Adria Hotel Forum is one of the leading European hotel investment conferences, which every year brings together representatives of the largest hotel groups, government agencies, investors, hoteliers, consultants, financial institutions and others.One of the main goals since the establishment of the Forum was to bring as many global funds interested in investing in the region, and they just did it last year, as well as this year with an even larger base of interested investors in Croatian tourism.In just five years, the Adria Hotel Forum has gathered more than 1200 participants, 180 panelists, 80 sponsors and partners, and we talked about the organization and values of this important tourist forum with the founder and organizer of the Hotel Adria Forum, Marina Franolić.Last year, in an interview, you stated that capital does not go where it is nice, but where the return on investment is most likely. Today, looking back a year, are we still just beautiful or have we moved forward?Perhaps it would be best for me to answer with one example. At the beginning of December 2016, I participated in the hotel investment conference Mediterranean Resort & Hotel Real Estate Forum (by the way, the partner conference of the Adria Hotel Forum) where the central panel discussion was with investors. The presentation prepared by STR Global before the panel of investors showed the greatest growth of Croatia as a destination in the Mediterranean. Right at the beginning of the panel with investors, Dirk Bakker, the moderator of the panel, asked the present investors if they would be interested in investing in Croatia, following the great results shown. The responses were mostly negative, and the reasons they cited for such an opinion were poor connectivity and high seasonality of tourism. I couldn’t stop wondering if that answer was really the result of continuous market monitoring or just a repetition of a once long-established opinion but if we really look at the figures showing the real situation, we see that the situation is exactly as pointed out. Croatia, with the exception of Montenegro, has the most pronounced seasonality in the Mediterranean, and in terms of air connectivity, it is active in a period of 6 months, while in other periods, we need almost all day to cross half of Europe. Perhaps the visit to this conference was the best example – the flight Zagreb – Barcelona lasted a total of 7 hours and practically took away one working day. Therefore, I would say that we are still beautiful, that the existing hoteliers have grown up with the situation here and are doing their best in it, but there are no serious changes. Investors, in communication with us, still show interest in investing in the organization of Adria Hotel Forum and I am convinced that in the next 2-3 years some really big projects will be launched, but what worries me is that we are changing too slowly and the world is somehow still it moves faster. Constant changes in the Law, VAT, local policy – we are constantly spinning in a circle, and there is no way to make the right changes that will directly affect the improvement of the investment climate? Investing in tourism is a long-term investment, I guess the birds on the branch know that, and certainly how investors can not be satisfied with the constant changes because they do not know how much and how the law will change in 10 years?I fully agree that continuous changes in the law do not really contribute to improving the investment climate, but as I stated earlier, I think that creating a variety of offers and finding ways to ensure flights outside the main season is a great precondition for development. Just the other day, it was announced that flights, with the opening of the new Pleso airport terminal, would become more expensive. And already flights within Europe are 50-100% more expensive than flights between Western European cities. What makes me really happy is that Margaret McNeil, director of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), is coming to the AHF this year. It is an institution that brings together all actors related to Edinburgh tourism (representatives of hoteliers, cultural institutions, small employers’ associations, investors, chamber of commerce, congress sector, city promotion office, national tourist boards, airports, etc.) and it is amazing which successes have been achieved. Also coming is the director of the Eurowings airline’s business network, Ivan Oreč, who will certainly be able to clearly point out possible ways of cooperating with airlines in order to develop the airline network. “Creating a variety of offers and finding ways to secure flights outside the main season is great prerequisite for development “- Marina Franolić Paul Pisani, vice president of the Corinthia hotel group from Malta, will also take part again. In 2014, he was a guest of the Forum on the topic of seasonality and pointed out that Malta, in a period of several years, with a clear strategic plan and its implementation, has become a destination that has extended the season and opened many new markets. Portugal also made great strides a few years ago in terms of strategy, but mostly in terms of implementing that strategy. They created several aviation hubs, set up an umbrella association of all tourism associations (hoteliers, agencies, caterers, etc.) and also returned to the market “in style” two years ago. Not to ignore one fact, all the mentioned destinations are partially helped by the situation in the East, which encourages tourists to focus on destinations that seem safer for their vacation trips. Which means that we should take advantage of the situation because the moment Turkey and the countries of North Africa return to the game, if we are not far behind in development, there is a possibility that we will fall sharply given that prices of accommodation and services can not compete with these countries.Regardless of everything, the Ministry of Tourism is announcing about 50 new hotels this year and next, Marroit is coming to Zadar, Šibenik and Hvar are also in the focus of large hotel investors, etc.… Somehow the impression is that investors have launched an offensive on the Croatian market?Hyatt is coming to Zadar, and the others are examining what is possible. New hotels are planned in Zagreb, which indicates growth, and Split also has great potential. I think it would be great if we could develop a few more cities as destinations that will function throughout the year (Osijek, Rijeka and Šibenik) and then we would already have a great base for developing more complex models of tourism. Zagreb is ideal to become a congress center, and another location in Croatia would be really optimal. We are talking about congress centers with a capacity of at least 1500 people, but of course, then guests should have accommodation facilities nearby as well as activities that can fill their time.Considering that we have been operating as an office of the international travel company Liberty International for several months now, we have already had several inquiries for such large congresses, but unfortunately each time we were overtaken by another destination since, say, we could not organize dinner in different locations. always in one place that could accommodate so many people. Not to mention again air connections and flight prices…Tourism is a branch that is among the first, like it or not, to be “hit” by new technological and social trends. What are the new trends in the hotel industry?We can talk about this topic for days, but I will focus primarily on investments. At the moment, a lot of attention is being paid to the new generation of tourists in the world, which we also discussed at previous Forums. The so-called Generation Millenials and Generation Y are changing the current forms of travel and it is indicative that global hotel operators and investors are closely monitoring what hotels offer and how to structure them to suit tourists in the coming years. Thus, in the last year, a large number of new brands have appeared that go more in the direction of hostels, with the aim of satisfying the guests of the continuously growing AirBnB market. So Hilton Worldwide has the Tru brand, Marriott International has Moxy, AccorHotels now has Joe & Joe, and they all have the feature of low prices, smaller rooms and large lobbies as places to hang out. Although the guests who visit Croatia are on average older and their wishes and interests are thus different, I am sure that in the next few years this trend will appear more and more in Croatia and that such hotels will develop. It is a mistake to assume that such hotels are of poorer quality, they are really different in their service they offer guests and offer technologically advanced facilities that allow guests to have a closer relationship with the city, local customs and the environment in which they stay. As for other trends, this year we are working on a new project through which we will, as at the Adria Hotel Forum try to discuss and present trends and models of good practice in investment, so through this new we will present global trends in hotel operations. I hope the success will be equal to this with AHF.The bubble with the labor problem has exploded, and no solution is yet in sight. On the one hand, we expect new investments, and we do not care about the local workforce. This is a big problem for investors. How is this problem solved in other destinations and what is your suggestion?Another very complex question. We have a few segments here, but perhaps it is easiest to divide into the question of full-time and seasonal workers. I am currently working on a project to find a solution to the issue of seasonal labor. There are a large number of unemployed, and practice shows that hoteliers have a growing problem every year to find people who are interested in working at all. I think the main component here is how to motivate seasonal workers to stay (most often) away from their homes for a few months. There are (in the opinion of me and the team I work with on the project) solutions to motivate employees in several ways and we will try to implement this this year. The second level is full-time employees who should be enabled to be continuously educated and to follow market trends. It often happens that we are all overwhelmed by the daily pace and that we do not have time to research, read and follow what is happening in the world. I think this is extremely important and that companies really need to invest in the satisfaction of their employees. In the hotel industry, those employees who may receive the least attention are in the most frequent contact with guests and it is these employees who should be satisfied with their position and should have the opportunity to learn. And finally, what do you expect from the 5th Adria Hotel Forum? What are your plans for the future?Expectations are always very high and that is why I am looking forward to the fact that the realization usually follows, at least for the most part, the plans. This year we have two guests who may be the “stars” of the Forum, although when I look at the entire list of panelists and participants, I am very pleased. To point out that the senior vice president for development of Europe, Africa and the Middle East of the Hilton Worldwide Group, Patrick Fitzgibbon, is coming to us. He is a person who attends two to three conferences a year and the very fact that he decided to come to the Adria Hotel Forum indicates interest in the region, as well as the quality of the conference. We are also approached by the Vice President for Development of Europe Choice Hotel Group, Max Cergneux, as well as Keith Evans, Vice President for Acquisitions of the investment fund Starwood Capital, which was supposed to come last year, but a few days before the Forum unfortunately had to change plans. But honestly, it’s even more great for me to have a great response from international participants who come as “listeners”. Maybe the better question is what I expect from the 6th Forum, considering that we are already preparing the program for 2018…The fifth Adria Hotel Forum will be held in Zagreb, February 08-09, 2017 at the Sheraton Hotel on the topic: INVESTments in hotel industry: DEVELOPMENT AND BEYOND. The reason for this topic is the record high last year’s transactions in Europe, which amounted to over 38,4 billion Euros compared to 16,5 billion Euros in 2014. At the same time, transactions in Central and Eastern Europe accounted for only 6% of total European transactions, while in the SEE region this percentage was negligible; only 0,9%. This year, renowned tourism experts will explain the reasons for the low investment interest in the hotel industry in Southeast Europe, what investment and management models are applicable in this part of the world, what distinguishes us from developed destinations and what we should do about it and who and when should develop the infrastructure and how the destination should be positioned.In professional circles, the Forum is defined as the only regional conference attended by global hotel professionals. For this reason, the goal of the fifth Adria Hotel Forum is to highlight the topic of infrastructure development as well as continental tourism.If you are serious about tourism, Adria Hotel Forum is definitely a “place to be”. See more about the program of the 5th Adria Hotel Forum here List of panelists This is confirmed by the arrival of experts who have not visited the region so far, and who lead the development of the world’s largest hotel management companies in their positions:- Patrick Fitzgibbon – Senior Vice President of Development for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Hilton Worldwide (the second largest company in the world in terms of pipeline hotels)- Max Cergneux – Senior Director of Investment and Portfolio Management for Europe, Choice Hotels (the fourth largest company in the world by the number of hotels in the pipelineThese are just some of the international names coming to AHF 2017Patrick Fitziggob, Hilton WorldwideMax Cergneux, Choice HotelsAdam Konieczny, Christie & COKeith Evans, Starwood Capital GroupMargaret McNeil, Edinburgh Tourism Action GroupAlan Mantin, Hilton WorldwideHylko Versteeg, InterContinental Hotels GroupTakuya Aoyama, Hyatt InternationalEmeline Sykora, Accor InternationalDirk Bakker, Colliers InternationalJason Wischoff, Dream Hotels GroupMarc Finney, Colliers InternationalNina Kleiner, ExpediaPhilip Camble, Whitebridge HospitalityDarren Blanchard, Carlson ResidorIvan Orec, EurowingsPaul Pisani, Corinthia HotelsSamantha E Sugarman, Four SeasonsSebastian Lodder, T3 ManagementThomas Emanuel, STR GlobalSee a list of all panelists here
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