Marius Gomola, Co-founder of HOTCO Hotel Investment Platform CEE & Caucasus speaks about the most recent major aspects and concerns of the hotel real estate investments industry as well as about the distinguished speakers who will share their insights at the HOTCO 2022.
To provide our readers with an inside view of hospitality industry’s current state, what would you say the future holds with overwhelming changes behind us?
Important to remember when looking at the future of our industry is that it is made up of individuals, such as staff, guests, suppliers, lenders and hotel and resort investors. While we are currently still in a phase of change shaking off the challenges, we all faced in the past two years, we must look at each of the pillars of the hotel industry individually, analysing how each was affected and what their expectations are going forward.
The hospitality industry, especially in this region, has not allowed employees to find a compromise between making a living, taking care of their families or their career plans. This is forcing the industry to re-evaluate itself and consider how it can connect stronger with existing staff by creating a working model that cares for them and embraces new ones that help resolve the burning employment crisis instead of just focusing on the bottom line. We all know that when the service providers, the talent and the stars of the service industry are cared for in ways that matter to them, the bottom line comes with the desired results. This is often not the way investors and operators necessarily think but essentially it does indeed have a large impact.
I believe the industry’s future is bright. The hospitality industry has always been the richest in personal growth opportunities, as we know many top executives, who started in entry-level jobs and have worked their ways to the top. The industry must also be able to showcase these opportunities. This is why at HOTCO we will provide insights for talent retention and how to solve the burning issue of human capital.
Given the current negative events in Europe, apart from COVID 19, what are the geographical expectations of investors, if you can please elaborate? Are they more oriented towards Western and Southern Europe?
Firstly, it is important to note that the industry has never received such interest from serious investors to enter the hospitality real estate sector as in the last 24 months, many of them being first time investors for the industry. I personally think this is an incredible achievement which should not be overlooked. Simultaneously, this sends a clear message to the banks. If investor interest is unprecedented, bankers should ask themselves why are they staying away. Secondly, I believe that each region and sub-region within a larger geography will find the capital that is attracted to it.
In my opinion there is a serious misunderstanding concerning real estate investment in hotels and resorts. Everyone, especially the investors themselves, state that their investment criterion is based solely on expected returns. This could not be further from the truth; investors do not dare to admit that emotional attachment is a hugely important aspect of their decision making while I am convinced that hotel and resort investors put their money where they have a special emotional attachment.
The CEE, SEE and the Caucasus is predicted to continue to attract investment from these circles, with the help of those who can influence the emotions of these investors and sweeten them with aspects I believe confirmed commitments can be triggered. During HOTCO 2022 we will specifically put emphasis on such topics and address these issues.
Thank you for providing us with your insights in regard to the industry. Topics like the ones mentioned above are discussed during HOTCO 2022: CEE & Caucasus, can you tell us more about the conference and what you aim to achieve this year?
HOTCO’s main goal is not only to bring industry icons to this region and give people the opportunity to connect face-to-face but to promote investment in hotel real estate as well. Investing in hotels and resorts is very complex and requires discipline, expertise and experience including a series of decision points which build up on each other. Important to understand that one decision determines the outcome and has an impact on the next thus if not executed correctly can result in a very poor investment. HOTCO makes it relevant for investors in the region to be encouraged and adapt success factors to their own circumstances as they will differ in each country, and even each case within the same country.
HOTCO is known for attracting industry experts to join as speakers sharing their insights, experiences and lessons learned. We trust that this year will be no different. Can you share with us, at this point in time, who will be joining you this year?
Thank you for your kind words, we indeed work very hard each year to bring intriguing industry leaders to share their wisdoms and insights. We aim to invite leaders who see beyond the daily events and plan for the longer term while combining their knowledge from past experiences. We are proud to introduce our two main keynote speakers this year. Our first keynote speaker, Mary Gostelow, President and Editor of Gostelow Media Global, is unique in her awareness, vertically and horizontally, of what is happening in the world of travel and hospitality while Ruslan Husry, the Managing Director of the HR Group, will reveal the company’s success story on getting to 73 hotels in 30 cities and 5 countries in the last 10+ years.
In addition, alongside our two already mentioned keynote speakers we have been very successful in inviting several industry leaders to share their wisdoms and insights from 15 countries and three continents. To only name a few, Paulina Mazurkiewicz-Kurek the Chief Financial Director of Polski Holding Hotelowy, Ufi Ibrahim the Chief Executive Officer for Energy & Environment of Alliance, Valeri Chekheria a Partner and Strategic Projects Director at Slow Group, Theodor Kubak as Managing Partner of Arbireo Capital and Value One Hospitality, Pankaj Birla the Area Vice President of Eastern Europe at Marriott International and Noah Steinberg the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of WING will all be joining us this year. Our goal is to connect these leaders who have proven their ability to strive irrespective of the obstacles and external factors and create a network where the region’s industry can benefit from their knowledge.
Aside our many speakers we are most grateful for the support we receive from our sponsors, without whom staging HOTCO would not be possible. These include Accor, Marriott, Kempinski, Radisson, HTL Capital Advisors, Wyndham, WING, Schneider Electric, Danfoss, Indotek, DVM Group, Seratus, Mellow Mood, Accent Hotels, Datasite, IHG, R8 Tech and a host of F&B supporters and media partners, such as you.
We understand that ESG has become more and more relevant over the last few years. Have you noticed a growth in relevance for the hospitality industry as well?
ESG is most definitely taking centre stage. Our region in particular has to recognize the importance of ESG as it no longer just revolves around the sustainability and energy efficiency perspective. We need to understand that being ESG compliant is driving investors particularly in their institutional decisions when it comes to the financing of a development. This change in importance has become more apparent over the last years, even though regulatory statutes are still in different stages of completion.
You have spoken about the state of the hospitality industry in regard to expectations, have you detected a change in the product itself?
The definition of the hotel as we know it has changed. To maximize space utilization, nowadays we often see the inclusion of multiple uses by marrying different motivations and hotels proving to be the perfect real estate assets making this happen. This includes the combination of co-working, co-living, retail and other experiences getting more pronounced within the framework of a building envelope.
What other message would HOTCO want to highlight?
We strive to continue to portray the importance of asset management, by guiding owners with limited time to be involved in their businesses. If owners do not recognise the importance, lenders should require at least periodical involvement of asset managers, who help efficent asset utilisation by supporting operators bogged down by the daily requirements of running the hotels, and bring about a win-win situation and help maximize owner’s profits.
In this fast-changing business environment HOTCO will continue to shed light on the global views and direction of the hotel industry. We will always focus on highlighting the buzzwords that generate investor attraction and help contribute to hotel and resort industry growth.
Marius Gomola – MANAGING DIRECTOR, HORWATH HTL HUNGARY
Marius is passionate about the world of investments centred around hotels, resorts, themed attractions and culinary experiences. He has been involved in hundreds of projects from the Americas through Europe to the Middle East and Asia. The real estate cycle has re-focussed Marius’ activity to hotel transactions, acquisition due diligence, branding and concept development in the CEE, Caucasus and beyond. Marius launched the first Hotel Investment Platform (HIP) in 2020.