London – The pandemic has prompted faster change and the hotel sector must be part of that, according to speakers at the 14th hotel webinar, held this week [1st December], organised by consultancy HVS, legal expert Bird & Bird, publishing group EP Business in Hospitality and restructuring advisory firm AlixPartners.

Citing innovations such as smart rooms, digital reception, and keyless entry Oliver Freestone, a director at AlixPartners identified the time people spend online and the role of smart phones as being the biggest catalysts for change. He said: “Users spend four times the time on their phones than on their computers now. How quickly are hotels adapting to this?”

Freestone told the audience that in two to three years time consumers were expected to connect to around 50 internet-enabled devices in their homes, creating a wave of additional data and a new set of touch points for businesses. Consumers were also shopping in different ways, paying without cash and seeking entertainment online. “There is a lifestyle shake-up,” he said, “a re-evaluation of how we live our lives, where we choose to live, how we holiday and work, and a clear call for sustainability. There is much more to come.”

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls gave a hard-hitting account of the impact the pandemic has had on hospitality and warned: “Until we get mass events, business events and international travel moving again, we won’t see much recovery in the hotel sector.”

A lively panel discussion then looked at the key issues facing hotels and opportunities opening up. Staff shortages clearly emerged as the single biggest threat to the sector, although many of the speakers believed this would lead to further innovation through technology and the chance to create a better workplace.

“You have to create jobs that people want to do,” said David Kellett, senior director – hotel transactions at Invesco. “We have to work differently and run hotels with fewer people. Maybe that means we can pay people more, and maybe we can create more worthwhile jobs and embrace technology more.”

Eric Jafari, chief development officer at edyn, agreed: “The bigger the disruption the greater the period of innovation,” he said. “Hotels tend not to be too innovative compared with other sectors but labour shortages are going to force us to evolve.”

HVS chairman Russell Kett urged the sector to turn jobs into careers: “We have to work very hard at getting the compensation and the work:life balance right, we have to change the mindset about what the business is all about and focus on giving people careers.”

Faraz Nagree, founder of the Lean Kitchen Network and Future Food Brands has seen the labour shortage and supply problems prompting reduced opening hours and restricted menus in some kitchens. “The reaction has been to outsource or find new ways of taking some of the work off-site,” he said.

The panel agreed that hotels must consider new ways to encourage all-day business, such as engaging with the local community to provide meeting, working and social hubs. “There is an opportunity within the sector to adapt the business model and provide spaces for people to use in different ways,” said Kett.

“Change can be an incredibly exciting. Be prepared for change and recognise that change can be a good thing, although the journey might feel very destabilising,” concluded Eric Jafari.

About HVS

HVS is the world's leading consulting and valuation services organization focused on the hotel, restaurant, shared ownership, gaming, and leisure industries. Established in 1980, the company performs more than 4,500 assignments per year for virtually every major industry participant. HVS principals are regarded as the leading professionals in their respective regions of the globe. Through a worldwide network of over 50 offices staffed by 300 experienced industry professionals, HVS provides an unparalleled range of complementary services for the hospitality industry. For further information regarding our expertise and specifics about our services, please visit

Russell Kett
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