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Georges Panayotis opens the 2nd TourInvest Forum

Georges Panayotis, founder and CEO of MKG Group, opened the second edition of the Tourinvest Forum. More than 300 professionals gathered in the rooms of the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel to share their thoughts about tourism investment.

"With this second edition, TourInvest Forum is now on the calendar of regular events organized by MKG group. Last year the event made itself a necessity.

If we are to believe the statistics produced by our partner Atout France, France continues to be a bit spoiled by tourism. It is one of the top destinations on the agenda of "new tourists" who are emerging clientele with sufficient revenue to travel the world over. This constant flux of new customers for French tourism is a godsend and a scourge all at once.

It is lucky because their spending, even minimal, profusely feeds the cashboxes of companies in the sector and the government. But it is also a veritable scourge since the growing number of visitors leads to the belief that all is well in the best of worlds and there is no reason to fear for the future.

Touristic France is getting lazy. It's quite alarming! It lives on its laurels, and contents itself with repainting the Eiffel Tower once every ten years and restoring the Galerie des Glaces at the Château de Versailles once every twenty years.

Tell me what major tourism development project there has been since Disneyland Paris in 1992? Even that decision came from an American corporation!

The database at MKG Hospitality, we are well placed to know, is there to remind us that since the mid-2000s, France's hotel supply has been shrinking slowly and steadily.

The new ranking forced hoteliers to question their positioning, and a high volume of them has preferred to back out since they have fallen behind in terms of maintenance and renovation investments.

Tourism in general and the hotel industry in particular have missed the great turn that distribution took... the sector is now about to miss a new turn being taken by supply renewal, while demand continues to grow and diversify, and await innovations, imagination, emotions.

The train's whistle has blown several times, but professionals appear to have trouble hearing its call. They will remain quayside as it passes by to other, more reactive, destinations.

Nothing is inevitable, but now it is urgent!

Tourism demand is like nature and abhors a vacuum. Internet diabolically accelerated trends and behaviors. The collaborative economy is nibbling away at an increasing share of the commercial accommodations market, after disrupting car rentals and the taxi business.

In an interview on Bloomberg TV, the two founders of the website AirBnB made light of their hotel "rivals" by announcing they only needed about one week to realize the same average annual growth as the leading global groups.

This lightning growth should serve as a serious warning for accommodations professionals. It is justified by the notion of personal experience that is promoted by the founders of AirBnB. While it does not always meet expectations it is a real argument that hoteliers must use themselves.

To do so necessarily requires new investments that make it possible to truly live a memorable experience at a property, in addition to the human relationship that is established with a hotel's personnel and management.

But that will not suffice. What is necessary at the level of a property is even more so for a destination.

France's tourism economy continues to be based on a serious imbalance between a few poles that get all the attention - the capital, the Riviera and mountain resorts, to be e bit extreme - while the rest of the regions have seasonal tourism at best.

In order to reach the critical size for tourism and be able to boast constant activity across the year, conditions are demanding in terms of activities, accessibility, transportation, infrastructures, accommodations... this will be the subject of a first round table where all these themes will be discussed and especially urban planning and the synergy between players from universes that are very different and yet very complementary.

Local elected officials are beginning to take into consideration the economic dimension of tourism, but it will be a long way before it becomes a priority for planning and development.

Fortunately, public authorities seem - finally - to have become aware of the critical role that tourism investment can play in the French economy.

The Tourism Forum last June brought a good surprise for professionals and the list of measures taken or being prepared demonstrates a certain realism, pragmatism and good sense. But as is often the case in France, policy makers desperately attempt to send contradictory signals under the pretext of finalizing the national budget.

Common sense prevailed, but we are not immune to new fiscal downturns. And that will be the second subject at this Forum: the favorable conditions for boosting tourism investment and creating a new supply.

Investors' initiatives are often discouraged by the uncertainty of the economic model, by the incessant variations of the fiscal contexts, by the difficulty in establishing a reliable business plan, by the rarity of real estate available at a reasonable price. Yet it is not good will that is missing. Many entrepreneurs are simply afraid to take the leap into the unknown.

It is time to free up energy, solicit the imagination of designers, to support the start-ups that will become the giants of tomorrow.

Tourist consumption is evolving at the same rate as behavior. It is necessary to be on the alert for the major trends and to adapt tourism offers and begin developing new concepts now.

We play an important role in this with the Hospitality Awards which have revealed concepts that are now evident in the tourism and hotelscape. The Speed Networking sessions that will punctuate available moments during this day are intended to encourage meetings between project developers and those who can bring them to fruition.

Please visit all the companies and authorities who have come to present their projects. I would like to warmly thank the participants that have made today possible: Atout France, Hospitality-ON and of course Pullman Hotels, and the sponsors that support this initiative: Artelia Hospitality, Carlson Rezidor and CRT Paris Ile de France, as well as those exhibitors present in the Networking area."
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