Why Europe's hotels are reaching out to their communities

Across Europe, the ongoing tourism backlash currently underway in cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice and San Sebastian mean that local tourism and government officials—as well as the hospitality sector—have to demonstrate the economic benefits of tourism.

Barcelona photo courtesy iStock | Getty Images Plus | TomasSered

by Katherine Doggrell 

Preparing for 2018

HVS predicted that 2018 would bring further consolidation across Europe’s hotel sector, as hotels become an increasingly attractive trading asset among institutional investors.

“Some local governments have been involved with the issue, but it is local people who have been turning against tourism, which will continue unless the local government can explain the economics better,” Russell Kett, chairman of HVS London, told HOTEL MANAGEMENT. “We are in danger of seeing the golden egg being killed off by the goose.

“Investors and hotel operators have a vested interest in seeing this resolved. All hotels have realized that they need to be more than just be a hotel in a certain location, I don’t think this is something which hotels need to wake up to, but the message that the hotel is a member of the community isn’t being recognized by all of the community.

“A few years ago, the issue of the tourism multiplier was espoused, laying out the benefits of tourism—it’s not just staying in a hotel, it’s suppling the hotel, it’s employment. If there weren’t the larger numbers of tourists there would need to be something in the economy to replace them. It’s not just hotels, it’s theme parks, restaurants, shopping, it’s the whole spend in the community that the tourists bring with them.”

The UNWTO figures for January to October found that Europe led growth in international arrivals in the period, with an increase in visitors of 8 percent, driven by “remarkable” results in Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+13 percent). Western Europe (+7 percent) rebounded from weaker results last year, while Northern Europe (+6 percent) enjoyed ongoing solid growth.

The Third Vertical

AccorHotels has sought to address its properties’ connection with the local community through its ‘third vertical,’ which Sébastien Bazin, the company’s chairman & CEO, told IHIF this year had “nothing to do with travel but is plugged into community services.”

“We have customer relationship that is perhaps three, four, five times a year when we see you in our hotels,” he told the conference attendees. “Facebook has a relationship with its customers seven times a day.

“I have absolutely to ensure that this group leverages interaction with its customer more than three, five times. I’m going to ask you to travel once a month, so I have to enter your daily life. What can I do for you when you’re not traveling, what can I do for you when you’re not traveling with me even if you are going to Marriott or Airbnb and if you’re visiting your granny?”

Last month saw the company make its first move into the vertical with the launch of AccorLocal, an application allowing residents who live near an Accor property to access “the services of local artisans and companies.”

The move is a smart one: With visitor numbers only set to rise, hotels must persuade the communities they operate in that they are not just for outsiders.

Katherine Doggrell is an editor at Hotel Analyst, the U.K.-based news analysis service for hotel investors.

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