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#GLF19 | "An exciting period is burgeoning for IHG in Europe"

The year 2018 was loaded with activity for InterContinental Hotel Group. New brands, takeovers, new digital platform. Karin Sheppard, Managing Director Europe, presents the priorities.

Work is underway to make the Grand Hotel even more luxurious in our desire to continuously evolve to remain a world leader in the hotel sector. A beautiful range of brands, a beautiful loyalty programme, an efficient booking system, more than 100 markets. IHG is in a dynamic of progress, even if our fundamental philosophy will never change: TRUE hospitality. Our customers must feel welcomed, listened to, respected wherever they are and whoever they are. But what will really change is how this takes shape. How will we offer this concept over time, stay one step ahead of trends, social developments, expectations of customers, owners, investors...?

4 important elements redefine our sector:

  • Changing customer expectations
  • The power of the cloud
  • The responsible corporation
  • The attraction of talents

Changing customer expectations 

Consumer profiles are constantly changing. Luxury is diversifying, from classic properties to brands with a more "lifestyle" feel that also touch on ecology... the choice is vast and expectations are wide-ranging. This is why IHG has developed its brand portfolio in new destinations in Europe. InterContinental is present in 200 destinations, with a solid and growing portfolio in France. We are rethinking the design of our properties, whose historic character must be preserved while including modern luxury. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is stepping up our presence in the luxury boutique hotel segment. We are entering ultimate luxury with Regent Hotels & Resorts, and Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, which combines well-being and sustainable development. At the top end of the market, there is an expectation for distinctive design. That is why we are working on Indigo, whose fleet will double in the coming years. voco will also expand significantly. These are different hotels, the coherence that unites our brand will come from visual identity and a few attention grabbing brands, but the hotels will be different.

New customer expectations also help us make our existing brands evolve. Open Lobby at Holiday Inn, the new room concept at Holiday Inn Express and the development of convivial and co-working spaces at the Crowne Plaza.

Strong brands must be backed by strong technology

Today's customers all have smartphones and expect technology to be integrated at many stages of their trip. Owners also expect technological innovations with systems that evolve with the times. The cloud enables more efficient and personalized service by providing real-time access to a wide range of information. In 2018, we launched IHG Concierto, a new cloud-based platform that includes our reservation system. This allows us to improve the customer's digital experience, offer employees a redesigned interface, and give owners increased visibility and optimized performance. The goal is to create a truly new, revolutionary interface.

We are being careful to evolve responsibly 

In this era where connectivity reigns, consumers, especially younger consumers, are aware of their impact on the environment and society. 9 in 10 Generation Y consumers are likely to leave one brand for another that is associated with a cause (see Mercedes Erra's considerations on the quest for meaning through brands). They are even willing to pay more for a responsible brand. While governments can legislate, consumers push us in this direction first. They are able to force us to assume our responsibilities. At IHG we have integrated a series of programs to reduce our impact. Nous We have goals to reduce our environmental footprint and make a positive social impact on local communities. We also train people in the hotel industry in partnership with schools within the framework of our program IHG Academy.

A crucial point: talents

We need to reflect on how to push people to pursue a career in the hotel industry. Worldwide, 1 in 10 jobs are in tourism. We must strengthen our appeal and improve the hotel sector's reputation. We know employees are placing an increasing emphasis on shared values. Our TRUE Hospitality values also apply to our employees, who must feel received, welcomed and respected. It doesn't matter where they are, what they do. This is what attracted me to IHG: this acute sense of family values where we respect and open up to greater diversity. Enabling everyone to reach their full potential. That is why I am an active member of our Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Women represent 38% of our management team and 36% of our management committee. I hope that this will continue to progress to attract the best talent for our future growth.

Many things have  changed since the opening of the Grand Hôtel; IHG will pursue its progress to develop. In order to do so, our partnerships with hotel owners are of paramount importance (see the partnership with Covivio IHG explained during the Global Lodging Forum). We have thus decided to decentralize our services as we have done in France by strengthening staff in our markets.

An exciting period is underway in Europe for IHG...

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