HICSA takes centre stage

From industry big wigs to students of hospitality, this year’s HOSI, followed by HICSA, had something for everyone – from a CEO panel to an exclusive owner’s-only roundtable to a cooking competition.

HT Bureau

HVS Global Hospitality Services recently concluded its 13th annual Hotel Investment Conference – South Asia (HICSA) at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai, held on April 5 and 6, 2017. The two-day conference was dedicated to the hospitality industry. HICSA is widely viewed by global industry leaders as the premier hospitality event for the South Asian region. The 13th edition of HICSA brought together close to 475 delegates from across 18 countries, providing a platform to deliberate on the development and direction of the hotel and tourism industry, exchange strategic thoughts and experiences, and discuss significant trends prevailing in the industry.

This year, day one saw a power-packed Global CEO Panel showcasing the front runners of four of the most respected global hotel companies, Christopher J Nassetta, President and CEO, Hilton; Mark Hoplamazian, President and CEO, Hyatt Hotels Corporation; Rakesh Sarna, Managing Director and CEO, Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris; and Vikram Oberoi, Managing Director and CEO, The Oberoi Group.

Speaking about how the industry has changed over the years, Manav Thadani, Chairman, HVS Asia Pacific and Founder of HICSA, said, “This is HICSA’s 13th edition and we have seen how costs have gone up. We have internet now, so security costs and all other costs have gone up but revenues have not grown. If we look at performance at the CAGR, revenues have gone up just two per cent while inflation and other things have gone up by a much wider margin. The industry has really grown over the years. From just 12-14 brands, today we have over 100 different brands across various segments. The market has become more sophisticated and technology is becoming a big thing. OTAs and aggregators have come into the business wherein earlier the average General Manager didn’t have to deal with this. Today, they have to be more tech-savvy and have a better understanding of what is happening.”

Nevertheless, he added that he is bullish about the next two to three years. “There is little supply coming in; occupancies have been high and are going to go even higher. I think the momentum has to come from rates,” he says. Next year, HVS plans to focus on technology, something that many are scared of. “We plan to keep HOSI in New Delhi where most of the brands are headquartered and we might continue with HICSA in Mumbai. This year’s HICSA had more owners, around 125 of them, which is a huge number,” Thadani added.

The second day of HICSA featured an interesting session titled ‘Institutional Capital Chasing Hotels: Timing the Entry and Exits’, delving further into the uptick in transaction volumes with a number of institutional players entering the market. In 2016, HVS, through its extensive market knowledge and research, challenged and demystified an industry paradigm that leisure lacked the ability to make money. Taking a cue from this, HICSA 2017 had two dedicated sessions on the subject, where stakeholders directly involved in the business of leisure, wellness, and luxury further explored the tremendous untapped potential this segment holds.

Despite the overall hotel market witnessing robust demand growth outpacing new supply, accompanied by a steady rise in occupancy levels, a majority of Indian hotels have only recorded a marginal ADR increase. The session titled ‘Why Are We Struggling with Room Rates?’ comprising representatives of prominent hotel companies, traversed the reasons for and, at the same time, identified plausible solutions to address this acute challenge.

HICSA 2017 also placed special emphasis on hotel owners. The event opened with an exclusive pre-conference ‘Owners’ Only Roundtable’ in an effort to provide them a platform where they candidly expressed their views and concerns. The conference also saw a number of owner-driven panel discussions led by some of the most prominent hotel owners in the South Asian region.

The conference featured industry stalwarts such as Arun Nanda, Chairman, Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India; Ashish Jakhanwala, Managing Director and CEO, SAMHI; Binod Chaudhary, Chairman, CG Corp; Craig Smith, President and MD – APAC, Marriott International; Deep Kalra, Chairman and Group CEO, MakeMyTrip; Gaurav Bhushan, Global Chief Development Officer, AccorHotels; Jonathan Vanica, Managing Director – Asian Special Situations Group, Goldman Sachs; Kapil Chopra, President, The Oberoi Group; Peter Henley, President and CEO, Onyx Hospitality; Peter Kerkar, Group Chief Executive Officer, Cox and Kings; Rajiv Kaul, President, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts; Saurabh Chawla, Chief Development Officer, Louvre Hotels Group; and Thorsten Kirschke, President – APAC, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, to name a few.