Will AI replace human hospitality recruiters?

Last year, the Metaverse was touted as the future of business. While that might certainly be the case at some point in the future, it feels that the enthusiasm for this project has waned.  

The technology needed to experience Web 3.0 is still unfamiliar to many, but more importantly, there has been a huge backtrack in recent months from innovators such as Meta and Disney, as they have dramatically reduced their workforces dedicated to this sector. 

On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is growing in influence. We are familiar with AI through popular culture, and Hollywood movies have often highlighted the advantages and disadvantages very clearly, and often, dramatically!  

Since Chat GPT was launched in November 2022, we have seen a sudden deluge of AI add-ons and features added to familiar websites, search engines, and productivity programmes. Devices we already own, suddenly have the ability to leverage the power of advanced AI…. for free. 

There is no doubt that AI is disrupting the way we work, live and interact. Like all advancements, it has the potential to create both new opportunities and challenges for various sectors, and the hospitality industry is no different.  

But what impact is this technology likely to have on recruitment in the hospitality industry? 

Hospitality Skills
Before we look at how AI could affect recruitment, it is important to ask if AI might make a difference in the type of roles or skills that may become more sought after in future.  

AI can enhance the efficiency and accuracy of many jobs across the sector by automating repetitive and routine tasks, such as data entry, reconciliation, invoicing and payments.  

This can free up time and resources for employees to focus on more strategic and innovative activities. This could help hospitality professionals to generate new insights and recommendations, identify new opportunities and trends, and create new products and services. 

While the reduction of manual tasks may certainly affect the number of employees required, it may also help augment the skills and capabilities of employees to help them to deliver more value for their businesses and guests. This would require the industry to continue to adapt and evolve roles and responsibilities and acquire new skills and competencies to leverage the power of these technological advancements. 

We know that finding and hiring perfect candidates for hospitality roles is a challenging and time-consuming process. AI will certainly be able to help streamline and improve certain recruitment processes including: 

  • The screening and shortlisting of candidates based on their resumes, skills, qualifications and experience. AI could help save recruiters time and effort and reduce human bias and errors 
  • Providing personalised and timely communication, feedback and guidance throughout the recruitment journey. This can increase candidate engagement and satisfaction, and improve the employer brand 
  • Providing insights and recommendations for recruiters and hiring managers. This can help them make better and faster decisions, optimise their strategies, and identify talent gaps and opportunities. 
  • Helping candidates find and apply for roles that match their preferences, goals and potential. This can increase the quality and diversity of the talent pool, and reduce the turnover rate. 

Understanding Bias in AI  
A 2021 Forbes article, Understanding Bias in AI Enabled Hiring, it was highlighted how AI objectively assesses the data points and reduces assumptions, mental fatigue and bias that humans often succumb to.  

While there is a risk of human bias being subconsciously programmed into the AI algorithm, there are still clear advantages to relying on AI to screen candidates on a large scale.  

In 2019, a Harvard Business Review article, Will AI reduce Gender Bias in Hiring, it highlighted that AI does not need to engage in unconscious biases to penalise based on gender or other under-represented groups in order to get a self-esteem boost. 

Reducing human bias is undoubtedly a fairer solution, but this lack of bias could also be a significant drawback to AI-based recruitment.  If a business wanted to diversify its workforce or business culture, recruitment without any human judgement may not serve the purpose.  

There are candidates out there with atypical work experiences that fail to meet the AI algorithm standards, who could potentially be the best fit in terms of their individual personality, interests, character and work ethics. 

Our Conclusion
As specialists in people strategy, we recognise that our view comes from a position of bias, but we strongly feel that AI will never replace our consultants. It will likely become a powerful tool that can augment our capabilities and performance, by helping reduce mundane tasks. This will allow us to focus on the human aspects of people and performance strategies, such as building relationships, focussing on retention and culture, and providing added value to businesses and candidates. 

If you would like to have a chat about your people strategy, please get in touch and we can chat – human to human – on Tel: +44 20 8600 1166. 

Success Stories – In Conversation with Natsha Eldred

Established in 2011, EQ Hotels is a leading European hospitality investment and management platform with over €1.7B of hotel real estate across 5,000 rooms. 

EQ Hotel’s quality discipline coupled with entrepreneurial, hands-on operational management, enables them to identify and execute niche, high-value-add real estate opportunities in the hotel investment market. EQ Hotel’s unique position, as both an investor and manager, allows it to underwrite acquisitions balancing solid return on investment targets with operationally credible roadmaps to achieve goals. 

In early 2022, EQ Hotels engaged Madison Mayfair to support the development of its people strategy. After identifying the need to support not just overall marketing goals for the business, it became clear that there was an immediate need to support the high-profile opening of a luxury five-star property in Paris, Hotel Dame Des Arts. With this, Madison Mayfair adapted the executive search parameters to include robust luxury, pre-opening experience that could be deployed quickly and initially on a short-term contract to have a big impact with limited risk.  

Natasha Eldred had recently moved back to the UK having spent nearly 20 years running her own luxury hospitality PR agency in south-east Asia, from her base of operations in Thailand. She had supported the launch of some of the biggest luxury properties in the region and was perfectly placed to lead the PR element of this pre-opening, on a fixed-term project basis. 

By late 2022, with the pre-opening underway with Natasha’s expertise in place, we further enhanced the marketing team structure by recruiting a full time Director of Marketing.  With her previous experience in multi-property luxury brands, we were delighted to place Carla Severn, an ideal match for EQ Hotels as they continue to grow their luxury portfolio in London and Paris. 

As part of our ‘In Conversation” series, we were delighted to recently catch up with Natasha for a short Q & A as she shares her thoughts on her extensive experience in the hospitality industry. 

What inspired you to follow a career in hospitality?
My passion and professional background in the performing arts led me to pursue a career in hospitality. The similarities between hotels and theatre are striking – both involve creating a captivating experience for the audience or guest. Hotels are like a stage or a film set, with the operations team and guests playing important roles in the narrative. Just as actors create characters, hotel professionals use branding and marketing to communicate with guests and create engaging experiences. I particularly enjoy the thrill of opening a new hotel – it’s like the excitement of a new relationship. As someone who works primarily on pre and grand-opening projects, I get to experience the buzz and then exit stage left while the hotel is at its peak. 

What do you consider your biggest achievement so far and why? 
While relocating back to the UK after being overseas for two decades was a significant personal achievement, my greatest professional accomplishment was leading the global launch of Keemala, a breathtaking resort tucked in the hillside of Phuket’s west coast. This project was particularly special to me because I had the opportunity to work closely with the owning family from the very beginning and was given full autonomy to oversee everything from the brand story to the PR strategy, social media, photography direction, and even the food and beverage offerings. Taking a 360-degree approach to this project allowed me to immerse myself fully in every aspect, and it was this level of involvement that I truly enjoyed. Overall, I consider my work on the Keemala launch to be my greatest achievement, as it was a project that felt deeply personal and allowed me to showcase my skills across multiple areas. 

What does great hospitality mean to you?
To me, great hospitality is all about creating a sense of warmth and genuine welcome for every guest. While I certainly appreciate luxury and all the frills that come with it, I believe that the key to exceptional hospitality lies in the quality of the team. Hospitality is not just about providing top-notch service, but also about selling experiences and journeys that enrich the lives of guests. As a hospitality communications professional, I see myself as an ambassador for both the hotel and the destination it represents, sharing the story and values of both and ensuring that we shine the brightest light on both.  

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your career so far?
I have learned that continuous learning is essential, but it’s equally important to focus on my strengths. It’s easy to underestimate the value of experience and the distinctive perspective it brings to a team. As professionals, and consultants, it’s common to feel like an imposter or hesitate to charge a fair fee, but with decades of experience, I must remind myself that am worth every penny. Additionally, I have learned not to get caught up in small details and to have the courage to redirect clients towards what really matters. It’s easy to get bogged down in irrelevant aspects, but this can be a waste of time and resources. Instead, it’s crucial to stay focused on the big picture and work towards achieving meaningful outcomes. 

Thank you to Natasha for sharing your inspirational views on the hospitality industry.  

Madison Mayfair focuses on forging strong, long-standing relationships with clients and candidates, often over the lifetime of multiple roles, to ensure we can find creative and innovative solutions to the challenges we all face in the hospitality industry. 

To discuss how we can support your businesses with your overall people strategy or to access our full suite of human capital services through Hospitality People Group, please get in touch with Guy Lean on Tel: +44 20 8600 1180, Mob: +44 7813 009787 or Email: guylean@madisonmayfair.com  

IHIF 2023: Key Highlights and Insights Shaping the Hospitality Industry

The International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) 2023 recently concluded with the theme “Fortune Favours the Bold”. This year’s event brought together a diverse group of industry leaders and experts to discuss the latest trends, challenges and opportunities in the dynamic world of hospitality. Here, Hospitality People Group’s Dan Akhtar and Mara Cattaneo share their highlights and key insights that continue to shape the hospitality landscape. 

The Battle to Attract & Retain
Earlier this year Hospitality People Group published an article on The Battle for Retention, that spotlighted the challenges that the hospitality industry continues to face, so it was no surprise that this topic took centre stage in Berlin. Jan Hein Simons, Hotels Director at Colliers specifically highlighted labour shortages as the major industry challenge, and said that “some companies had been turning down revenue because of a lack of staff.” Participants explored the increasing competition to attract and retain skilled professionals in an ever-evolving job market. As the industry faces a growing demand for talent, strategies and initiatives were shared to address this challenge. These included innovative recruitment practices, talent development programs, and creating a positive work culture to attract and retain the best talent available.  

Focus on Luxury
We found that there was huge optimism for the ongoing recovery of the luxury hospitality sector. The event shed light on the evolving expectations of luxury travellers and the growing demand for personalised and exclusive experiences. Concepts such as hyper-personalisation, unique amenities, and curated experiences were discussed as key drivers to enhance guest satisfaction in this segment. While the labour shortage has certainly affected the luxury segment’s ability to fill hotels, they have also been far more successful in passing increased room rate onto their guests than midscale properties, leading to ADRs that are already well ahead of 2019. The integration of cutting-edge technology and partnerships with luxury brands were also highlighted as strategies to provide unforgettable and personalised luxury experiences. 

ESG Goes Mainstream
The development of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations from a niche subject to centre stage at IHIF 2023 is remarkable. It clearly signals a willingness to shift towards more sustainable and responsible practices in the hospitality industry, driven by increasing consumer demand and regulatory requirements. However, it is still not clear that what consumers demand, and what they are willing to pay for are quite the same. Attendees discussed how governmental policy would likely drive the implementation of ESG strategies, including energy efficiency programs, waste reduction strategies, community engagement, and ethical sourcing. Overall, establishing your company’s values and beliefs and clearly communicating them with potential employees as well as customers seemed to be a growing trend and excellent advice to businesses looking to grow, attract investment and/or win the battle for retention. 

Subdued Hotel Transaction Market
From our experience at IHIF, there is usually a news ticker sharing updates on the various deals that have been struck during the week. This was noticeably absent this year and points to a hotel transaction market that remains subdued, with a gap between seller expectations and buyer financing capabilities. While it seems clear that there is capital available, rising seller expectations and the subsequent lack of distressed assets, coupled with the increased cost of debt have made financing a challenge for potential buyers. Despite the challenges, participants expressed great optimism about the market’s resilience and the potential for future growth. 

Financing Challenges
Participants highlighted the increased cost, and reduced accessibility of debt financing in the hospitality industry. However, it was noted that lenders are still open to financing projects that demonstrate institutional appeal and align with their investment criteria. Factors such as sustainable themes, commitment to the hospitality sector, and desirable locations were identified as crucial elements in securing financing for hospitality projects. Alternative financing options, such as private equity and crowdfunding, were also explored as viable alternatives to traditional debt financing. 

The Potential of AI
The potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to transform the hospitality industry was widely discussed at IHIF 2023. Participants delved into the various applications of AI, and how it could be leveraged to address the biggest challenges in the industry. Reducing the impact of mundane tasks on hospitality employees would likely increase employee retention. AI could also help with elements of the customer journey that are not considered to be drivers of delight, such as cleaning rooms, allowing the potentially reduced workforce to concentrate on ‘value-adding’ activities  The event showcased pilot projects and initiatives that leverage AI technologies, such as chatbots for personalised guest interactions, smart room controls for enhanced comfort and convenience, and AI-powered data analytics for market trend analysis and predictive modelling. While AI is still in its early stages, industry leaders expressed optimism about its ability to revolutionise how hotels operate and deliver exceptional guest experiences. 

IHIF 2023 provided a platform for industry professionals to gain valuable insights into the current state and future direction of the hospitality industry. The event emphasised the need for bold strategies and innovative approaches to address challenges such as the Battle for Retention, the evolving demands of luxury travellers, the mainstream adoption of ESG practices, the subdued hotel transaction market, financing challenges, and the future potential of AI. As the industry continues to evolve and build resilience, a forward-thinking mindset will be crucial to thrive in a rapidly changing landscape. 

If you would like to discuss any of the topics raised in this article or would like to chat about your people strategy, then please get in touch. 

Dan Akhtar, Managing Director of HPG Advisory Services +44 20 8600 1166 / +44 7808 157796 / dan@hpgsearch.com 

Is Hospitality really the most stressful industry in the UK?

April is Stress Awareness Month, and after a number of publications last year reported that 57% of hospitality employees regularly experience high levels of stress, we want to ask if hospitality really is the most stressful industry in the UK? 

The most stressful industry in the UK? 

In July last year, a report from addiction and rehab specialist Delamere, on the toxicity of the hustle culture, gave a breakdown on stress in various industries. This report was picked up in a number of other articles at the time, and presented hospitality as the most stressful industry in the UK. According to the report, 57.1% of “Accommodation and Food Service” workers reported poor mental health, more than Health and Social Care and Manufacturing which rounded out the top three places. The data to back this up were attributed to Lifeworks’ monthly Mental Health Index. These figures tend to vary by month and while Hospitality is no longer considered the worst offender in terms of workplace stress, it still rates consistently low in areas such as Average Hours Worked and Work-Life Balance.  

The impact of stress on retention rates 

Long Hours and Work-Life Balance, contribute highly towards levels of stress, which can eventually lead to burnout, especially if the level of commitment to the business and its culture begins to wane. Inevitable this can lead to reduced productivity and employee retention levels.  

Last year, we published The Battle for Retention which looked at a number of other factors that can affect employee turnover. 

Advice on how to tackle stress in the workplace consistently revolves around how to spot it in yourself, and in your employees. As individuals, we all have a responsibility to ourselves to recognise when we are working too hard or neglecting our personal commitments. Hospitality Action is a charity that supports hospitality employees both inside and outside of the workplace. In their Advice Hub, they share expert advice and information on how to get further support on a range of issues, including Stress.  

Signs of stress can include: 

  •  Difficulty sleeping 
  • Feeling irritated with family, friends or co-workers 
  • Drinking more than usual 
  • Struggling with work deadlines 
  • Feeling isolated and lonely 
  • Physical symptoms such as: panic attacks, headaches, chest pains, indigestion, dizziness, nausea, sweating, breathing problems 

Mental health charity Mind recommends some ways to manage it including: 

  •  Identify your triggers – Try to prepare for stress by recognising what sets it off 
  • Organise your time – Make a list of your tasks and approach them in order of urgency 
  • Be clear about your limits – While it isn’t always possible to say no to things, let people know if you don’t have the capacity to fulfil their demands 
  • Try to take a short break – it may seem counter-intuitive to take a break when you are stressed but if you can allow yourself one, this can help how you feel 
  • Develop interests and hobbies – Outside of work, try to make time for what you enjoy to take you away from stress 
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Stay physically active 
  • Eat a balanced diet 
  • Spend time in nature 
  • Build a support network – having friends and family, or finding support at work to talk through why you feel stressed can make a big difference 

Employers also have a duty to instill a workplace culture that can help spot the signs of stress and empower them to engage with employees on a more personal level, especially if they are seeing symptoms of stress in the team or in individuals. According to the Health and Safety Executive, signs of stress in a team can include: 

  •  Increase in arguments amongst staff 
  • Higher staff turnover 
  • More reports of stress 
  • More sickness absence 
  • Decreased performance 
  • More complaints and grievances   

 In individuals, leaders may notice a change in the way people act or feel, such as: 

  •  Taking more time off 
  • Arriving for work later 
  • Being more twitchy or nervous 
  • Mood swings 
  • Being withdrawn 
  • A loss of motivation, commitment and confidence 
  • Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive 

In addition to the free support for hospitality employees, Hospitality Action also offers a number of support packages including Stress and Resilience Training, designed to bolster the resilience and wellbeing of your employees. 

If you would like support with your people strategy in 2023, Hospitality People Group are here for you. With a superb track record in finding the right people for the right role, we have long standing relationships with clients and candidates and we can help guide you through challenging and sometimes stressful times.  

If you would like to chat about your people strategy, please contact us on +44 20 8600 1166.  


UK and European Hotel Investment Outlook for 2023

Our Hospitality People Group Advisory Services team, Dan Akhtar and Mara Cattaneo, will be attending the upcoming International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin this May.  

Ahead of this global forum, we explore what the current trends are in UK and European Hotel Investment. 

Firstly, let’s look back on 2022. 

2022 – A tale of two halves 

In our UK Hotel Investment Trends – Summer Update, we explored how the UK had seen a surge in capital investment in the first half of 2022. According to Knight Frank 68% of total transactions in 2022 occurred in the first six months of the year. The easing of travel restrictions in 2021 helped drive optimism in the latter part of 2021 and this enthusiasm carried through to boost the numbers in early 2022.  

However, the war in Ukraine, sky-rocketing inflation, compounded by a disastrous mini- budget late in the year, quickly turned this optimism into caution. As a result, the UK Hotel Investment market saw a final total of approximately £3B in transactions, about 30% down on the previous 5 year average.  

While the UK remains the largest investment market in Europe, the gap has narrowed between the UK and other competing markets such as Spain (£2.3B), France (£2.0B) and Germany (£1.6B) coming in second, third and fourth respectively. 

Although investor enthusiasm was hindered by the macroeconomic events that peppered the second half of 2022, they will have been equally assured by the industry’s financial performance. Hotels enjoyed a much better than expected year in 2022, as the pent up demand for travel and hospitality drove ADR back up close to pre-pandemic levels, earlier than previously predicted. 

How do we expect the hospitality sector to perform in 2023? 

While the easing of that post-pandemic, pent-up demand and the cost of living crisis continue to promote caution, operators are being challenged to carefully balance the business in order to protect profit. The recruitment challenges faced by the industry have certainly helped reduce immediate costs, but we are continuing to see the reputation of the industry being damaged. Glassdoor published their Top 50 list of employers for 2023, and for the 4th year in a row, the number of hospitality companies on that list has dropped, with Dishoom the only representative left in that top 50 list.  

Interestingly, one hospitality business has suggested that the hospitality industry itself is responsible for shifting the pessimistic narrative that took place during the pandemic. Wyndham Hotels and Resorts suggests that we have much to learn from those missteps. Many people thought that the future of corporate travel and buffet breakfasts were doomed and this pessimism may have prevented the industry preparing for and reacting better to the travel chaos last year that led to flight cancellations and airport shutdowns. This experience was something that will live long in the memory for customers who may think twice about traveling with those airlines again and the employees who may now have already reconsidered their career paths. 

Our team at FM Recruitment recently explored how operators are trying to promote a hospitality culture that focuses on retention ahead of recruitment. 


Hospitality has always shown resilience and the pandemic proved that it is also an industry that can be hugely creative when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.The businesses that can continue to flex and adapt their costs, if and when when revenues drop, and demonstrate a people culture that allows them to scale back up with a full complement of experienced, well-trained employees, will prove to be extremely attractive to investors. These businesses are more likely to be able to inspire exceptional guest experiences at full capacity and therefore reap the financial rewards at peak times. These same investors are thought to have the funds available and will be eager to step back into this market, but will be extra careful to ensure great value and resilience is factored in with the continuing expectation of recession ahead. 

An expected an upturn in investment levels  

Henry Jackson, partner at Knight Frank, said: “While no hotel business is immune to the effects of an economic downturn, and while profit margins are likely to be squeezed in the short-term, operationally the sector has continued its recovery and an upturn in investment levels for 2023 is anticipated. We have seen an uptick in investor activity at the end of 2022 and purchasers who are proactively seeking out opportunities now are well placed to move quickly when new stock becomes available. Investors are showing renewed signs of confidence in the London hotel market, with overseas purchasers benefitting from currency plays. 

Once the economic picture is clearer and the availability of debt recalibrates, we expect transactional activity during 2023 to rebound at a more buoyant pace, exceeding 2022 levels. With hotel property offering value and resilience relative to other real estate asset classes, a wide range of investor types will seek to deploy capital into the sector.” 

Speaking to Hospitality Investor, Chris Brassington, Senior Director of Fund Management at Invesco commented that “we fully expect to make additional investments with the aim of creating further value. Our intent is to create investments that have potential to deliver long-term compound growth above the market.” 

HPG Advisory Services 

If you would like to discuss any of these topics further, and examine how they might apply to your business or your investment portfolio, then please get in touch.  

We have exceptional industry relationships and proven successes with operators, developers and investors in the hotel, and hospitality sectors across the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. 

Our services include executive search, human capital architecture, talent management consultancy, behavioural profiling and a range of human capital services tailored to meet the specific challenges of each of our clients. 

We are proud to have delivered some of the industry’s most talented leaders into key appointments. If you’re looking to build, strengthen or diversify a role, a team or your entire business, please contact us today. 

Dan Akhtar, Managing Director of HPG Advisory Services +44 20 8600 1166 / +44 7808 157796 / dan@hpgsearch.com 


The Battle for Retention

The Battle for Retention  

The hospitality industry has become very familiar with the phrase War for Talent in the last couple of years. A number of factors have led to recruitment challenges we have not faced for decades. Indeed, last summer we wrote an article on “How can Culture win the War for Talent?” and the role of company culture in attracting the most talented candidates. 

However, as recruitment challenges are expected to continue throughout 2023, it seems clear that the most important battle being fought right now is the ‘Battle for Retention’.  

While recruitment and executive search form a large part of the services we offer, we pride ourselves on our overall strategic people support. Our track record of building and maintaining relationships in the industry has allowed us to support clients with long-term people strategies that focus on retention by supporting natural succession, rather than a reactive continuous replacement strategy. Here we share some of the insights that we have found to support a healthy retention strategy. 

Employee Turnover – Facts and Figures
Firstly, it is important to recognise that employee turnover can be good for business, but only if you can achieve a healthy balance of retention. If you track and record your turnover, identify trends to adjust your strategy, you will have a great opportunity to minimise disruption to your operations through excessive turnover.  According to a study by Fourth, the average hospitality employee turnover rate is currently 6% per month, which equates to over 70% annually. Other industries average just 15% for the whole year. This level of turnover is likely to directly affect customers, due to the impact on the overall service experience.  Longer standing employees are also likely to be affected as they become frustrated with the continuous cycle of onboarding and training. 

In order to understand what causes turnover, let’s look at some of the top reasons given for people leaving their position. According to a Forbes articles from 2022 the number one reason for moving jobs is due to a toxic company culture (62%). This is followed up by low salary (59%), poor management (56%), lack of healthy work-life boundaries (49%) and not allowing remote work (43%). 

While salary will always be a hugely important factor in moving jobs, company culture is proving to be more important when it comes to deciding to change jobs. With the cost of doing business under the microscope as we head into the new year, ensuring that your company culture reflects your business values and is clearly communicated throughout your team, could be the most value-adding action you take to increase retention rates in 2023.  

How we communicate our company culture and values internally and externally is also crucial to managing your online reputation. Current employees want to feel pride in where they work and potential candidates will thoroughly research positions they apply for. Too often, we come across businesses who have not invested in a company website, or indeed any online presence. This lack of visibility can present a challenge with recruitment and retention and is often more damaging than a below average online presence. 

Recruitment and Onboarding
Hiring the right person for the right position may seem like a very obvious choice. However, it can be very tempting to take shortcuts and gloss over red flags in order to fill vacant positions quickly. Taking time to get to know the candidate by asking the right questions and then sharing accurate information about the role and future opportunities is critical to managing expectations on both sides. Equally important is the onboarding process, where all of the hard work in communicating your strong company culture can be quickly undone in the first couple of days in a role. 

Hospitality Students and Graduates
We would always recommend building strong relationships with hospitality schools and universities to help support the future of the industry. Hospitality students and graduates are some of the most passionate and ambitious members of the sector.  

How they progress within your business is often a fair measure of how well you will retain and attract employees. If you find that they are choosing to leave the business or leave the industry after a fixed term of employment, then there may certainly be opportunities to adapt your strategy. We know that hospitality graduates have higher than average expectations of career progression. While promotions and full-time positions are always dependent on a number of factors, how we encourage and communicate ongoing development and promotions when trying to attract the best and brightest graduates, will directly impact decisions at the end of the program.  

Importance of Exit Interviews
Often overlooked in what can be a period of mixed emotions, exit interviews are critically important to identify trends specific to your business. The questions should have a variety of open questions that appeal to different personalities and encourage interviewees to share their thoughts without fear of offending. This can sometimes be a challenging issue, as some employees may have valuable information to share, but might also be hesitant to burn bridges or get people into trouble. 

However, combined with well-structured and recorded annual reviews, exit interviews can be used to identify opportunities to help develop a strong people strategy that supports succession planning, anticipates natural turnover and increases retention. 

If you would like some support with your people strategy in 2023 we are able to support all areas of human capital across the global hospitality industry and we can help guide you through challenging times. 

Chris Denison Smith, Managing Director – FM Recruitment
+44 20 8600 1160 / +44 7775 711923

Guy Lean, Managing Director – Madison Mayfair
+44 20 8 600 1180 / +44 7813 009787

Dan Akhtar, Managing Director – HPG Advisory Services
+44 208 600 1166 / +44 7808 157796


HOSPACE 2022 – Overview and looking ahead to 2023 

After two years of huge challenges, hospitality enjoyed a bumper year in 2022 as pent-up demand drove business. However, as the Permacrisis (a word that was recently chosen as Collins English Dictionary’s word of the year) shows no sign of abating, 2023 has already been labelled by some as the “year of coping”. In this article, we reflect on some of the insights from HOSPACE and the hospitality industry in 2022 and look forward to what trends we might expect to see in 2023. 

Despite the ongoing cost of living crisis, sustainability continues to be a driving force behind many of the decisions made by owners, operators and investors. The current costs of energy and our reliance on fossil fuels have made more sustainable options a preferred option in terms of future-proofing.  

Speaking at HOSPACE in November, Danny Pecorelli, Managing Director of Exclusive Hotels, noted that while their collection of hotels may include some challenging designs, they have put sustainability into every decision they make. This has led to the introduction of wild swimming pools, technology-led solutions and a gradual movement from gas to induction in the kitchens. 

Unfortunately, many operators noted that none of this comes cheaply, but the cost of not doing something is even higher. 

Danny’s commitment to sustainability was later recognised as he was deservedly announced as the winner of the Inspirational Sustainability Leader of the year award. 

From a recruitment perspective we are continuing to see trends from 2022 expected to continue throughout 2023.  

Culture continues to play a determining factor in decisions candidates make to accept new roles or stay in current positions. We have spoken before about how candidates want to share the same values as their current and prospective employers.  

The way in which companies communicate and act on these values will be seen as a crucial factor in successful recruitment and retention. The cost of living is also a huge factor as many candidates are starting to see moving jobs as being an easier route to an inflation busting pay rise.  

With inflation hitting double figures in recent months, any pay increase less than this is viewed as a real terms pay cut. Moving jobs is often seen as the best way to increase a wage packet and we are now seeing remuneration expectations hitting +20% on current wages.  

2023 – A Coping Year
With these additional costs and an uncertain revenue forecast facing hotel operators in 2023, it is no wonder that a number of commentators at HOSPACE were referring to “A Coping Year” ahead.  

Hospitality has faced huge challenges in the last three years and those that have come through have developed a significant level of resilience.  

In many ways, the Pandemic Pivot was a lifeline for hospitality as it forced operators to adopt new technologies and ways of working to directly improve the customer and employee experience.  

While this agility and adaptability were necessary survival techniques in 2020/1, these skills will be used to continuously improve processes, control costs, boost revenues and drive profits in 2023.  

Previous recessions saw hotels forced to drop rates and drive occupancy to maintain profits. With many hotels still struggling with being under-resourced and the costs of selling a room increasing alongside the cost of living, many hotels will be looking to maintain or even increase rates. Some operators are potentially closing parts of their building or restaurants to save costs.  

Overall, it does look like the luxury sector may be in a stronger position to adapt to the current challenges. Their ability to pass increased costs onto customers who can still afford luxury is a comfort that won’t be reflected at every level of hospitality, which will be faced with a carefully balancing act of cutting costs and raising prices. 

Although 2022 has been a bumper year, we’re seeing a degree of caution for 2023. 

For support with your next career move or to improve your recruitment strategy, please contact FM Recruitment now using any of the below details:   

 Office +44 20 8600 1160 I Email fm@fmrecruitment.co.uk   
Chris Denison Smith +44 7775 711923 I Email:  chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk  
Andrea Shaw +44 7714 236469 I Email:  andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk  
Tairona Lattanzi +44 20 8600 1164 I Email: taironalattanzi@fmrecruitment.co.uk

Is Middle East Hotel Investment set to reshape the Tourism Industry?

Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) recently took place in Dubai. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to attend this year, but Dan Akhtar has been following events closely online.  

The event was a huge success. Attendees and digital participants were encouraged to “Lead the Change” in the hospitality industry, aiming to make it more progressive, sustainable, and lucrative for the upcoming generations.   

With industry giants such as Hilton, Accor, Marriott and IHG all announcing plans to significantly expand their portfolios in the Gulf at FHS, we look at what the hotel investment landscape currently looks like in three of the region’s most dynamic markets. 

One of the world’s key hospitality players 

“The region is going through a fascinating transformation in the hospitality sector, with over 600,000 hotel rooms in the planning and development stage. This quantum of development, which has not been seen before in the Middle East or even globally, is set to change the shape of the region’s tourism industry in the years to come and will help to further raise the region’s profile as a one of the world’s key hospitality players,” said Turab Saleem, Partner & Head of Hospitality, Tourism & Leisure – MENA at Knight Frank. 

Dubai is enjoying a very strong year both in terms of ADR and occupancy rates. The successful hosting of huge events like EXPO 2020 Dubai, which recorded 24 million attendees during its 6 months of opening, proved that Dubai is a world leader in hosting mega events. Its hospitality industry has enjoyed exponential growth building on this reputation.  

With 65,000 hotel rooms under development in Dubai, tourism contribution is set to reach 15% of GDP by 2030, with an international average of 9%.  

While UAE failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup being hosted in Qatar, Dubai is set to reap huge benefits, being just a one hour flight from Doha.  

Its generous supply of accommodation and a more permissive environment towards clothing and alcohol, availability may mark it out as a preferred option for many football fans over staying in Qatar. 

Qatar will take centre stage when the FIFA World Cup kicks off in November and this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to highlight its travel and tourism industry. Qatar has been reported to have spent upwards of USD20 Billion on the event, with more than 100 hotels due to open in time for the visitors flocking in.  

Already graced with a grand selection of luxury hotels, Doha is set for a bumper few months but attendees do have alternative accommodation options in neighbouring Dubai, if the inflated ADRs of Doha’s hotels prove too much.  

As part of the legacy project, Qatar promises to turn football stadia into huge event spaces for concerts and events and has invested heavily in Qatar Airways in recent years. With average rates likely to drop due to oversupply after the World Cup, it may become an attractive alternative to Dubai for tourists. 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has one of the most ambitious projects in the region as part of  Vision 2030 

The Kingdom’s plan is to build a more diverse and sustainable economy, while becoming an international economic hub to connect Europe, Africa and Asia .  

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Development Fund (TDF) also announced it was setting up a USD400 billion hospitality investment fund. This will be in collaboration with the UK-based global hospitality developer Ennismore and Al Rajhi Capital, a homegrown asset management company. It promises to introduce Ennismore’s brands (which include The Hoxton, Mondrian, TRIBE and Gleneagles) to 12 destinations in the kingdom.  

The Future Hospitality Summit also proved to be a very successful week for Marriott, IHG and Accor as they all announced that they are expanding their portfolios in Saudi Arabia. Marriott announced six luxury brands (including St Regis, Edition and Ritz Carlton), two select service branded properties alongside a total of 20 properties in the Gulf region, will open by the end of 2023. IHG announced the management contract signing for Hotel Indigo Jeddah and Accor revealed that they will open a Novotel Living, a serviced apartment development, in 2026.  

HPG Advisory Services
We have exceptional industry relationships and proven successes with operators, developers and investors in the hotel, and hospitality sectors across the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.  

Our services include executive search, human capital architecture, talent management consultancy, behavioural profiling and a range of human capital services tailored to meet the specific challenges of each of our clients.   

We are proud to have delivered some of the industry’s most talented leaders into key appointments. If you’re looking to build, strengthen or diversify a role, a team or your entire business, please contact us today.   

Dan Akhtar, Managing Director of HPG Advisory Services +44 20 8600 1166 / +44 7808 157796 / dan@hpgsearch.com  

UK Hotel Investment Trends – Summer Update

40% increase on previous year so far, but what trends are emerging? 

Although international travel restrictions have eased, disruptions in travel, as airlines and airports struggle to scale their operations back to pre-pandemic levels, has made many holiday makers reconsider their travel plans this summer. The Great British Staycation trend looks set to continue for another bumper year. This strong domestic performance is driving increased investment in well located, efficiently run hotel business which are often seen as a less volatile option than real-estate, with year round returns on the right properties. 

According to Knight Frank, this increased investment has already seen a 40% increase on 2021 in the first four months of 2022 and with trends continuing to point in the same direction, this is likely to continue. Portfolio transactions have seen the biggest increases in this period with some highlights including the regional sales of The Pig Hotel Group and The Inn Collection.  London has seen a similar level of  the sales in the same period with the purchases of Point A Hotel and the Hilton London Olympia. 

While Investment in regional and London hotels has been relatively evenly distributed in 2022, this has not been the case in recent years. 2021 saw more that 60% of all investment took place in regional parts of the UK with Edinburgh being the highest performing city outside of London. 

Last year, Edinburgh took 15% or all regional hotel investment capital excluding London. Three transactions in particular accounted for nearly half of this as Courtyard by Marriott Edinburgh, Adagio Aparthotel Edinburgh and Macdonald Holyrood Edinburgh all changed hands. But what effect will the recent announcement from the governing  party in Scotland, the SNP, that they will push to hold a second independence referendum in October 2023?  

In 2014, when polls were warning of a possible Yes vote prior to the first Independence Referendum,  investment in the UK shrank as banks warned of a Sterling collapse. The field of play is certainly very different now with the UK having left Europe, the world recovering after a pandemic and inflation at a 30 year high but we may still be able to learn from these trends. The five years after Indyref1 saw a huge increase in international investment in Scotland as UK investors hesitated to immediately step back into the region.  

Commercial Mindset
The announcement in June that Accor is entering exclusive negotiations to sell 10.8% stake in Ennismore for £159m to a Qatari group proves that innovative, commercially minded lifestyle brands are proving to be very attractive to international investors. The ability for brands to adapt to, and in many ways drive the change in, an ever evolving and competitive market raises the interest of prospective investors. This commercial mindset sees opportunities where others see obstacles and this is always very attractive.  

Serviced Apartments
Another area that has raised the interest of potential investors are Aparthotels and serviced apartments. As mentioned earlier, real estate values can fluctuate wildly in uncertain time. While well run hotels can offer a much more consistent return than real estate, Aparthotels offered much more operational resilience during the pandemic and the and have the ability to switch to mid and long term let more easily. According to Savills, the supply of serviced apartment stock across Europe is set to accelerate, with supply forecast to expand by 21.2% over the next three years. London and Munich are seeing the highest levels of demand, but the regional UK cities Manchester and Belfast are both sitting at number 5 and 10 in Savills’ outlook. In a  market  still dominated by a small number of brands including Staycity and Adagio Apartments there is a huge opportunity for new and existing operators to leverage private equity, expand and grow. 

HPG Advisory Services is proud to have helped place some of the industry’s most innovative and commercially minded executives and operators. If you’re looking to build, strengthen or diversify a role, a team or your entire business, please contact us today.  

Dan Akhtar, Managing Director of HPG Advisory Services +44 20 8600 1166 / +44 7808 157796 / dan@hpgsearch.com 

How can Culture help Win the War for Talent?

Last June, we published an article that examined “Where are all the candidates?”.  

 As we reflect, a year on, we take a look at what has changed: 

  • Have employers adapted their recruitment strategies?  
  • Has the hospitality industry adapted to meet employee or candidate expectations?  
  • What role does company culture play in the War for Talent? 

What happened? 

The Big Quit and The Great Resignation are just two of the phrases that appeared in the last couple of years. The pandemic precipitated employees around the world to collectively reset and reassess both their professional and personal goals and priorities. This exacerbated the normal cycle of employee turnover and concentrated the timeline to a specific shortened period.  

This turnover sparked a real battle to attract and retain employees, not just between competing businesses, but across industries, where some were far more willing to recruit the right personality with experience from a different industry.  

Hospitality employees were particularly badly hit as many businesses were forced to close multiple times, forcing businesses to make positions redundant. Many of these employees applied for roles in different industries and chose to stay there rather than return to hospitality. In addition, many school leavers, who may have applied for their first jobs in bars, restaurants and hotels found jobs unavailable as businesses had closed, or were operating with a reduced workforce.  Again, many  chose an alternative option rather than waiting it out. 

What is the situation now? 

The UK’s Office of National Statistics has recently reported that for the first time since records began, job vacancies have outstripped unemployment. However, wages have decreased in real terms against inflation, which continues to rise and remains a threat to the cost of living and doing business. Many hospitality businesses are struggling to attract employees as confidence in the hospitality sector has been rattled by events of the last few years. 

How has the hospitality industry reacted? 

“Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”. It’s a memorable quote often attributed to Peter Drucker, but is particularly relevant now.  

We have found that the businesses that have focussed on their company culture and engaged with employees throughout the pandemic were able to recover much better. As demand to travel started to increase as restrictions eased, they were the ones best placed to scale back up with an existing workforce, but also able to attract talent by offering the stability that comes from a happy workforce that feels like they belong and are able to develop and achieve their goals.  

In a recent interview with HPG Advisory Services, David Anderson, CEO of Interstate Hotels and Resorts commented “I believe in building a strong culture of collaboration – two-way communication is key as is everyone pulling in the same direction. Investing in our staff so they can develop their careers is really important to me, as is making sure we recognise and reward their effort and achievement by celebrating successes across the team.“ 

Many hospitality businesses fundamentally changed the way they work to adapt to the situation and put their employees first. AirBnB made the huge decision to make their pandemic-era changes to the normal office schedule permanent, allowing employees to work remotely. This was based on seeing how productive their team had been during lockdown and their willingness to allow the needs of their employees to influence their strategy. 

The Future 

Many employers have already increased wages by adopting the national living wage, and adding financial benefits will always help attract the best talent. However, cultures that embrace diversity, equality and inclusion, while offering a better work life balance and aligned values have become more important than monetary reward alone.  

The recruitment process is now very transparent as candidates have access to so much information on businesses, through their website, social media channels and review sites. By the time it comes to an interview, many candidates will be asking probing questions to ensure that everything is aligned and may prioritise other opportunities if this is not the case.  

Hospitality People Group can support both the recruitment and retention strategies for employers. Attracting the right people to a business demands looking at everything that communicates the company culture, and as an external resource, we can do the heavy lifting.  We look at all aspects of an available position to ensure we match the perfect candidate with the perfect employer. This gives the candidate the information they need to commit and adapt quickly to a new role and saves the employer time and resources so that they can focus on their day to day operations. If you would like to chat about your recruitment strategy, please contact us on +44 20 8600 1166.  



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