Industry Update
External Article13 January 2021

‘Nobody Gets Out of This Stronger’ Says Langham Hotels CEO

Hospitality will be permanently altered by the pandemic. Here’s how one hotel group is handling it

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1 min
bloomberg.com external

A company known primarily for its big-city hotels with a business-leaning bent, Langham Hospitality Group would seem among the most exposed to Covid-19's economic wrath.

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But under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Stefan Leser, the company is seeing a grab bag of highs and lows that include the most ambitious expansion pipeline in the brand's history, new properties whose reservations managers are busy with requests from people who may not be able to actually visit, and astrongbusiness in China where hotels saw larger revenues in the back half of 2020 than they did in January, before the pandemic sent travelers away. (Wuhan locked down on Jan. 23, with further mainland China restrictions following a few days later, only marginally affecting that month's revenues.)

That doesn't mean things have bounced back to normal. Langham's profitability in China remains an exception (if also a road map for the rest of the industry's eventual recovery); new lockdowns in London pushed back a long-awaited reopening in that key market, and staycation bookings are being cancelled in New York amid rising case counts. Even those well-performing markets in Shanghai, Shenzen, and Changhsa are at risks of going back to square one as another outbreak ripples across the mainland. In other words, Langham is fighting like every other travel brand.

"I don't like that phrase, 'you get out stronger,' " Leser tells Bloomberg. "Nobody gets out of this stronger. We get out of this differently.

Differently, in Langham's case, means becoming more family-friendly, better able to cater to local guests, and increasingly protected by government; in 2020, Leser became involved in an effort to establish a Minister of Hospitality in the U.K., in order to give greater visibility to his industry's enormous economic impact. If hotels are essential to a city's bottom line, Leser's task has been to make them essential to its citizens even while travel is off the table.

Focusing on what he can improve—both at his own hotels and throughout the industry—has been core to Leser's strategy for survival. Here, the pockets he's found to be especially ripe for innovation, the new perks with clear staying power, and the work that still lies ahead.

Read the full article at BloomBerg.com

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