WORLDHOTELS aiming to expand in CEE region

WORLDHOTELS aiming to expand in CEE region

WORLDHOTELS aiming to expand in CEE region
May 31
22:52 2017

We talk to GEOFF ANDREW,

Worldhotels Chief Executive Officer


MICE CEE: Which hotels are new to your portfolio? Could you tell us something about your recent developments?

GA: In terms of new hotels in our portfolio, I have to think about that, of what is of interest. There are a lot of new things with us.

MICE CEE: Maybe we can start with the central and eastern Europe (CEE) region as our magazines are focused on the CEE region and its exchanges with other parts of the world.

GA: At the moment, we have a very strong portfolio, particularly in markets concerned with central and eastern Europe. Our strongest market by a long way, even globally, is Germany, and Austria is important for us too. We have very strong partners within Germany, for example the Flemings Group, Rilano and the Ameron Hotels; they are Worldhotels members. And then a number of the German groups also have hotels in Austria. So it is a strong market for us.

And I have to say that markets at the moment we consider as opportunities would include the Czech Republic and Hungary. In those two places right now, we are very very interested in finding new partners. If you like, the natural cycle of things with soft brands is that members come and may stay for a couple of terms and then go for something different. We now have market potential, particularly in Prague, where we can’t fail to succeed. So those are areas that we will be focusing on in the near future.

MICE CEE: How many hotels do you have in German-speaking destinations?

GA: Globally, we have about 350 hotels and I would say a good 50 or 60 of those hotels, maybe more, perhaps 70, are in German-speaking markets. Historically, Worldhotels has been based in Germany, we are a German-based company that grew with Steigenberger’s. Traditionally, we always had a very good base here, and very good partners within meetings. When I think of a couple of classic German hotels that are in our membership –  Fleming’s here and Atlantic Congress Hotel Essen – both are big conference hotels that are again part of our membership. These are important markets for us, for sure.

MICE CEE: What are the criteria? Is it about conference spaces?

GA: They have to be independents or small groups. We don’t work with big chains at all. The Flemings Group that we work with, in particular here in Frankfurt, is probably the biggest of the groups. They have probably 7 hotels with us – it will grow, up to about 10 – that is the kind of size that we work with.

In terms of criteria, it is about quality and market potential. We look for hotels that first of all subscribe to the required level of quality. We have an audit – if you use the old language of star ratings, then our hotels range from 4 to 5-star, so we do not go below that. We are upscale and upmarket split into two segments: Worldhotel and Worldhotel de Luxe. So, the classification is from the quality point of view and also from the market potential point of view. We only want to have members in markets where we can do business. So, we look very carefully at travel partners, particularly corporate and meetings.

MICE CEE: So, is it more about business travel?

GA: More like for business travel. We do some leisure, in particular in markets like Asia where we have a lot of big resorts that do a lot of meetings as well. We are in Thailand, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

MICE CEE: What about the US?

GA: Yes. We have even more opportunities in the US these days because in February we were acquired by Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI). So they are now our owners and their original business – which is known as the ALHI – is a US-based MICE organisation. They have 250 hotels in the US, and a few that they represent purely for business meetings.

MICE CEE: Why did you make this association?

GA: Because it is a great thing! If you look around the market these days, and you say: ‘How can you be successful?’ the big are getting bigger. The Marriott started it, and the same dynamic applies on the independent side. There is a growing opportunity for those of us who believe in independent hotels to protect and promote the interests of independence. So together we have our portfolio of 600 hotels. They are independents or small regional chains, as I described. As far as buyers, meetings planners, and corporates are concerned, we want to make sure that there will always be the option to choose a good quality independent. You get a certain creativity and a different experience when you hold an event or you stay in one of these hotels rather than in one of the big chains.

With regard to merging, we have been quiet. On paper, it looks like a merger because ALHI is mostly in the US and focused purely in the MICE segment and we are somewhere in the US but we are not huge in the US. In our hotels, of course we do some MICE and we have a lot of corporates.

The two organisations together really have the sectors and geography covered. Over the next few years you will see us introduce more and more services into the market and our goal is to make sure that the independents can stay independent. We want to be able to provide all the services that hotels can get if they join the brand. We no longer want owners making decisions and saying: ‘Ah, I need to go and put myself into the Hilton or Marriott or Hyatt or any of those guys.’ We want to stay independent.

MICE CEE: Do you apply a specific, original approach that all your members keep to? Do you have a specific attitude towards clients – a common “philosophy” that your hotels share?

GA: We always have standards around the process, so in terms of how leads are distributed to the hotels, how they are returned, the quality of the proposals. Those things around process – that of course we want to keep standard. When it actually comes to the event experience and what is possible, then I think you often find the independent hotels are much more willing to be creative and look for different ways to do things. Well, everybody is looking for something different these days, to try different destinations, and then you want to try different experiences, what is going on in the city, in the destination. Our hotels are increasingly the window, the gates into good experiences in the cities, in the destinations. We work very hard with our hotels on the story.

MICE CEE: Everybody does this, right?

GA: You have to, because people remember the story.

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