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“In 2018, we expect the hospitality industry to become even more exposed to disruptive forces”

Interview with Olivier Chavy, Chief Executive Officer of Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts. He is a leader with hands-on hotel experience and a true passion for hospitality. His talent and flair shone from a young age, and at just 27 he became General Manager of the iconic Hotel Normandy in Deauville, France. He has since risen to prominence in a range of high-profile industry roles. In September 2016, Olivier joined Mövenpick as CEO.

What are Mövenpick’s key goals and strategic markets at the moment?

Our vision is to operate 125 hotels worldwide by 2020. We are on track to reach this target, with 83 hotels and resorts currently open and 40 new projects (9,626 rooms)
either planned or under construction. We are experiencing accelerated growth like never before and are planning significant expansion in key markets including Europe,Middle East, Asia and Africa. It’s going to be an exciting 2018 for us with 14 new hotels opening across 9 countries. From city hotels such as Tunis, Nairobi, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur to striking resorts in the Maldives, Hua Hin (Thailand), Phu Quoc (Vietnam), and more. From a brand marketing perspective, our "we make moments" business philosophy, has proven incredibly successful and reflects our commitment to create unique, memorable experiences for our guests. This ethos is also reflected in our new interior design concepts that are being rolled out across our expanding portfolio. This marks a new era for our brand, as we evolve our interior design strategy with concepts that reflect the lifestyle preferences of modern global travellers.
 

What is the DNA of the Mövenpick group for you?

A global firm with Swiss roots and a restaurant and hospitality heritage that dates back to the 1940s, Mövenpick’s approach to service has always been consistent: warm,
intuitive, personal and uniquely ‘Mövenpick’. Our company’s late founder, Ueli Prager, was fond of saying: “We aren’t doing anything extraordinary. We are simply successful because we are doing quite normal things in an extraordinary manner”, and these words still resonate today. They encapsulate our approach across every aspect of The Mövenpick Group’s business, which today, aside from Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, also includes well-recognised brand names such as Mövenpick Wine, Mövenpick Fine Foods, Marché International and FutureLog.

Mövenpick Hotel & Resorts has been declared “World’s Most Sustainable Hotel Group” by the Green Globe certification body. What does this award mean to you and what have you achieved to win it?

As an organisation, we are incredibly proud of our sustainability initiatives and the fact we have been recognised as the world’s most sustainable hotel group by Green Globe. Sustainability lies at the heart of our organisation, and in 2017, our commitment to sustainable practices and operations reached another milestone, with more than 50% of our hotels and resorts awarded Gold Status by Green Globe, in acknowledgement of the fact that they have met the organisation’s strict criteria for five years or longer. Just to mention a few best practices: Mövenpick Hotel Stuttgart Airport in Germany was recognised for its efforts in cutting energy consumption by 36% and rolling out an effective CO2 reduction programme; Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate in Dubai achieved an annual waste reduction of 60 metric tonnes; Mövenpick Resort El Quseir in Egypt developed an artificial reef to protect endangered coral reefs, which are vital to sustaining local bio-diversity; Mövenpick Resort Sharm El Sheikh’s organic farm, which features 2,232 square metres of fruit trees, vegetables and flowers, provides fresh produce for the hotel’s kitchen and offers guests an authentic, unique experience; finally, Mövenpick Resort Bangtao Beach in Phuket installed an innovative high-tech water supply machine. In 2018, we are committed to ensuring an even greater percentage of our hotel portfolio receives Green Globe status, while making sure our new properties roll out robust sustainability plans that meet Green Globe criteria.
 

Mövenpick Hotel & Resorts has been declared “World’s Most Sustainable Hotel Group” by the Green Globe certification body. What does this award mean to you and what have you achieved to win it?
As an organisation, we are incredibly proud of our sustainability initiatives and the fact we have been recognised as the world’s most sustainable hotel group by Green Globe. Sustainability lies at the heart of our organisation, and in 2017, our commitment to sustainable practices and operations reached another milestone, with more than 50% of our hotels and resorts awarded Gold Status by Green Globe, in acknowledgement of the fact that they have met the organisation’s strict criteria for five years or longer. Just to mention a few best practices: Mövenpick Hotel Stuttgart Airport in Germany was recognised for its efforts in cutting energy consumption by 36% and rolling out an effective CO2 reduction programme; Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate in Dubai achieved an annual waste reduction of 60 metric tonnes; Mövenpick Resort El Quseir in Egypt developed an artificial reef to protect endangered coral reefs, which are vital to sustaining local bio-diversity; Mövenpick Resort Sharm El Sheikh’s organic farm, which features 2,232 square metres of fruit trees, vegetables and flowers, provides fresh produce for the hotel’s kitchen and offers guests an authentic, unique
experience; finally, Mövenpick Resort Bangtao Beach in Phuket installed an innovative high-tech water supply machine. In 2018, we are committed to ensuring an even greater percentage of our hotel portfolio receives Green Globe status, while making sure our new properties roll out robust sustainability plans that meet Green Globe criteria.

Human resources are also important for sustainable development, how do you retain your employees? How do you make them progress?

Employer sustainability is intrinsic to our SHINE strategy. Key goals include contributing to local economies in which we operate by hiring and developing a local workforce;
providing equal opportunities to all of our employees as well as sustainability training and education services; establishing a reputation as a preferred and values-driven employer, while promoting fairness and transparency in terms of compensation and employee benefits. In terms of education and CSR, we have established a longterm partnership with Right4Children, a Nepal-based NGO that helps provide disadvantaged youngsters with access to education and job opportunities. Since 2009, we have
provided sponsorship to an educational facility in the city of Pokhara that gives shelter, education and guidance to orphans and abused children. Once they reach the age of 18, they can participate in our Mövenpick Hospitality Programme, which gives them two years of training covering Housekeeping, Culinary Services (chefs), and Food and Beverage Services (waiters). Upon graduation, we provide them with employment opportunities in hotels in the Middle East. In the past eight years, 132 youngsters have completed the training courses. Of those who graduated, 85% have secured job placements at a Mövenpick property in the Middle East (Dubai, Jordan and Doha), while
others have gained employment in the local hospitality industry. The wider impact of this programme is just as significant, with more than 650 family members of our participants benefiting from the outcome of their training in terms of gainful employment with regular income. This programme is very close to our hearts. It demonstrates the power of the hospitality industry to make positive changes for people in need.
 

Historically, your group was born from the creation of a restaurant in Switzerland, how has that heritage affected the group’s DNA?
How do you exploit this?

When Ueli Prager founded the Mövenpick brand in 1948, he conceived it on a simple premise: "doing normal things in an extraordinary manner". He created a restaurant concept based on simplicity, innovation, commitment to service, and a passion for culinary and hospitality excellence and these values, which define our DNA. His vision took on new life and meaning when he opened the brand’s first hotels in 1973, the year Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts was officially founded and today, his words of wisdom, simple values and legacy live on. We place great emphasis on culinary innovation, creating gastronomic experiences for our guests. We are constantly introducing new concepts, for example last year, we launched a menu of "signature dishes" – reimagining some of our most popular classic dishes, taking into account global trends and the modern palate. We also launch two global food promotions each year, which focus on culinary innovation. Recent examples include “Bistronomie” – a menu of seven exclusive dishes, from Salade Niçoise and Plateau de Fruits de Mer (seafood platter) to Cabillaud à la Bordelaise (cod fillet) and Cordonbleu au Comté (veal rump steak), which took inspiration from the “Bistronomie” movement that originated in France and is now a global culinary trend.


What do you think of Millennials as clientele? Do you have a specific strategy to conquer it?


Yes, we do. In May last year we recruited a team of Generation Y employees to shadow the executive team to glean fresh ideas on how to attract Millennial guests and
talent. We hand-picked an executive committee - ExCom Y - Committee – a team of 10 talented Millennials, six of whom are current colleagues from across our global
portfolio while the remaining four were recruited from outside the company. The team members represent several nationalities and group departments, from hotel operations
to corporate and regional functions, but they all have one thing in common – they are all from Generation Y. We recognised it was essential to bring younger members
on board to provide a fresh and "Millennial" perspective. It’s part of what we consider a progressive HR strategy and also reflects our commitment to meeting ever-changing
guest demands. The tourism industry at large does not cater to the demands of young travellers and the key decision-makers of big travel and hospitality firms tend to be older and lack an understanding of the experiences and services younger travellers or employees are seeking. While our company caters to all demographics, Millennials are our future – from both a guest and employee perspective – so it is crucial we gain insight into what makes them tick now. With advice and support from ExCom Y, we
are working on a user-centric approach to create services and experiences; this involves putting the user, our guests, at the heart of the experience. The challenge is to adopt
technologies that really achieve that objective and are not just adopted for the sake of “being cool”. Of course, we need to achieve a balance and as a hospitality business, we need to be sure we also provide the human interaction that many travellers still prefer. We are in the business of creating special moments for our guests – so the use of technology must support this goal, rather than detract from it. It should provide us with information that helps us personalise the guest experience to ensure their time with us is memorable.


Do you plan to develop new brands?

We will continue to develop hotels under a single brand, as we have established a very strong brand DNA for Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts. At this time, we do not
believe it is beneficial to create inter-brand competition by launching sub-brands. We also have no plans to dilute the brand by targeting segments outside the upscale hotel sector. We are currently focusing on expanding our brand in four key regions: Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Mövenpick’s brands are particularly well developed in the Middle East, you recentl opened a hotel in Basra (Iraq) and have several hotels in Egypt. How do you monitor the safety of a destination and what makes you decide to settle there?We are currently developing a new hotel in Basra with our local partner and it will open in the coming months. Basra is an emerging economic powerhouse in Iraq and one of the country’s safest cities. There is also a strong and largely untapped demand for five-star accommodation in the city, which we plan to meet with our new property.
Like many international hotel companies, we aim to provide services to guests in any destination within the Middle East or abroad where we foresee strong growth in business or leisure travel. We are therefore keen to partner with experienced property owners and developers to bring our brand to new markets worldwide.

What direction do you think the hospitality industry is headed in? What could impact changes?

The hospitality industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with many technology- and consumer-driven trends, as well as global market conditions, driving change. Hotel operators are re-thinking their operational strategies to ensure they better meet guest expectations. These changes range from physical check-in and check-out to registration cards and credit card guarantees. In 2018, the industry will embrace consumer-friendly technology that offers guests greater choice and convenience. It will move towards seamless check-in where guests, if they so wish, can input their credentials online before arrival and, eventually, bypass the front desk and use their phones or  wearable devices to gain access to their rooms, instead of using key cards. The sharing economy business model, and in particular, peer-to-peer accommodation providers, are disrupting the hospitality industry, forcing hotels to re-assess how they design their guest rooms and public areas. It’s a shift in mindset from "better than home" to "feels like home", acknowledging guest preferences for comfortable spaces where they can access home comforts. Hotel lobbies are the new living room – a place to relax, recharge and connect. This trend will become more apparent in future hotel designs. In 2018, we expect the hospitality industry to become even more exposed to disruptive forces, from geopolitical situations to new technology and accommodation business models. At the same time, consumer demand for more unique and personalised hotel experiences will increase further. To thrive, operators need to be agile, creative in their strategic thinking and to listen to what guests want by incorporating big data insights and then delivering on their expectations. By maintaining an edge in technology and service, while managing revenues and maximising guest spend on ancillaries, hotel operators can look forward to a bright future.

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