vision,” Guy said. “Moving from the original target of 100 million to 150 million visitors shows the ambition. They’re incredibly KPI-driven, and everyone’s working towards the same goals.” 

Mega and Giga Projects: Scale and Ambition
Saudi Arabia’s mega and giga projects inlcuding Qiddiya and Red Sea Global) demonstrate the country’s scale and ambition. Guy found the scope of these developments emblematic of the nation’s long-term vision. “These projects are vast,” Guy said. “The Red Sea project will offer something truly unique, both from a cultural and natural perspective.” 

These projects, which could otherwise be overwhelming in their enormity, reflect a broader strategy for economic diversification. And yet, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond these colossal initiatives, Guy saw an extensive focus on practical hospitality needs, like hotels in secondary cities, business accommodations, and serviced apartments. 

Warmth and Accessibility: A Cultural Shift
Despite some preconceived notions about the region, Guy found the welcome to be warm, welcoming and authentic.  At the conference, he noticed that ministers and executives were genuinely interested in hearing about new ideas and connecting with people. “The Saudis are incredibly accessible,” Guy reflected. “They’re open for business, they want to talk to you, and they’re genuinely curious about why you’re there.” 

This cultural shift was refreshing. Guy described how approachable everyone was, regardless of their seniority or title. He felt that this openness would create countless opportunities for meaningful collaboration. “The Saudis are big on collaboration,” he noted. “They want to meet you, connect with you, and understand your service. It was a breath of fresh air.” 

Sustainability and ESG Commitment
While sustainability has been recently touted as a key focus in global business (although conspicuously absent at CHRIS which we attended in April), Guy felt there was a genuine commitment to ESG principles in Saudi Arabia.  

The projects presented at the summit weren’t just ambitious; they were carefully crafted to integrate sustainable practices. This dedication to sustainability was a common thread throughout the summit. From careful consideration of the Red Sea’s unique marine life to developing tourism that respects sacred sites, Saudi Arabia seems committed to building a responsible hospitality industry. “They know the value of their land, and they’re not just going to bulldoze through it,” Guy said. 

Challenges and Strategies for Success
While the opportunities presented at the summit were vast, Guy acknowledged that businesses who may want to tap into the market would require a strategic approach. Building meaningful relationships takes time, and businesses need to be prepared to invest in repeated visits to understand the market and establish trust. “You can’t just go once and expect lots of business,” he cautioned. “It’s an going investment in time to build genuine connections.” 

Another important consideration is the emphasis on Saudi nationalisation (or Nitaqat), which aims to bring more Saudi talent into the workforce. International expertise is welcome, but Guy stressed that businesses must recognise the focus (and legal requirement) on nurturing local talent. “They want to train their own people, but they’re aware of the expertise needed to do this properly,” he said. 

The Future Outlook
The Future Hospitality Summit painted a clear picture of the future of Saudi Arabia’s hospitality sector, one marked by bold ambitions and a willingness to work with global partners. Guy was confident that, despite the challenges, the opportunities in the region are unmatched. “I’ve never seen an opportunity this big in my life,” he said. “Dubai was always huge, but this is on a different level.” 

With the ongoing concerted national effort, the projects and partnerships emerging in Saudi Arabia really could elevate the region into a premier hospitality destination. Guy left the conference optimistic that Saudi Arabia will realise its Vision 2030, with projects that offer world-class experiences while maintaining cultural authenticity and prioritising sustainable growth. 

Conclusion
In conclusion, businesses seeking growth in the Middle East would be wise to pay attention to Saudi Arabia. The nation’s ambitious Vision 2030, combined with its genuine commitment to sustainability and warm, collaborative culture, makes it an attractive destination for investment. However, success requires thoughtful planning, long-term relationship-building, and a willingness to adapt to local customs and priorities. 

For Guy, the Future Hospitality Summit was inspiring. “It was a truly authentic experience,” he said. “The Saudis are doing something really special, and I believe they’re going to pull this off.” 

If you would like to arrange a chat about your people strategies or to discuss any points raised in this article, then please get in touch on +44 (0)208 600 1182 or +44 (0)7813 009 787 or email guylean@madisonmayfair.com 

Success Stories – In Conversation with Guy Lean, Managing Director at Madison Mayfair

This year, Guy Lean is celebrating his 20th anniversary at Madison Mayfair and, as such a stalwart hospitality industry, we thought who better to kick off our 2024 Success Story series. 

Having studied recreational management in college, Guy’s journey into recruitment was not a conventional one. His early experience at Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club led to his first role in recruitment where he quickly realised the importance of nurturing personal connections as he carved his career path through sales, training and recruitment, with some help from Dr Seuss along the way. 

At Madison Mayfair, Guy’s focus goes beyond merely placing candidates in roles, but rather measured by their long-term achievements of these placements, underlining Guy’s commitment to nurturing meaningful and lasting relationships for both his candidates and clients alike. 

In this interview, Guy shares his rich experiences, insights, and perspectives on the recruitment landscape, offering valuable advice and observations that stem from a career built on genuine connections and a deep understanding of the industry.

Please tell us more about your career path and how you become known as one of the best-connected recruiters in the hospitality industry. 

Recruitment isn’t really one of those careers that you study in college and then start head-hunting. Like many of my peers, I fell into it somewhat. After finishing my studies in recreational management, with the initial goal of managing a leisure centre, I found myself at The Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club in Richmond. There, I was not only involved in selling events but also managed the bars and looked after the events themselves. This was my first real exposure to high-quality hospitality and the art of connecting with people on a daily basis. 

While at the golf club, a member noticed my potential and asked what my future plans were. He offered me a job at his recruitment firm back in my hometown, Cambridge. I started placing salespeople in various industries including agricultural machinery and pharmaceuticals, working with anybody that sold anything across East Anglia. This job was a real ‘school of hard knocks.’ It involved picking up the phone hundreds of times a day, making connections and really understanding sales.  

I then moved to work for a pharmaceutical recruiter, specialising in the niche area of tamper-evident packaging. This was a significant step in my career, as I eventually became the number one recruiter in the US, while still based in Europe. This led to me being headhunted by Humana International to help sell franchises and teach franchisees to become head-hunters in their respective fields. Humana was eventually sold to an even bigger company called MRI and I became their Global Head of Training while also out there selling franchises. 

Mentorship played a crucial role in my career development. I was fortunate to work with and learn from prominent figures in the recruitment industry, like Tony Byrne and Steven Finkel. These experiences not only shaped my skills but also instilled in me the importance of mentoring others. I’ve trained and hired many individuals over the years and take pride in seeing them achieve great success in their careers.  

In recruitment, statistics play a significant role, even though it’s very much a human-centered field. It takes about 75 conversations to find the right person for a job, someone who would truly excel in their role.  

Our approach at Madison Mayfair involves understanding and connecting with a vast network of people – around six and a half thousand in each market. These individuals are not just clients or candidates, but they are all people with unique needs and aspirations. We are proud to say that most of the clients we work with have been candidates in the past.

Can you share your top tips for candidate who might be preparing for interviews in 2024. 

I’ve always said that when we’re interviewing, we’re all in sales. Regardless of what role you might be applying for, and whoever you are in front of, you’re selling.  

I think you have to follow a sales process and preparation is everything. I would suggest reading a sales book and my top recommendation is “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss which gets to the essence of sales faster than any other book.  

From there, researching the company and having excellent questions are great ways to build rapport. Technically, most candidates who get to interview stage could probably do the job, but in most cases, it’s the most enthusiastic person who gets it.

Are there any industry technologies that you are excited to see continue to develop. Conversely, are there any industry technologies you would prefer never to see again? 

I believe that certain technologies, particularly those aiding in research and networking, are incredibly beneficial. LinkedIn, for instance, has significantly transformed the recruitment landscape. Its ability to facilitate connections and provide instant access to individuals’ backgrounds is invaluable. This tool is essential in our industry, to the extent that if someone isn’t present on LinkedIn, they might not even be considered a viable candidate. 

In terms of communication preferences, I’ve noticed a generational shift. Younger individuals often prefer text messages or platforms like WhatsApp over traditional emails or phone calls. These tools have been effective in connecting with people in ways they are more comfortable with. 

However, there’s a downside to technology when it oversteps and replaces human interaction. In our industry, which is very personal and deals with people’s careers and lives, losing the human touch can be detrimental. For example, when companies provide feedback or rejection via email, it can feel impersonal and inadequate. Human connections are vital, and technology should not overshadow them. 

While I am relatively new to AI and its applications, I can see its potential, especially in speeding up processes like research and initial connections. It’s a remarkable tool for gathering information and bringing back relevant findings quickly. However, the recruitment process in hospitality still requires a balance. While technology can expedite certain aspects, the final stages of interviewing and truly understanding what people want and need must be done through direct human interaction, either face-to-face or via video conferencing. This balance ensures that while we embrace the advantages of technology, we do not lose the essence of personal connections that are fundamental to the hospitality industry. 

Business travel is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels of spend, but many analysts, feel that it will never be the same. Do you feel that candidate expectations have changed regarding travelling for business? 

I believe there are two main elements to consider. Firstly, there’s a heightened focus on the carbon footprint. People have become more environmentally conscious than ever before, and a genuine shift in focus towards sustainability is influencing decisions to travel less. 

Secondly, the importance of maintaining relationships plays a significant role. While the pandemic demonstrated the effectiveness of video conferencing for meetings, which had not been widely popular before, certain aspects of business, such as the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) market, team building, and relationship building, still necessitate physical travel. In these areas, face-to-face interactions are essential and irreplaceable. 

An interesting observation I’ve made is that fewer people are now relocating for work post-pandemic. There seems to be a change in mindset where individuals are more content to stay in their area, seeking a different balance in life and work. This contrasts with the previous norm, especially among general managers in hospitality, where career advancement often meant travelling globally to gain diverse experiences. Now, many seem more satisfied with remaining in their local area. 

However, this shift in perspective towards travel and relocation seems to vary between generations. For instance, I’ve noticed that younger generations, like my two sons in their early 20s, are driven by experiences and the desire to travel. They work hard and then use their earnings to travel extensively. This love for experiences and exploring the world seems more pronounced among them, whereas the older generation appears less driven to relocate or travel extensively for work purposes. 

What do you feel are the most important traits for hospitality leaders to demonstrate? 

For me, the most important traits for high-level leaders centres around emotional intelligence. Leaders who exhibit high emotional intelligence can better communicate with their team, providing information effectively and motivating their teams while displaying empathy and impeccable social skills.  

The most successful leaders generally display a strong self-awareness of their own emotions that helps them understand that people often leave jobs due to poor relationships with their supervisors or a lack of connection with the leadership. They can create work environments where employees feel valued, understood, and motivated, leading to better retention and a more positive workplace culture. It’s not always about monetary compensation but more often about the quality of the work environment and the relationships within it. 

What do you feel has been your biggest achievement and why?

I’ve placed over a thousand people in their careers, many of whom have risen from their first jobs to C-level positions but I feel my biggest achievement has been my work with people and teams. I’ve had the incredible fortune of working with extremely talented individuals throughout my career, and the amount I’ve learned from these experiences has been immense.  

At Madison Mayfair, we have a unique focus: we aim to ensure a return on investment for the candidates we place. Our measure of success isn’t just about filling positions. We look at their progress after 12 months. We follow up to see if they were promoted, if they hit their KPIs, met their targets, or received bonuses. I’m particularly proud of this aspect because it signifies that we’re genuinely contributing to the career growth and success of individuals and our clients’ businesses. 

I am also very proud of the reputation and regard Madison Mayfair has earned in the marketplace. We’re a boutique firm and take pride in the quality of our work and the lasting relationships we build.  

Often, candidates come back to us as clients, and companies return to us for our services, which is a testament to the effectiveness of our approach. Just recently, I had a conversation with someone who had been with a company for six years and reached out to us because of our longstanding work with them.  

This kind of feedback and repeat collaboration reinforce that we’re doing something right. I’m extremely grateful for the great teams we have and the collaborative efforts that contribute to these successes. 

What is the best piece of advice you have been given on your career journey?

I think the best bit of advice I’ve ever been given is, “put your brain into gear before you put your mouth into motion.” 

Madison Mayfair focuses on forging strong, long-standing relationships with clients and candidates, often over the lifetime of multiple roles, to ensure we can find creative and innovative solutions to the challenges we all face in the hospitality industry.  

 To discuss how we can support your businesses with your overall people strategy or to access our full suite of human capital services through Hospitality People Group, please get in touch with Guy Lean on Tel: +44 20 8600 1180,  Mob:+44 7813 009787 or Email: guylean@madisonmayfair.com  

  

Sharpening the Saw: Insights from Annual Hotel Conference 2023 with Guy Lean

In the dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of the hospitality industry, the Annual Hotel Conference (AHC) stands as a pivotal event in the UK, offering a rich tapestry of knowledge, innovation and networking opportunities.  

Guy Lean is an annual attendee at this event in Manchester, and once again had the privilege to represent Madison Mayfair and Hospitality People Group for the two-day event. Here he shares his insights as hospitality professionals converged to explore emerging trends and envision the future of hospitality.  

Overview
The Manchester Conference Centre once again played host to a successful iteration of the AHC, drawing in a large audience of over 1000 attendees from various segments of the hospitality industry. The event provided an engaging platform for stakeholders to share insights and fostered a collaborative environment where attendees could freely discuss the pressing issues and opportunities in the industry. The prevailing sentiment was one of positivity, with a focus on the resilience of the industry and an optimistic outlook on the economic landscape. 

In the spirit of providing exceptional hospitality, the event logistics were well-organised and executed perfectly. The panel discussions and plenary sessions were the backbone of the AHC event, offering slick, well-rehearsed presentations that were both engaging and informative. The sessions covered a range of topics, including the current economic landscape, the resilience of the hospitality industry and the evolving trends in customer preferences with a focus on experience-driven spending. The breakout sessions were well-attended, offering interesting discussions and insights. 

Key Takeaways from AHC
Economic Insights
The event presented a rich tapestry of economic insights, with economists painting a vivid picture of the current economic landscape. In his economic keynote speech, James Pomeroy, Global Economist with HSBC, shared his The Flour Pot Bakery analogy which really resonated with the audience. He suggested that when he finishes his morning run and has to queue out the door for a high-quality coffee and pastry at The Flour Pot Bakery in Brighton, the economy must be doing well. However, if he arrives and can get a table, maybe more people have decided to forgo their morning treat, then the economy is likely to be suffering. Inflation was also a hot topic, with experts dissecting its potential trajectory and discussing strategies to mitigate its adverse effects on the industry. 

Industry Resilience
A significant focus was on the resilience demonstrated by the travel and hospitality industry amidst unprecedented challenges over the past few years. The narrative has shifted from a retrospective analysis comparing current statistics with those of 2019 to a forward-looking approach that envisions a robust future. The role of human interaction and experiences was underscored as a cornerstone in fostering the industry’s resilience, emphasising the irreplaceable value of the personal touch in hospitality services. This trend has seemingly benefited the luxury end of travel and hospitality more than the budget side, emphasising the need for a balanced approach to cater to diverse customer preferences.  

Market Trends and Technology
Technology took centre stage at the event, with tech companies particularly well represented on the stands and introducing ever more innovative solutions to the market. The event served as a reminder of the relentless pace of technological advancements and their profound impact on the industry. However, the overall message continued to see these advancements as ways to enhance the employee and customer experience or help the human decision-making processes rather than replace the personal experience or existing people strategies. 

Networking Opportunities
For many the networking opportunities were a highlight, offering a vibrant platform for reconnecting with old acquaintances and forging new connections. There was great representation from many newer brands, as well as many familiar larger brands, fostering a collaborative environment to forge new connections and nurture existing relationships. 

Challenges and Opportunities in the Industry
Food and Beverage Sector
The AHC event shed light on the pressing issues faced by the food and beverage sector. One of the focal points was the heightened pressure on this sector due to soaring costs, exacerbated by the current economic landscape discussed in the economic insights segment. Experts delved deep into the topic of food inflation, analysing its ripple effect on the industry. 

Investment Landscape
The investment landscape session was enriched with insights from the investment panel during the capital talks segment. The panel highlighted the pivotal role of granular strong leadership in navigating the current scenario, emphasising the necessity for leaders to have a detailed understanding and control over the P&L and all facets of the business.  

The discussions also ventured into the realm of opportunities present in the distressed assets market. The previously anticipated feeding frenzy hasn’t materialised quite as expected, as banks have been much more open to discussion and finding solutions. Alongside this, investors have been encouraged by the industry’s resilience and commitment to protecting profit and there are many private equity firms ready and willing to do deals. 

Human-Centred Leadership
During the AHC event, Ros Hardiman, Group People and Organisation Development Director at Kew Green Hotels, introduced the transformative concept of human-centred leadership.  

Guy found this to be a powerful insight closely aligned to previous Hospitality People Group articles on The Battle for Retention and How can Culture help Win the War for Talent. Ros Hardiman’s views on a human-centred leadership approach places a significant emphasis on the human aspect of organisations, advocating for a leadership style that is more empathetic, understanding and focused on the holistic well-being of employees.  

In a human-centred leadership model, leaders foster an environment where individuals can thrive both personally and professionally, thereby nurturing a workspace that is more collaborative, innovative and productive. 

Underscoring the vital role of aligning leadership strategies with company culture and values, it was emphasised that companies can build a resilient and committed workforce. This alignment creates a symbiotic relationship between the employees and the organisation, fostering a space of mutual growth and respect. 

The discussion transitioned into the evolving dynamics of employee engagement and appraisal in the current landscape. It was highlighted that the traditional methods of appraisal are gradually giving way to more inclusive and continuous feedback-driven approaches.  

The new strategies are designed to be more responsive to the individual needs and aspirations of employees, fostering a culture of continuous learning and development. The changing approach also recognises the value of employee well-being, encouraging leaders to adopt strategies that promote work-life balance and mental health, thereby creating a more engaged, satisfied and productive workforce. 

Conclusion
For Guy, the event served the purpose of “sharpening the saw,” a metaphor encapsulated by Stephen Covey, which promotes taking time out of the day-to-day tasks to renew and reset, allowing for personal development.  

A key takeaway was for attendees to constantly hone their skills, to be adaptable and to embrace a mindset of lifelong learning. This principle is pivotal in navigating the ever-evolving dynamics of the industry, allowing hospitality professionals to stay ahead of the curve to foster environments of excellence and innovation. 

In closing, the AHC event painted a picture of a resilient and adaptive industry, poised for growth and brimming with opportunities. Despite the challenges that loom, the underlying sentiment was one of optimism, driven by human-centric leadership, technological advancements and a renewed focus on value-driven strategies.  

As the industry forges ahead, it does so with a spirit of positivity. It is a time to leverage the insights gained, to “sharpen the saw” and to work collaboratively towards a future that is not just successful, but also sustainable and inclusive. 

If you would like to arrange a chat about your people strategies or to discuss any points raised in this article, then please get in touch on +44 (0)208 600 1182 or +44 (0)7813 009 787 or guylean@madisonmayfair.com 

Success Stories – In Conversation with Claire Llewellin-Davis

With a diverse background spanning prestigious international establishments such as The Hurlingham Club, The Hong Kong Jockey Club and now as Managing Director of The Lensbury, Claire Llewellin-Davis’ journey has been impressive.

Her expertise extends far beyond the confines of luxury hospitality, having previously served in Iraq and Afghanistan in her distinguished eight years as a British Army Officer. This unique blend of experiences has shaped Claire into a dynamic leader, well-equipped to inspire change and set new standards of excellence at every level.  

The Lensbury
Founded in 1920, The Lensbury is set within 25 beautiful acres, bordering the River Thames, and comprises a 155-bedroom hotel, a private members’ club with 7,000 members, a conference centre, state of the art gym, studios, an indoor pool, spa, 24 tennis courts, squash courts, water sports centre and elite sports facilities supported by a heavy weights gym and 2 UEFA pitches. 

Claire commenced her role as Managing Director at The Lensbury just days before England’s Lionesses checked in to begin their successful run at Euro 2022. It resulted in Wembley glory and a team victory celebration hosted at The Lensbury, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in England since 1966. 

We had the pleasure of catching up with Claire for a fascinating chat, where she shared her invaluable insights on the world of hospitality within both Club management and the Hotel Industry. 

Transitioning from a successful career in the British Army to the world of hospitality is an impressive achievement. How has your military background influenced your approach to leadership in the hospitality industry, and what valuable lessons have you carried forward from your time in the armed forces?
A career in the military provides an excellent grounding for all walks of life, and the path to Club Management is increasingly common. I loved my time in the Army, and credit it for honing a number of transferable skills and lessons for future success:   

  • The importance of teamwork and developing a strong camaraderie; there is no leadership without followership 
  • The power of communication; this sets the foundation for success at all levels
  • The necessity for ongoing personal and team development, ‘train hard, fight easy’ 
  • To set, embody and maintain high standards; to ‘be the best’ 
  • To set priorities and manage time 
  • Resilience: the confidence and strength to tackle the unknown 

In your opinion, what are the key factors that contribute to creating a strong and cohesive team culture within a hospitality organisation?
Communication is key. The majority of people set out to do a good job. It is our responsibility as managers and leaders to help them deliver it. We have to put in place the structure and support necessary for our team to understand what their role is, what the future of the business is, and to see how they play their part within it. We must encourage and reward success. The workplace should be an enjoyable place to be, where engagement, recognition, reward and support are part of daily life. Happy staff = Happy customers.  

As a seasoned hospitality leader, what do you believe sets apart truly exceptional service from the rest?
The key to exceptional service is anticipation. Understanding what someone wants, before they know it themselves. 

As an experienced Club Manager, now benefiting from an insight into the world of Hotel Management, what have your observations been?
It has been a fascinating, and hugely rewarding experience. There is so much that Club Management can learn from the Hotel Industry and vice versa. Whilst equity Clubs are ‘surplus’, rather than ‘profit driven’, there is much to be said for the hotel industry’s laser focus on revenue and profitability at department and GOP level. Data driven decision-making is powerful. 

Technology has revolutionised the way we experience hospitality. How do you strike a balance between leveraging technology to enhance guest experiences while still maintaining a personal touch?
The word ‘balance’ is key between automation, and maintaining a human connection, which will always be irreplaceable. Automation is great when there is little complexity; as the military would say, Keep It Simple, Stupid. With escalating costs, we are all looking at ways we can reduce our overheads. Ultimately technology that will enhance the guest experience, whilst providing a better understanding of their journey and drive revenue, is what we are all looking to invest in.   

What advice would you give to aspiring hospitality professionals who aspire to reach leadership positions within the industry?
Believe in yourself and be clear about the kind of organisations you want to work for and why. Continue to develop yourself and obtain professional qualifications which will set you apart from the rest. Don’t be afraid to take the odd ‘detour’ if you can see that it will provide you with additional, relevant skills in the future. Attitude is everything.  Good luck! 

Madison Mayfair focuses on forging strong, long-standing relationships with clients and candidates, often over the lifetime of multiple roles, to ensure we can find creative and innovative solutions to the challenges we all face in the hospitality industry. 

To discuss how we can support your businesses with your overall people strategy or to access our full suite of human capital services through Hospitality People Group, please get in touch with Guy Lean on Tel: +44 20 8600 1180,  Mob:+44 7813 009787 or Email guylean@madisonmayfair.com 

 

 

 

Success Stories – In Conversation with Natasha Eldred

Established in 2011, EQ Hotels is a leading European hospitality investment and management platform with over €1.7B of hotel real estate across 5,000 rooms. 

EQ Hotel’s quality discipline coupled with entrepreneurial, hands-on operational management, enables them to identify and execute niche, high-value-add real estate opportunities in the hotel investment market. EQ Hotel’s unique position, as both an investor and manager, allows it to underwrite acquisitions balancing solid return on investment targets with operationally credible roadmaps to achieve goals. 

In early 2022, EQ Hotels engaged Madison Mayfair to support the development of its people strategy. After identifying the need to support not just overall marketing goals for the business, it became clear that there was an immediate need to support the high-profile opening of a luxury five-star property in Paris, Hotel Dame Des Arts. With this, Madison Mayfair adapted the executive search parameters to include robust luxury, pre-opening experience that could be deployed quickly and initially on a short-term contract to have a big impact with limited risk.  

Natasha Eldred had recently moved back to the UK having spent nearly 20 years running her own luxury hospitality PR agency in south-east Asia, from her base of operations in Thailand. She had supported the launch of some of the biggest luxury properties in the region and was perfectly placed to lead the PR element of this pre-opening, on a fixed-term project basis. 

By late 2022, with the pre-opening underway with Natasha’s expertise in place, we further enhanced the marketing team structure by recruiting a full time Director of Marketing.  With her previous experience in multi-property luxury brands, we were delighted to place Carla Severn, an ideal match for EQ Hotels as they continue to grow their luxury portfolio in London and Paris. 

As part of our ‘In Conversation” series, we were delighted to recently catch up with Natasha for a short Q & A as she shares her thoughts on her extensive experience in the hospitality industry. 

What inspired you to follow a career in hospitality?
My passion and professional background in the performing arts led me to pursue a career in hospitality. The similarities between hotels and theatre are striking – both involve creating a captivating experience for the audience or guest. Hotels are like a stage or a film set, with the operations team and guests playing important roles in the narrative. Just as actors create characters, hotel professionals use branding and marketing to communicate with guests and create engaging experiences. I particularly enjoy the thrill of opening a new hotel – it’s like the excitement of a new relationship. As someone who works primarily on pre and grand-opening projects, I get to experience the buzz and then exit stage left while the hotel is at its peak. 

What do you consider your biggest achievement so far and why? 
While relocating back to the UK after being overseas for two decades was a significant personal achievement, my greatest professional accomplishment was leading the global launch of Keemala, a breathtaking resort tucked in the hillside of Phuket’s west coast. This project was particularly special to me because I had the opportunity to work closely with the owning family from the very beginning and was given full autonomy to oversee everything from the brand story to the PR strategy, social media, photography direction, and even the food and beverage offerings. Taking a 360-degree approach to this project allowed me to immerse myself fully in every aspect, and it was this level of involvement that I truly enjoyed. Overall, I consider my work on the Keemala launch to be my greatest achievement, as it was a project that felt deeply personal and allowed me to showcase my skills across multiple areas. 

What does great hospitality mean to you?
To me, great hospitality is all about creating a sense of warmth and genuine welcome for every guest. While I certainly appreciate luxury and all the frills that come with it, I believe that the key to exceptional hospitality lies in the quality of the team. Hospitality is not just about providing top-notch service, but also about selling experiences and journeys that enrich the lives of guests. As a hospitality communications professional, I see myself as an ambassador for both the hotel and the destination it represents, sharing the story and values of both and ensuring that we shine the brightest light on both.  

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your career so far?
I have learned that continuous learning is essential, but it’s equally important to focus on my strengths. It’s easy to underestimate the value of experience and the distinctive perspective it brings to a team. As professionals, and consultants, it’s common to feel like an imposter or hesitate to charge a fair fee, but with decades of experience, I must remind myself that am worth every penny. Additionally, I have learned not to get caught up in small details and to have the courage to redirect clients towards what really matters. It’s easy to get bogged down in irrelevant aspects, but this can be a waste of time and resources. Instead, it’s crucial to stay focused on the big picture and work towards achieving meaningful outcomes. 

Thank you to Natasha for sharing your inspirational views on the hospitality industry.  

Madison Mayfair focuses on forging strong, long-standing relationships with clients and candidates, often over the lifetime of multiple roles, to ensure we can find creative and innovative solutions to the challenges we all face in the hospitality industry.  

To discuss how we can support your businesses with your overall people strategy or to access our full suite of human capital services through Hospitality People Group, please get in touch with Guy Lean on Tel: +44 20 8600 1180, Mob: +44 7813 009787 or Email: guylean@madisonmayfair.com  

 

 

 

IHIF 2023: Key Highlights and Insights Shaping the Hospitality Industry

The International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) 2023 recently concluded with the theme “Fortune Favours the Bold”. This year’s event brought together a diverse group of industry leaders and experts to discuss the latest trends, challenges and opportunities in the dynamic world of hospitality. Here, Hospitality People Group’s Dan Akhtar and Mara Cattaneo share their highlights and key insights that continue to shape the hospitality landscape. 

The Battle to Attract & Retain
Earlier this year Hospitality People Group published an article on The Battle for Retention, that spotlighted the challenges that the hospitality industry continues to face, so it was no surprise that this topic took centre stage in Berlin. Jan Hein Simons, Hotels Director at Colliers specifically highlighted labour shortages as the major industry challenge, and said that “some companies had been turning down revenue because of a lack of staff.” Participants explored the increasing competition to attract and retain skilled professionals in an ever-evolving job market. As the industry faces a growing demand for talent, strategies and initiatives were shared to address this challenge. These included innovative recruitment practices, talent development programs, and creating a positive work culture to attract and retain the best talent available.  

Focus on Luxury
We found that there was huge optimism for the ongoing recovery of the luxury hospitality sector. The event shed light on the evolving expectations of luxury travellers and the growing demand for personalised and exclusive experiences. Concepts such as hyper-personalisation, unique amenities, and curated experiences were discussed as key drivers to enhance guest satisfaction in this segment. While the labour shortage has certainly affected the luxury segment’s ability to fill hotels, they have also been far more successful in passing increased room rate onto their guests than midscale properties, leading to ADRs that are already well ahead of 2019. The integration of cutting-edge technology and partnerships with luxury brands were also highlighted as strategies to provide unforgettable and personalised luxury experiences. 

ESG Goes Mainstream
The development of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations from a niche subject to centre stage at IHIF 2023 is remarkable. It clearly signals a willingness to shift towards more sustainable and responsible practices in the hospitality industry, driven by increasing consumer demand and regulatory requirements. However, it is still not clear that what consumers demand, and what they are willing to pay for are quite the same. Attendees discussed how governmental policy would likely drive the implementation of ESG strategies, including energy efficiency programs, waste reduction strategies, community engagement, and ethical sourcing. Overall, establishing your company’s values and beliefs and clearly communicating them with potential employees as well as customers seemed to be a growing trend and excellent advice to businesses looking to grow, attract investment and/or win the battle for retention. 

Subdued Hotel Transaction Market
From our experience at IHIF, there is usually a news ticker sharing updates on the various deals that have been struck during the week. This was noticeably absent this year and points to a hotel transaction market that remains subdued, with a gap between seller expectations and buyer financing capabilities. While it seems clear that there is capital available, rising seller expectations and the subsequent lack of distressed assets, coupled with the increased cost of debt have made financing a challenge for potential buyers. Despite the challenges, participants expressed great optimism about the market’s resilience and the potential for future growth. 

Financing Challenges
Participants highlighted the increased cost, and reduced accessibility of debt financing in the hospitality industry. However, it was noted that lenders are still open to financing projects that demonstrate institutional appeal and align with their investment criteria. Factors such as sustainable themes, commitment to the hospitality sector, and desirable locations were identified as crucial elements in securing financing for hospitality projects. Alternative financing options, such as private equity and crowdfunding, were also explored as viable alternatives to traditional debt financing. 

The Potential of AI
The potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to transform the hospitality industry was widely discussed at IHIF 2023. Participants delved into the various applications of AI, and how it could be leveraged to address the biggest challenges in the industry. Reducing the impact of mundane tasks on hospitality employees would likely increase employee retention. AI could also help with elements of the customer journey that are not considered to be drivers of delight, such as cleaning rooms, allowing the potentially reduced workforce to concentrate on ‘value-adding’ activities  The event showcased pilot projects and initiatives that leverage AI technologies, such as chatbots for personalised guest interactions, smart room controls for enhanced comfort and convenience, and AI-powered data analytics for market trend analysis and predictive modelling. While AI is still in its early stages, industry leaders expressed optimism about its ability to revolutionise how hotels operate and deliver exceptional guest experiences. 

Conclusion
IHIF 2023 provided a platform for industry professionals to gain valuable insights into the current state and future direction of the hospitality industry. The event emphasised the need for bold strategies and innovative approaches to address challenges such as the Battle for Retention, the evolving demands of luxury travellers, the mainstream adoption of ESG practices, the subdued hotel transaction market, financing challenges, and the future potential of AI. As the industry continues to evolve and build resilience, a forward-thinking mindset will be crucial to thrive in a rapidly changing landscape. 

If you would like to discuss any of the topics raised in this article or would like to chat about your people strategy, then please get in touch. 

Dan Akhtar, Managing Director of HPG Advisory Services +44 20 8600 1166 / +44 7808 157796 / dan@hpgsearch.com 

Is Hospitality really the most stressful industry in the UK?

April is Stress Awareness Month, and after a number of publications last year reported that 57% of hospitality employees regularly experience high levels of stress, we want to ask if hospitality really is the most stressful industry in the UK? 

The most stressful industry in the UK? 

In July last year, a report from addiction and rehab specialist Delamere, on the toxicity of the hustle culture, gave a breakdown on stress in various industries. This report was picked up in a number of other articles at the time, and presented hospitality as the most stressful industry in the UK. According to the report, 57.1% of “Accommodation and Food Service” workers reported poor mental health, more than Health and Social Care and Manufacturing which rounded out the top three places. The data to back this up were attributed to Lifeworks’ monthly Mental Health Index. These figures tend to vary by month and while Hospitality is no longer considered the worst offender in terms of workplace stress, it still rates consistently low in areas such as Average Hours Worked and Work-Life Balance.  

The impact of stress on retention rates 

Long Hours and Work-Life Balance, contribute highly towards levels of stress, which can eventually lead to burnout, especially if the level of commitment to the business and its culture begins to wane. Inevitable this can lead to reduced productivity and employee retention levels.  

Last year, we published The Battle for Retention which looked at a number of other factors that can affect employee turnover. 

Advice on how to tackle stress in the workplace consistently revolves around how to spot it in yourself, and in your employees. As individuals, we all have a responsibility to ourselves to recognise when we are working too hard or neglecting our personal commitments. Hospitality Action is a charity that supports hospitality employees both inside and outside of the workplace. In their Advice Hub, they share expert advice and information on how to get further support on a range of issues, including Stress.  

 Signs of stress can include:  

  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Feeling irritated with family, friends or co-workers 
  • Drinking more than usual 
  • Struggling with work deadlines 
  • Feeling isolated and lonely 
  • Physical symptoms such as: panic attacks, headaches, chest pains, indigestion, dizziness, nausea, sweating, breathing problems 

Mental health charity Mind recommends some ways to manage it including:  

  • Identify your triggers – Try to prepare for stress by recognising what sets it off 
  • Organise your time – Make a list of your tasks and approach them in order of urgency 
  • Be clear about your limits – While it isn’t always possible to say no to things, let people know if you don’t have the capacity to fulfil their demands 
  • Try to take a short break – it may seem counter-intuitive to take a break when you are stressed but if you can allow yourself one, this can help how you feel
  • Develop interests and hobbies – Outside of work, try to make time for what you enjoy to take you away from stress 
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Stay physically active 
  • Eat a balanced diet 
  • Spend time in nature 
  • Build a support network – having friends and family, or finding support at work to talk through why you feel stressed can make a big difference 

Employers also have a duty to instill a workplace culture that can help spot the signs of stress and empower them to engage with employees on a more personal level, especially if they are seeing symptoms of stress in the team or in individuals. According to the Health and Safety Executive, signs of stress in a team can include:  

  • Increase in arguments amongst staff 
  • Higher staff turnover 
  • More reports of stress 
  • More sickness absence 
  • Decreased performance 
  • More complaints and grievances  

In individuals, leaders may notice a change in the way people act or feel, such as:  

  • Taking more time off 
  • Arriving for work later 
  • Being more twitchy or nervous 
  • Mood swings 
  • Being withdrawn 
  • A loss of motivation, commitment and confidence 
  • Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive

In addition to the free support for hospitality employees, Hospitality Action also offers a number of support packages including Stress and Resilience Training, designed to bolster the resilience and wellbeing of your employees. 

If you would like support with your people strategy in 2023, Madison Mayfair are here for you. With a superb track record in finding the right people for the right role, we have long standing relationships with clients and candidates and we can help guide you through challenging and sometimes stressful times.  

If you would like to chat about your people strategy, please contact us on +44 20 8600 1180.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insights from the Annual Hotel Conference 2022

The “Peak of Uncertainty” 

Our very own Guy Lean attended the recent Annual Hotel Conference (AHC) and shares some of his observations and insights from the event.  

As Hoteliers and Investors prepared to attend the first sessions of the event in Manchester, news of the tax policy backtrack came through from Westminster, shifting the economic goalposts once again.  

We are becoming increasingly used to operating in a state of flux and it is no surprise that “adaptability” became a theme throughout the conference. One attendee even suggested that the AHC was taking place at the “Peak of Uncertainty” for the UK. 

Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester
The AHC has always been an impressive event and has grown year on year. It is generally considered to be a more intimate version of IHIF in Berlin, but since the UK continues to be the most valuable region in the European investment market, it is one that attracts a lot of interest from investors, owners and hotel executives.  It has always been innovative, being one of the first to go paperless and it has evolved to now offer a seamless app experience that gives more control back to the user. 

The Economy
As expected, the economy was the most common topic of discussion, but the most fascinating aspect of this was the general positivity that surrounded the event. There was a lot of talk at the beginning of 2022, about just trying to hit 2019 numbers. And actually, many attendees spoke of how they’ve shattered those numbers. 2022 has been a phenomenally positive year. The success could be partly attributed to the huge pent-up demand from customers, who were still catching up on delayed experiences.  

Forecast for 2023
Naturally, the ongoing war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates are still keeping hoteliers cautious. As we plan for 2023 and another very uncertain future, there is continued pride in the resilience that has developed and embedded over the past couple of years. This ability to adapt to changing circumstances is no longer merely a tool to survive, but a highly prized asset now being used to drive success. A few of the speakers at AHC suggested that 2023 will be about bringing things back to basics, keeping things simple and doing what they do really well; cutting out waste and mistakes, looking after employees, working hard and ensuring that guests have great experiences time and time again. As a big rugby fan, it is a mantra that reminded me greatly of Paul O’Connell, former captain of the British & Irish Lions, who said “Let’s be the best at everything that requires no talent”.  

So how are investors planning for 2023? 
As costs continue to increase and the pent-up demand stabilises to normal levels, which business will continue to outperform the market?  

Investors are hopeful that energy prices will settle in the second half of 2023 and feel that there are still great opportunities out there, especially in the luxury market. While the economy hospitality sector will be less able to pass inflation costs onto the consumer, luxury hotels have a history of being able to do exactly that and are seen as a safer hedge against inflation.  

ESG Investments
The Investor influence is also being strongly felt in terms of ESG. An investment in a building is generally planned for longer-term value, and buildings that exceed current sustainability measures will be better placed to future-proofing their investments. Inevitably, operators are now being forced to prove their eco-credentials, with roadmaps to carbon net zero and green certifications now de rigeur for attracting investment. If they can’t do this, then then they simply won’t get the funding they are looking for. As the competition for corporate clients in 2023 is also likely to rely heavily on eco-friendly commitments, ESG is no longer a can to be kicked down the road. It is here and now, and needs to be treated with care and authenticity if you’re going to progress. 

Recruitment
I couldn’t sum up the event without also looking at the current state of recruitment. We’ve all heard about how businesses have struggled to recruit since the pandemic and the phrase “War for Talent” has been used frequently. At AHC, the operators that were most positive about the future tended to be the ones who spoke of strong cultures in the workplace. Being great communicators and focussing on retention has helped them drive employee satisfaction, keep their best talent and consequently helped attract new candidates when needed.  

From our experience, there is no doubt that there is a huge pool of talent out there, but they may just be a little more selective about where they will move next and are looking to work with employers that share their values.  

If you would like to arrange a chat about your recruitment strategies or to discuss any points raised in this article, then please get in touch on +44 (0)208 600 1182 or +44 (0)7813 009 787 or guylean@madisonmayfair.com 

 

Success Stories – In conversation with Guy Pasley-Tyler

Guy Pasley-Tyler has extensive experience in the international hospitality sector.  In his current role as Director, Portfolio & Fund Management with Archer Hotel Capital B.V., he is responsible for the review and development of market and fund strategy, the oversight of material value enhancement projects across the portfolio and the identification of opportunities to maximise fund-wide returns. Archer Hotel Capital BV enjoy a long-standing relationship with a number of international brands, including Marriott International, as well as developing iconic independent hotels, including The Dilly in London.  

Guy was responsible for European Portfolio Strategy & Feasibility with Host Hotels, prior to creation of Archer Hotel Capital B.V which followed the buyout of Host’s position by Dutch pension fund APG and Singapore-based GIC Real Estate. 

Before this, Guy worked for six years at AECOM Economics, where he was engaged in feasibility and advisory work on a wide variety of hotel and mixed-use real estate projects across the EMEA region. With diverse hospitality experience, Guy also has eight years’ experience in hotel management across operations and sales & marketing, an MBA from Hult International Business School in Cambridge, MA and is a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.  

Madison Mayfair continues to have a long-standing relationship with Guy, having placed him in his role as Director – Feasibility & Investment Strategy at Host Hotels.  

In conversation with Guy Pasley-Tyler  

How did you get into Hospitality?   
My first exposure to hospitality was rather indirect in that during my school holidays I got myself a job working in the post room of the head office of InterContinental Hotels in Mayfair. I really enjoyed the experience but was also fascinated by the business, albeit with limited understanding, and that inspired me later to seek a management trainee role at The Milestone Hotel in Kensington, which helped me to get a better understanding of all aspects of the business. In different ways I have enjoyed every subsequent role I have taken on in the industry. 

What are the most important aspects of portfolio management in hospitality and how has the role evolved over the years?    
At Archer, we aspire to be an active asset manager that seeks to improve and maximise every aspect of our investments – from the real estate itself to the concept to any associated contractual relationships (e.g. management agreements and leases). The key point for me is that the overall performance of the portfolio is the over-riding consideration in all our decision making, not necessarily the individual assets. This approach is made easier by having the same two aligned shareholders across all our investments so there is no conflict of interest. For asset managers handling multiple sources of capital across different investments there is a more careful line to tread in this regard. 

What do you consider your biggest achievement so far and why?  
The set-up of Archer Hotel Capital over the past 3 years. My colleague Dominic Seyrling and I had a shared vision around Archer and we were lucky to have two trusting and supportive shareholders who have backed us along the way, as well as sharing their own insights and experience to the benefit of Archer. Clearly, the pandemic has been a dominant feature of the last 18 months but we have used the time to focus on long-term value creation across our portfolio which will hopefully stand us in good stead in the years to come. 

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their career in the industry?   
Firstly, it’s a very varied business with lots of different roles available so don’t be afraid to test yourself in different areas to find out where you can excel. That rounded experience will stand you in good stead as your career develops.
Secondly, we are in a people business and forging strong relationships with mentors, colleagues and counterparties is essential to your development. It’s also important to treat people in the way in the manner you would want to be treated, not least because it’s a small industry and you never know who you might end working with in future! 

What are the biggest opportunities in the hospitality industry as it recovers from the pandemic?
We are in the business of creating experiences and I think that is an aspect of people’s lives that they have greatly missed during the pandemic.  In all our concept development and renovation planning we are trying to better differentiate our hotels to make them distinct offerings in their individual markets – just because a hotel is corporate-focused it doesn’t have to be boring. 

What would have been your Plan B?
A former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, described himself as a ‘cricket tragic’ and I fear that I may fit a similar description. Given that insufficient talent meant that a playing career was never even a remote possibility, my childhood dream was to be a commentator, ideally the BBC cricket correspondent, in charge of Test Match Special. 

For support with your next career move or to enhance your recruitment strategy, please call Madison Mayfair on +44 20 8600 1180 or contact Guy Lean on mm@madisonmayfair.com now.  

 

Will flexible working become the norm?

By definition, flexible working offers employees increased freedom –working from where they choose, flexible work schedules and fitting work around other responsibilities. Whilst flexible working has been increasingly adopted by companies over the years, it’s been accelerated since the start of the pandemic.

Research on the UK Government website shows that 9 out of 10 job seekers want increased flexibility, be it remote working (60%), flexitime (54%) or reduced hours (26%).

In March 2021, the Minister for Women and Equalities, called for flexible working to be “normalised” as part of the UK economy’s Covid-19 recovery, to capitalise on the shift in mindset triggered by the pandemic. Ministers are now preparing to make flexible working a permanent feature of British life post-pandemic, with plans to strengthen employees’ rights to work from home or ask for different hours.

Benefits of Flexible Working

Increase in Job Applications – UK Government-backed Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and jobs website Indeed, shows offering flexible working explicitly in job adverts increases applications by up to 30%. The research, which analysed nearly 20 million applications and is the largest of its kind ever conducted in the UK, shows greater transparency in job adverts would create at least 174,000 flexible jobs to the UK economy per year.

Best of Both Worlds – Flexible working offers the freedom of working from home but access to the community of the office to drive increased collaboration. According to a recent survey of 2000 UK workers by Currys PC World and Canon, 37% identified a better work-life balance as one of the main benefits of remote working, with 54% citing not having to commute as their favourite part.

Increased Opportunities for Equality – According to the minister for women and equalities, “flexible working could help boost job opportunities for women (who are more likely to have to disrupt their careers as a result of caregiving duties) and reduce geographical inequality.”

Spreading the commuter coin – Whilst city-based businesses are reliant on the influx of commuters to city centres across the world, there has been a re-balancing of revenues, with more local businesses benefiting from the shift of working patterns. Over time, with a return to a combination of part office, part home working, it’s encouraging to see this wealth being spread across businesses both in city locations and in local communities.

Is flexible working here to stay?

It depends on many factors – there are many predictions that flexible working is here to stay but on the flip-side, the Centre for Cities think tank predicts the five-day office week will become the norm again within two years as featured in a BBC News article in June 2021.

Ultimately, it will be driven by individual businesses and employee’s wishes, and won’t be a one size fits all approach.

Sector Specific – A flexible working environment naturally suits some sectors more than others. For hospitality, the pandemic was a catalyst to introducing more flexible working practices which improved work-life balance. As the business of hospitality re-opens, naturally many roles are guest-facing so require employees to be present in their place of work

Hospitality, like many sectors, are aware of the importance of their employees’ wellbeing and its impact on performance and productivity, so have been adjusting their return to work policies to introduce a variety of measures to create a better work-life balance for their teams. Hybrid working for those working in non-customer facing roles and a four day week have been some of those policies being trialled currently.

Re-imagining of the Office – With changing working patterns evolving and a move to increased hybrid working, the office space will need to be used differently. More collaborative space, places where people can come together and create and innovate and a revised layout of desks are all some of the practical changes that businesses are adopting as they look to navigate the road back to the office.

At Madison Mayfair, we work with clients across all areas of hospitality and associated industries to navigate flexible working. We work alongside our clients to showcase their company’s approach to work-life balance and its employee wellbeing focus to find the best candidate for the role.

We belong to the Hospitality People Group who offer a wide variety of roles from c-suite level and everything in between.  For support with your next career move or to improve your recruitment strategy, please contact Madison Mayfair using any of the below details:

Office +44 20 8600 1180  Email mm@madisonmayfair.com
Guy Lean +44 7813 009787  Email guylean@madisonmayfair.com

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