The Taylor Swift Effect:  Taylor Swift’s Eras World Tour and its Impact on the Hospitality Industry

As the UK & Ireland prepares for Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated ‘The Eras Tour’, excitement is building not only among fans but also within the hospitality industry. The tour, which has already achieved phenomenal success globally, is set to bring a significant economic uplift to the cities graced by the pop icon’s presence. This article explores the impact of the tour on the hospitality industry, highlights innovative business strategies that have emerged, looks at some instances where fan exploitation may have occurred, and offers insights into how the industry can harness the positive potential of such mega-events. 

The “Swiftonomics”of ‘The Eras Tour’
Taylor Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’ has been a business phenomenon, with its ripple effects extending far beyond concert venues. As the tour weaves across the UK, beginning in Edinburgh and culminating at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium, it brings a wave of economic benefits. Hotels, restaurants, and local businesses are poised to experience a surge in patronage, with fans, affectionately known as Swifties, travelling from near and far to witness their beloved star in person. Barclays have noted that the UK is set to see a £1.2B bounce from the 15 concerts. 

While these ‘swiftonomics’ also cover a boost to retail, the majority of revenue will be going towards hospitality and tourism. The latest figures from STR suggest that Occupancy on the Books for June in the host cities of Edinburgh, Liverpool, Cardiff, and Dublin are all at least 10% ahead of this time last year. London, always more resistant to mega events due to a much larger supply, is also seeing a double digit difference for the concerts in August. Some hotel chains, such as Whitbread’s Premier Inn chain, have been completely sold out since the tour was first announced. In North America, hotels in the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati hotels saw an average uptick in ADR of 71% between 2022 and the U.S. Leg of The Eras tour in 2023. 

Swift Leverage
Businesses have been quick to adapt to the influx of Swifties, implementing creative strategies to attract increased business. For example, retailers have stocked up on Swift-inspired apparel in response to reports that one in five ticket holders would purchase new outfits specifically for the concerts . Restaurants have crafted special menus and cocktails named after Swift’s hit songs, turning ordinary dining experiences into celebrations of her music. 

Hotels have introduced themed packages, like Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa’s exclusive ‘Champagne Solution’, named after a song on Taylor’s latest album and designed to appeal to Swifties who may wish to follow Taylor’s lead, and find solace in high-end bubbles after heartbreak.  Likewise, a bakery in Paris is being inundated with special orders of “Taylor Swift on a stage with a microphone in fondant, Taylor Swift riding a unicorn, and cakes with her face on them …”. Liverpool has taken this creativity a step further as the whole city transforms itself into a Taylor Town Trail with art installations representing each Era set to be placed across the city centre as Anfield hosts three concerts in June. These creative efforts not only attract more business but also enhance the overall concert-going experience for fans. 

Employee Engagement
Much of Taylor Swift’s stock with her loyal fans has been built through a long term emotional connection. Her music and her interactions with fans has connected with fans who trust her so much that many re-purchased almost identical recordings of albums they already had, in order to support her in her battle with the owners of her original recordings. Hospitality businesses can further enhance customer experiences by leveraging their employees, many of whom may be huge fans, to offer some real authenticity to their guest offering.  

Communicating with your team and empowering employees to engage with guests about Taylor Swift’s music, tour dates and related local events could make interactions more engaging for guests and fans. If appropriate, employees could wear themed attire or participate in Swift-related activities, creating a festive and welcoming atmosphere. In hotels, concierge services may want to brush up on their pop culture and could offer personalised recommendations for local attractions or Swift-themed experiences, to ensure visitors make the most of their stay. 

A Reputation at Risk
Despite the successes, there have been instances where businesses have damaged their reputations by exploiting fan enthusiasm. The most notable example is the Ticketmaster fiasco, where fans faced a chaotic and frustrating ticket-buying experience, leading to public outcry and a tarnished reputation for the ticketing giant.  

In some cities, hotels dramatically increased room rates once tour dates were announced, resulting in backlash on social media. Hotel prices in Sydney and Melbourne in the week of concerts averaged nearly double the price of the next week. In Dublin, hotel prices are nearly triple what they are when the Taylor Swift tour isn’t in town. While this is likely the result of dynamic pricing and very normal in the industry, it has sparked widespread frustration among fans. Such opportunism can backfire, damaging the long-term reputation of these establishments. 

Lessons Learned
The ‘Eras Tour’ offers valuable lessons for the hospitality industry. It underscores the importance of preparedness for handling large-scale events and the need for innovation in customer engagement. Businesses that strike a delicate balance between capitalising on the opportunity and respecting the consumer by investing in their experience, will likely reap long term rewards. By fostering a positive environment and creating memorable experiences, hospitality businesses can ensure that the ‘Taylor Swift Effect’ translates into long-term loyalty and not just a fleeting ‘Love Story’. 

Fair Pricing Strategies
Businesses should balance capitalising on increased demand with maintaining fair pricing. Overcharging can lead to negative reviews and long-term reputational damage. Offering value-added packages that justify higher rates without seeming exploitative is a better approach. 

Creating Unique Experiences
Fans appreciate creative and thoughtful touches. Developing themed packages, limited-time offerings or in-room amenities that celebrate the event can enhance the customer experience and generate positive word-of-mouth.  

Employee Engagement
Leveraging enthusiastic employees to enhance the customer experience can be highly effective. Empowering the team to be knowledgeable and engaging with Swifties while incorporating themed attire or activities can create a memorable atmosphere. Concierge services offering personalised recommendations can further enrich guest experiences. 

Engagement and Transparency
Engaging with fans on social media and through direct communication can build a positive relationship. Transparency about pricing and availability prevents misunderstandings and builds trust. Responding to feedback, both positive and negative, shows that a business values its customers. 

Partnering with local businesses can create more comprehensive and attractive packages for visitors. Collaborations with transportation services, local attractions, and merchandise vendors can enhance the overall experience for fans. 

Taylor Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’ has highlighted the tremendous potential for economic uplift and innovative strategies within the hospitality industry. By learning from both the successes and missteps associated with the tour, businesses can better prepare for future large-scale events.  

The Hospitality People Group, remains dedicated to exploring all facets of the hospitality industry to provide relevant insights and support our clients’ people strategies. This commitment ensures that businesses can harness opportunities like the ‘Eras Tour’ to create lasting value and positive experiences for their customers. 

 If you would like to discuss your people strategy further, then please get in touch. 

Chris Denison Smith, Managing Director – FM Recruitment 
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7775 711923  

Andrea Shaw, Director – FM Recruitment 
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7714 236469 

Taylor Swift – Image Courtesy of Paolo Villanueva

The Impact of Increased Salary Thresholds on the UK Hospitality Industry

The recent increase in the salary thresholds for skilled worker visas has marked a significant shift in the landscape of UK employment, particularly for the hospitality industry. As of April 4, 2024, the minimum salary threshold for a Skilled Worker visa application has risen to the higher rate of £38,700. While the previous threshold of £26,200 had already profoundly impacted the hospitality sector, this increase is now being felt across even more hospitality departments and indeed most business sectors. 

Hospitality Industry 
The hospitality industry has long relied on international workers to fill a variety of roles, from restaurant managers and chefs to housekeeping and front-of-house employees. While the thresholds do not apply to those who are already settled in the UK, they will present a considerable challenge, particularly for small businesses and those located outside of London and the south east, where salaries are typically lower. 

The trade body UKHospitality estimates that 95% of sponsored visas for chef and manager roles granted in 2022 would not meet the new salary requirements. The dramatic increase poses a substantial burden on employers, many of whom are already grappling with challenges in retention and recruitment alongside ongoing economic uncertainties. 

The increased thresholds are consequently deterring skilled workers from considering roles in the UK, pushing employers to compete for a smaller pool of domestic workers or to raise salaries, which simply may not be feasible for many establishments.  

Impact on Small Businesses
Small businesses, which form the backbone of the hospitality industry, are disproportionately affected. These businesses, without the support of a global hospitality brand, often operate on very thin margins and will struggle to meet the new salary requirements. For a local pub or a family-run restaurant, the prospect of raising a manager’s salary by 50% is daunting. With the increased minimum wage, costs of energy and business rates continuing to drive up costs, and leading to higher prices for consumers, we are more likely to see reductions in employees, or even closures, further straining the sector. 

Broader Economic Implications
The increase in salary thresholds is part of a broader strategy to reduce net migration following record numbers in the previous year. While this policy may achieve its goal of reducing overall immigration, there is a risk of creating immediate labour shortages in sectors that traditionally rely on skilled workers from abroad, such as hospitality, technology, and healthcare. However, we are also beginning to see the implications that this policy may have on the longer-term future of London as a global financial hub. KPMG recently announced that they had cancelled job offers for a new intake of foreign graduates as the starting salaries were lower than the new threshold. While the “Big Four” firm will have more flexibility to find solutions than small hospitality businesses, it will be interesting to see how this affects the long-term pipeline of attracting the best and brightest graduates. 

Potential Solutions and Adaptations
We would recommend that all employers in the hospitality industry review the new salary thresholds and identify the roles that meet the relevant minimum salary levels. This will help when planning their people strategy giving you more time to plan for the longer term. However, beyond this, the industry will need to continue finding innovative solutions to mitigate the impact of these changes. 

Upskilling and Training 
One potential solution is to invest in upskilling and training domestic workers to fill the roles traditionally occupied by international talent. This strategy requires significant investment in training programs, apprenticeship schemes and partnerships with educational institutions to ensure a steady pipeline of skilled workers. 

Workplace Culture and Employee Benefits
To attract and retain talent, employers will need to nurture their workplace culture. Primarily, this means understanding and communicating with your people, but may also require enhancing employee benefits and working conditions. This could include offering flexible working hours, career development opportunities, and other non-salary benefits that make roles more attractive to domestic workers. 

Technological Innovation
Technological innovation will play a role in mitigating employee shortages and has the potential to completely reimagine how we do business. Automation and digital tools can streamline operations and reduce the reliance on human labour for certain tasks, allowing them to concentrate on value-adding guest experiences. However, businesses need to ensure that these innovations work well for their customers or risk damaging the guest experience and brand image.  

Rethinking Business Models
Some businesses may need to rethink their business models and/or people strategy entirely. This could involve focusing on smaller, more manageable operations that require fewer staff or exploring alternative revenue streams. 

In conclusion, the decision to increase the salary thresholds for skilled worker visas represent a significant challenge, but not just for the hospitality industry. With little prospect of the decision being reversed (the shadow government have broadly supported the increase), this is something that all businesses will need to consider in their long-term people strategy. They will need to explore innovative solutions to attract and retain talent, invest in training and upskilling domestic workers, and potentially rethink their business models to adapt to a decreased workforce.  

If you would like to discuss about how this policy might affect your people strategy and explore some options that might help support your business through the change, then please get in touch.  

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

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

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

Andrea Shaw, Director – FM Recruitment 
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7714 236469 


A Review of the Future Hospitality Summit in Saudi Arabia: Insights from Guy Lean

The Future Hospitality Summit, held at the beginning of May in Riyadh, was a dynamic showcase of Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning tourism and hospitality industries. For Guy Lean, a first-time attendee on his inaugural visit to Saudi Arabia, it was an opportunity to witness first-hand the incredible growth potential in the region. From bold mega-projects to the cultural shifts happening across the country, the summit offered valuable insights for businesses eager to explore new opportunities. 

Vision 2030: A Unified Strategy
One of the central themes of the summit was Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030—a strategy designed to attract 150 million visitors to the country. Guy noted that everyone he spoke with, from ministers to business executives, was fully aligned with this vision. It was clear that the leadership-driven, KPI-oriented approach had permeated every level of the industry. “The first topic of conversation is about the Vision,” Guy said. “Moving from the original target of 100 million to 150 million visitors shows the ambition. They’re incredibly KPI-driven, and everyone’s working towards the same goals.” 

Mega and Giga Projects: Scale and Ambition
Saudi Arabia’s mega and giga projects including Qiddiya and Red Sea Global demonstrate the country’s scale and ambition. Guy found the scope of these developments emblematic of the nation’s long-term vision. “These projects are vast,” Guy said. “Neom is just one of the many plans that will completely transform the region. And the Red Sea project will offer something truly unique, both from a cultural and natural perspective.” 

These projects, which could otherwise be overwhelming in their enormity, reflect a broader strategy for economic diversification. And yet, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond these colossal initiatives, Guy saw an extensive focus on practical hospitality needs, like hotels in secondary cities, business accommodations, and serviced apartments. 

Warmth and Accessibility: A Cultural Shift
Despite some preconceived notions about the region, Guy found the welcome to be warm, welcoming and authentic.  At the conference, he noticed that ministers and executives were genuinely interested in hearing about new ideas and connecting with people. “The Saudis are incredibly accessible,” Guy reflected. “They’re open for business, they want to talk to you, and they’re genuinely curious about why you’re there.” 

This cultural shift was refreshing. Guy described how approachable everyone was, regardless of their seniority or title. He felt that this openness would create countless opportunities for meaningful collaboration. “The Saudis are big on collaboration,” he noted. “They want to meet you, connect with you, and understand your service. It was a breath of fresh air.” 

Sustainability and ESG Commitment
While sustainability has been recently touted as a key focus in global business (although conspicuously absent at CHRIS which we attended in April), Guy felt there was a genuine commitment to ESG principles in Saudi Arabia.  

The projects presented at the summit weren’t just ambitious; they were carefully crafted to integrate sustainable practices. This dedication to sustainability was a common thread throughout the summit. From careful consideration of the Red Sea’s unique marine life to developing tourism that respects sacred sites, Saudi Arabia seems committed to building a responsible hospitality industry. “They know the value of their land, and they’re not just going to bulldoze through it,” Guy said. 

Challenges and Strategies for Success
While the opportunities presented at the summit were vast, Guy acknowledged that businesses who may want to tap into the market would require a strategic approach. Building meaningful relationships takes time, and businesses need to be prepared to invest in repeated visits to understand the market and establish trust. “You can’t just go once and expect lots of business,” he cautioned. “It’s an going investment in time to build genuine connections.” 

Another important consideration is the emphasis on Saudi nationalisation (or Nitaqat), which aims to bring more Saudi talent into the workforce. International expertise is welcome, but Guy stressed that businesses must recognise the focus (and legal requirement) on nurturing local talent. “They want to train their own people, but they’re aware of the expertise needed to do this properly,” he said. 

The Future Outlook
The Future Hospitality Summit painted a clear picture of the future of Saudi Arabia’s hospitality sector, one marked by bold ambitions and a willingness to work with global partners. Guy was confident that, despite the challenges, the opportunities in the region are unmatched. “I’ve never seen an opportunity this big in my life,” he said. “Dubai was always huge, but this is on a different level.” 

With the ongoing concerted national effort, the projects and partnerships emerging in Saudi Arabia really could elevate the region into a premier hospitality destination. Guy left the conference optimistic that Saudi Arabia will realise its Vision 2030, with projects that offer world-class experiences while maintaining cultural authenticity and prioritising sustainable growth. 

In conclusion, businesses seeking growth in the Middle East would be wise to pay attention to Saudi Arabia. The nation’s ambitious Vision 2030, combined with its genuine commitment to sustainability and warm, collaborative culture, makes it an attractive destination for investment. However, success requires thoughtful planning, long-term relationship-building, and a willingness to adapt to local customs and priorities. 

For Guy, the Future Hospitality Summit was inspiring. “It was a truly authentic experience,” he said. “The Saudis are doing something really special, and I believe they’re going to pull this off.” 

If you would like to arrange a chat about your people strategies or to discuss any points raised in this article, then please get in touch on +44 (0)208 600 1182 or +44 (0)7813 009 787 or email 

Insights from the Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS)

The Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS), held last week in Florida, brought together industry leaders from around the world, including our very own Andrea Shaw and Dan Akhtar, to discuss the evolving landscape of the Caribbean hospitality sector.  

Drawing from their experience of attending, we’re pleased to share our insights and takeaways into the current trends, investment dynamics, and strategic shifts affecting the region’s hotel industry.  

Evolution of All-Inclusive Resorts
One of the standout themes of CHRIS was the transformation of the all-inclusive resort model. Historically viewed through a perception of attracting a mass market and delivering a low-quality experience, all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean are reinventing themselves.  

Dan and Andrea were delighted to reconnect with Gebhard Rainer, CEO of Sandals, during the conference. HPG has partnered with Gebhard for many years, and placed Gebhard in his current role at Sandals. We were delighted to hear his thoughts on the luxury all-inclusive sector that Sandals have dominated for so long.  

Gebhard emphasised that continuing to create emotional, and more personalised experiences, becoming more essential to today’s customers. He also noted that luxury properties will need to continue to innovate and evolve in order to inspire and capture the attention of luxury consumers. 

Dan Akhtar notes there is a significant shift in how these properties are perceived and operated: “All-inclusive used to have a bit of a bad reputation… it was encouraging to hear a lot of talk about elevating that reputation, with big-name global brands, using an authentic experiential-led approach, currently building a pipeline to becoming more active in the all-inclusive space.“  

This shift has partly been driven by the changing demographics of travellers, particularly younger generations who prioritise wellness and quality experiences over traditional vacation excesses. 

The new all-inclusive resorts are focusing on wellness, adventure, and quality services. Andrea Shaw elaborates, “This more wellness-conscious, health-conscious client coming through doesn’t want to gorge all day; actually, they want to look at different adventures and experience-led breaks.” Luxury within these settings is being redefined—luxury can mean sustainable cocktails on the beach or sports like pickleball (there was a lot of talk about the pickleball revolution), complete with high-end amenities like fresh towels, water, and fruit drinks, even at the game courts. 

The Rise of Branded Residences
Another significant trend discussed at the summit was the emergence of branded residences. These developments, where hotel brands offer residential properties, combine the comfort of private homes with the luxury services of hotels. Dan notes the prevalence of this trend, highlighting its benefits for funding hotel projects while providing the security and consistency of a quality well-known brand for its residents. This model not only enhances the allure of the properties but also provides a stable financial model through the sale of residences.  

Market Dynamics and Investment Opportunities
The discussions at CHRIS also shed light on the primary markets and investment opportunities in the Caribbean. Andrea notes statistics indicating robust engagement from U.S. travellers, with about 16 million stayovers recorded last year. The summit also addressed the significant potential of the Spanish-speaking market, which remains largely untapped in the Eastern Caribbean due to language preferences. Andrea shared insights into market preferences: “The Spanish-speaking market is huge, but understandably, they have a strong preference to go to where Spanish-speaking people are.” 

This comfort of language and familiarity plays a crucial role in attracting tourists, making regions where Spanish or English are spoken more attractive to respective demographics. This understanding is vital for developers looking to maximise the appeal of new projects. 

Sustainability – Untapped Opportunity?
The topic of sustainability at this conference revealed a stark contrast to its European counterparts in recent years. The discussions around environmentally responsible tourism were notably subdued, with little emphasis on the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principles that have become pervasive at European conferences.  

As global travellers become increasingly environmentally conscious, the demand for eco-friendly accommodations is likely to rise, providing a competitive edge to those who proactively embrace sustainability. This seemingly lack of focus on sustainability in the Caribbean at present indicates a significant opportunity for the future.  

As a major brand in the region, Club Med has a well-established ESG-focused approach, so there is a clear pathway for other brands and resorts to follow suit.  It will be interesting to see how this unfolds over the next decade, as more properties may seek to differentiate themselves by integrating sustainable practices into their operations which will also likely have a significant impact on the investment landscape. 

Financial Strategies and Consumer Behaviour
Financial strategies and consumer behaviour were also key discussion points, particularly in light of the changing economic landscape post-pandemic.  

Andrea relays the various perspectives on payment options that emerged during one panel, including the growing availability of instalment payments: “Some companies are offering these options because they can better forecast cash flow, yet others prefer to be paid upfront.” Dan adds “The regional hoteliers acknowledge they are competing on the global stage and the need to deliver value to customers, or otherwise risk losing business to other regions”. 

Ultimately, this reflects a broader trend towards accommodating consumer preferences for more flexible payment methods, aligning with global shifts towards financial inclusivity as well as personalising experiences to individual needs. 

These personalised experiences and individual needs have been well catered for at the luxury Sandals Resorts International, the homegrown trailblazer in this region for luxury all-inclusive offerings that now boasts 20 properties across 10 islands in the Caribbean.  

Challenges in Recruitment and Retention
Like in much of the global hospitality industry, recruitment and retention are also a critical area for the Caribbean hospitality industry. The summit included discussions on training and developing employees from within, indicating a high-level focus on enhancing employee engagement and loyalty. However, Andrea highlighted the need for more substantial efforts in this area: “Despite the massive challenges and direct impact this can have on the customer experiences, it wasn’t a huge talking point and it was kept very high level.” 

Local Collaboration and Infrastructure Challenges
A significant portion of the summit was dedicated to addressing operational challenges, such as airlift accessibility and local procurement. Dan reports that there was the importance of collaboration among local businesses to improve efficiency and sustainability: “Managing utilities and food, working with local growers, and trying to get the companies to work together to create a more collaborative community will help secure a more stable and resilient local economy 

These discussions underscore the necessity of integrated approaches to tourism development, where infrastructure and hotel operations are cohesively managed. This in turn may also help impact some of the challenges in terms of recruitment and retention. 

Political Stability as an Investment Attractor
Finally, the political neutrality of the Caribbean was emphasised as a key factor in its appeal as an investment destination. While the region is always at risk during hurricane season, in a world where geopolitical is affecting travel decisions, the Caribbean’s political stability makes it a safe choice for investors. Andrea articulates this advantage: “Whatever’s happening in the world politically, people will still travel to the Caribbean because they’re not likely to be hindered by what’s happening in world politics.” 

The CHRIS summit offered rich insights into the Caribbean hotel investment landscape, highlighted by the evolving all-inclusive model, the rise of branded residences, and the increasing opportunities for political sustainability.  

As the Caribbean hospitality sector continues to adapt to global trends and regional specifics, its potential for growth and innovation remains significant, making it an attractive arena for both seasoned and new investors.  

We hope that Andrea and Dan’s observations from the summit provide valuable perspectives for stakeholders considering investment in the region. If you would like to discuss any of the points raised, or indeed any element of your people strategy, please get in touch. 

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

Andrea Shaw, Director – FM Recruitment 
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7714 236469 


Insights from International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) 2024

The International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) 2024 took place in Berlin in mid April 2024. Like many recent articles, insights and data we have seen recently, the increasingly positive results in terms of sector growth continue to be treated with caution as investors seek to secure long-term value. 

Here we look at the current UK investment landscape and highlight some of the key themes from IHIF such as expansion strategies, the future of hotel operations and what they mean to the global investment infrastructure. 

UK Investment and Market Dynamics
The UK hotel market has seen a robust recovery, with investments soaring to £1.7 billion in the first quarter of 2024—marking the highest level since 2019 and a 138% increase from the first quarter of 2023. 

In this article from Hotels, David Eisen cites recent data from Cushman and Wakefield to say “London accounted for 60% of major deals by volume and included the sale of Atlas House to Integrity International Group and the BT Tower to U.S.-based hotel owner and operator MCR Hotels” These deals highlight a growing trend of converting non-hotel assets into hotels, a strategy expected to continue shaping the market. 

The transaction volume in this quarter spanned 93 properties across the UK, encompassing around 7,600 rooms. Major portfolio deals like the Edwardian UK Radisson Hotel Portfolio and the LXi REIT Travelodge Portfolio made up 60% of the transaction volume. Private buyers dominated the market, responsible for 69% of the transactions, followed by public investors and institutional-backed capital. 

Ed Fitch, head of hospitality UK & Ireland at Cushman & Wakefield, commented on the sustained high performance of the UK hotel sector, which is stabilising as the new norm. Despite a strong capital interest, the market faces constraints due to a limited number of available properties and cautious buyer sentiment ahead of expected base rate cuts and the upcoming UK election. 

Strategic Expansion
Speaking at IHIF in Berlin, Sir Rocco Forte outlined his group’s strategy to leverage its strong U.S. customer base, where 40% of its business originates, and explore high-demand locations like New York, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Miami, despite high entry costs. The investment from PIF, which acquired a 49% stake in the hotel group, is poised to double the size of Rocco Forte’s portfolio within five years, including launching The Carlton Hotel in Milan and a new venture with fashion company Capri Group in Naples by 2027. 

Sir Rocco highlighted the group’s commitment to maintaining high service standards in the face of rising costs and continuing to manage food and beverage operations in-house to ensure quality. He also emphasised the importance of enhancing employee remuneration and working conditions, reflecting on COVID-19 as a catalyst for improving employee welfare and aligning hotel operations closely with local cultures. 

Regional Opportunities
On Day 2 of IHIF, hotel executives highlighted increasing investments and travel interest in Mediterranean destinations, contrasting with the economic challenges in northern Europe such as Germany.  

Hotel News Now reported that that Tim Abram of Starwood Capital acknowledges the difficulties in Germany due to a sluggish economy and high interest rates but reiterated the country’s strong investment potential. 

On the other side of the coin, Italy is being seen as an emerging hotspot for hotel investments, similar to Spain a decade ago. Marcello Cicalò of Bluserena Hotels & Resorts noted Italy’s fragmented market and rising asset values are attracting significant private equity interest. Andreea Bodea of Pygmalion Capital noted that while Italy can boast the highest room count in Italy, many owners are still struggling to attract the investment their properties need in order to meet and exceed the expectations of the modern traveller. 

Operational Insights and Future Prospects
The forum highlighted the critical need for operational efficiency and adapting to evolving consumer expectations. The changing landscape of hotel food and beverage services was a focal point, emphasising innovation and operational optimisation to boost profitability. Sébastien Bazin of Accor shared insights from the company’s decade-long transformation, emphasising the importance of digital integration and stable leadership amidst a volatile geopolitical landscape. “Navigating new challenges requires a robust blend of innovation and tradition,” Bazin remarked during his session. 

Customer Loyalty and Guest Experience
Hospitality Investor reported on a fascinating panel discussion that once again highlighted the evolving concept of loyalty in the hospitality sector. The discussion, featuring insights from Antonio Gonzalez, CEO of Sunset Hospitality Group, and Gregory Lanter, a senior executive at Club Med, emphasised the shift from traditional transactional loyalty to a more emotionally driven model.  

Gonzalez elaborated on the importance of experiential hospitality that withstands changes in pricing strategies or market trends. By launching Sunset Hotels & Resorts, his group aims to expand its portfolio significantly by 2026 while focusing on crafting unique experiences that resonate on a personal level with guests. 

Lanter shared similar sentiments, pointing out that the real value lies in providing life-enriching human experiences beyond the standard offerings of rooms and amenities. He stressed that the key to achieving this is through employees who possess strong interpersonal skills rather than just technical capabilities, enabling them to engage with guests meaningfully. 

Both leaders highlighted the role of technology in enhancing guest experiences. Gonzalez discussed how technology could leverage data to better predict customer preferences and streamline experiences, making them more seamless and personalised.  

Meanwhile, Lanter viewed AI as a disruptive tool that can revolutionise how guest services are delivered, particularly in tailoring the marketing and distribution of these personalised experiences. 

Market Optimism Amidst Challenges
Despite macroeconomic uncertainties, the forum radiated a general optimism about the hospitality market’s future. The European M&A outlook appears promising, reflecting improvements in deal structures and an increase in strategic investments. However, the forum also acknowledged challenges such as rising costs, interest rates, the current geo-political instability and the necessity for flexible business models to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions. 

In conclusion, IHIF 2024 offered invaluable perspectives on the continued resilience and adaptability of the hospitality industry, highlighting the sector’s commitment to growth and innovation. The discussions reflect the industry’s concerted efforts to navigate a complex global landscape while pursuing expansion and refinement. 

Global Hospitality Investment Insights – Spring 2024 

With IHIF (Berlin), Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit (Florida) and Future Hospitality Investment Summit (Saudi Arabia) all taking place in April, it presents an opportune time to delve into the current state of hospitality investment, spotlighting the investment landscape across the UK, Europe, and the Middle East, while referencing global patterns that offer insights into the future of hospitality. 

Recovery and Reorientation: A Global Snapshot
The hotel industry has continued to show remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. According to the Global Hotel Investment Outlook 2024 by JLL, by the end of 2023, global Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) not only recovered but in some regions exceeded 2019’s figures, showcasing an industry on the rebound.  

This resurgence is underpinned by a burgeoning interest in urban markets such as London, New York, and Tokyo, which are now prime targets for hotel investors. However, the narrative varies by region, with the Middle East and Europe leading the charge, with Asia Pacific trailing slightly, as it grapples with slower recovery rates. 

The JLL article also reveals that while RevPAR recovered, global hotel investment volume was significantly low in 2023, marking the lowest total since 2012 (excluding the COVID-19 impacted 2020). This decline was attributed to capital market dislocation caused by high-interest rates and geopolitical instability.  

Despite these challenges, the year witnessed a large number of global trades, indicating a continued interest in the hotel sector. However, there was a notable shift towards smaller, single-asset trades and a decline in high-dollar portfolio transactions. 

Chinese Market: The Awaited Return
A critical element in the global travel and hospitality puzzle is the return of Chinese international travellers. Pre-pandemic, this demographic was a powerhouse of spending and mobility.  

However, as Hospitality Investor reports, despite the lifting of travel bans, Chinese international seat capacity in early 2024 remained 30% lower than 2019 levels. The expected revival of Chinese outbound travel could catalyse significant shifts, particularly in markets heavily reliant on this segment but there remain significant challenges. The UK, with a strong influx of students and their families returning, has done well but, the overall picture for Europe is less impressive. War in mainland Europe and the diversion of direct flights over Russia alongside and reprioritisation of the economic landscape at home has led to a slower recovery in the long-haul sector with gateway cities in the US and Asia the primary benefactors in the recovery so far. 

Luxury and Beyond
While the luxury market has performed better than any other segment post-pandemic, this is now facing a potential slowdown. Hospitality Investor writes that significant brands like Burberry are signalling a downturn due to decreased spending by aspirational shoppers. While this trend, coupled with a general market correction following years of growth, poses challenges for luxury goods, the impact on the luxury travel and accommodation sector remains nuanced. The travel industry may still find resilience through a shift in consumer preferences towards meaningful luxury experiences over goods.  

The luxury travel market is expected to continue growing, driven by unique, personalised experiences that cater to high-net-worth individuals. The evolving luxury landscape suggests polarised spending towards high-value and luxury experiences, with an ongoing demand for unique and immersive travel experiences despite broader market challenges. 

Furthermore, the narrative extends beyond mere accommodation to embrace sustainability, wellness, and authenticity, elements now integral to brand differentiation and investment appeal. The evolving expectations of travellers are reshaping the essence of hotel branding, with a marked shift towards experiences aligned with personal values. 

Market Movements: Europe and the Middle East in Focus
Europe presents a mixed bag; the allure remains strong for domestic and international travellers alike, buoyed by events such as the Summer Olympics and Taylor Swift’s Mega Tour. However, the shadow of geopolitical tensions and economic uncertainties looms large, affecting travel dynamics, particularly from key markets like the aforementioned China. 

The Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, has emerged as a beacon of growth and investment, catalysed by major initiatives to boost tourism and hospitality as part of broader economic diversification efforts. This region’s upward trajectory offers a compelling narrative for investors, but the ongoing conflict in Gaza has started to impact revenues and the longer-term impact is hard to predict. Bloomberg recently reported that Dubai based Emaar Properties PJSC posted a 33% drop in fourth-quarter revenue despite a record annual profit in 2023. The conflict has also led to wider regional effects, including consumer boycotts of major foreign brands and a decline in tourism in nearby countries.  

Looking Ahead
he global hotel industry, particularly in strategic markets like the UK, Europe, and the Middle East, is at a pivotal juncture, shaped by the slow yet steady return of Chinese travellers, the polarisation between luxury and value and the increasing emphasis on sustainability and experiential luxury. Together with the unpredictable global geopolitical landscape, there are significant opportunities for hospitality investors. 

While the landscape is fraught with uncertainties, the undercurrents of recovery, innovation, and a renewed focus on quality and sustainability signal a new era for hotel investment. The industry’s ability to adapt, innovate, and cater to the evolving preferences of global travellers will define the success of investments in the coming years. 

This month, we will be attending the Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit in Florida and the Future Hospitality Investment Summit in Saudi Arabia. These conferences serve as critical platforms for industry stakeholders to converge, share insights, and forge the path ahead. We remain committed to providing our clients with nuanced, forward-looking advice, grounded in a deep understanding of global trends. 

If you are attending the Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit in Florida and would like to set up a chat, please contact Dan Akhtar or Andrea Shaw. 

If you are heading to Saudi Arabia for the Future Hospitality Investment Summit, Guy Lean will be our representative. Please contact him to set up a chat. 

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

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

Andrea Shaw, Director – FM Recruitment 
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7714 236469 


Women in Hospitality: Paving the Road for Gender Equality and Inclusion

The hospitality industry is a vibrant and fundamental player in the global economy. Yet, despite its worldwide reach and potential for career growth, there persists an undeniable disparity in gender representation, particularly in leadership roles and pay equity.  

With technological advancements reshaping the way we work, we have an opportunity to make advancements in all areas, particularly in championing the cause of women in hospitality.  

Gender Equality – The Current State of Play
Celebrating women in hospitality is not merely a gesture of recognition but a crucial step toward achieving gender equality.  

A PWC report in 2020 revealed that among the lowest-paid 25% of positions across the hospitality, travel and leisure sector, 54% are held by women and of the highest-paid 25% of positions, 58% are held by men.  

This illustrates both the gender wage gap and the underrepresentation of women in the upper levels of the sector. 

The PWC report indicates that if the current rate of progress on closing the gender pay gap continues, it could take another two decades to achieve parity. This slow pace is unacceptable, risking the loss of invaluable talent and hindering performance.  

The gender pay gap in hospitality has widened, with the majority of board positions, which influence average pay, being held by men, despite women constituting 70% of the workforce. This imbalance is further exacerbated by high employee turnover and the prevalence of insecure, seasonal work, often occupied by women to fit around caring-at-home responsibilities. 

In 2022, women earned 17% less than men on average, a gap that is partly attributed to traditional patterns of women leaving the workforce during childbearing years, which affects continuity and contributes to lower wages.  

Despite efforts for equal pay, women lag in nearly every occupational category, with only 8.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs being female.  

Our Commitment to Gender Equality
At Hospitality People Group, we recognise that bridging this gap is not solely about promotion and remuneration but about fostering a supportive workplace culture where everyone can be empowered to realise their potential.  

This could entail providing flexible working options given the acceleration of technology and the increased ability to be connected while working remotely. This could be particularly hekplful to women as they return from parental leave or are navigating different life stages such as the menopause.  

By identifying and attracting the best talent and advocating for a diverse workforce, we can ensure that clients benefit from a wide array of perspectives, enriching the hospitality experience for all. 

We are committed to supporting women as they navigate the challenges of returning from maternity leave or caring for family members, while also aiding in rebuilding confidence and advocating for equitable practices among our clients. 

Andrea, Mara, and Tairona are all Founding Members of the “Inspiring Women in Hospitality” community, a platform that reflects a commitment to nurturing gender diversity and inclusion within the industry. Initially founded as podcast by Naureen Ahmed, the community has evolved and the Inspiring Community was launch in September last year.  

Naureen Ahmed joined us for a Success Story  during the month of International Women’s Day in March to share her insights on empowering women in hospitality. 

We are also proud sponsors of Boutique Hoteliers’ Women in Hotels brunch, taking place on International Women’s Day at art’otel London Battersea Power Station. 

How can Women in Hospitality be further supported?
Taking inspiration from the Inspiring Community we have summarised some of their key actionable recommendations below. 

  •  Fostering a Diverse Community 

To effectively confront gender bias, the hospitality industry must encourage the formation of communities that unite women from varied cultures, backgrounds, experiences, and age groups. This diversity can become a powerful force for change, as it brings a multitude of perspectives and solutions to the table, fostering a more inclusive atmosphere. 

  • Promotion of Gender Equality 

The industry should facilitate collaborations with women who are passionately working towards gender equality. Businesses can then help ensure that these discussions influence policy and practice at every level of operation. 

  • Professional Development Platforms 

Access to professional development platforms is crucial. The industry should provide spaces where women can enhance their skills and broaden their professional network. These platforms can serve as springboards for career advancement and personal growth, helping to break down the barriers that women face in the hospitality sector. 

  • Mentorship Opportunities

Mentorship is a key strategy for personal and professional development. The industry should encourage women to engage in mentorship roles within their peer groups, offering guidance, support, and encouragement to one another. This peer-to-peer mentorship can be a powerful catalyst for individual and collective progress. 

  •  Structured Career Discussions

Finally, structured career discussions, perhaps facilitated by industry specialists can provide direction and clarity for women forging their paths in hospitality. These sessions can help women identify career milestones and strategise on how to reach them, while also advocating for systemic changes that can pave the way for future generations of women in hospitality. 

Specialists in People Strategy
As specialists in people strategy, we recognise the importance of a diverse talent pool, and the impact of a workplace culture that supports it.  

This variety of perspectives, encompassing all genders and levels of seniority, is crucial for innovation and staying ahead in a competitive market.  

Offering flexible working arrangements and encouraging the option of shared parental leave could be game-changing ways to mitigate disparities, supporting women’s career continuity and contributing to a fairer and more inclusive workplace. 

The path to equality in hospitality is not easy, and it requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders. Celebrating women’s achievements, creating supportive workplace cultures, and leveraging technological advances for flexible work options could be key steps in the right direction.  

If you’d like to discuss how we support all people in the hospitality industry then please get in touch on +44 20 8600 1166 or via the below details.  

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

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  

Andrea Shaw, Director – FM Recruitment
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7714 236469 



Success Story – In conversation with Naureen Ahmed

Naureen Ahmed is a seasoned hospitality professional, a fervent community builder, an engaging storyteller, and the visionary founder of ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’.  

With a life journey that saw her living in four different countries by the age of 10, Naureen’s path to the hospitality industry felt predestined. Her academic pursuits led her to the EHL Hospitality Business School in Lausanne, where she felt an immediate kinship with fellow students, each with their own unique stories. 

Embarking on her career with a position at the Landmark London Hotel, Naureen quickly embraced the operational aspects of hospitality, setting the stage for a significant tenure at STR. Over 12 years, she transitioned through roles from analyst to head of departments, playing a pivotal role in transforming STR into the recognised brand it is today. Naureen’s leadership style is marked by inclusivity and a focus on building multicultural team environments. 

Recognising the underrepresentation of women in hospitality, Naureen launched the ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’ podcast to amplify female voices and inspire change within the industry.  

Her efforts expanded in September 2023 with the creation of the Inspire Community, a platform designed to foster support among women through mentorship and career development discussions. 

Can you share a significant challenge you faced in your hospitality career and how you overcame it? 

Advocating women’s empowerment is something I deeply care about. For me personally, one of my biggest challenges in the earlier years of my career was centred on speaking too quietly. The belief that hard work alone would get me noticed was a notion I held too closely, only to realise it was far from effective. I had to practise raising my voice, which felt like shouting to me, but it was the only way others could finally hear me. 

It involved pushing myself out of my comfort zone, especially in meetings where I forced myself to speak up, to make sure I was noticed. I learned the hard way that visibility is crucial for career progression. Looking back, I see how I could have approached things differently, particularly in how I shared my achievements and successes during one-on-one meetings with my manager—a practice I really underestimated at the time. 

The process of becoming more vocal and ensuring my voice was heard has become much more natural over time, but it still feels like a work in progress. It still takes time and practice, and it’s not about waiting for the perfect moment to feel ready. You just have to do it. 

What inspired you to create the ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’ podcast, and what do you hope to achieve with it? 

The inspiration for creating the ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’ podcast stemmed from my years at STR, where I was fortunate enough to interact with a diverse array of companies and individuals across the global hospitality industry.  

Despite encountering many incredible women, I noticed a significant gap in visibility; the industry’s leadership was predominantly male. This observation sparked a real desire to amplify the stories of these women, to create a platform where our voices could be prominently heard and celebrated. 

The concept for the podcast had been brewing since 2019, but it was the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, with all of us confined to our homes and all using Zoom, that helped bring this idea to life. It began as a passion project, but quickly evolved, and I’m about to do my 200th interview! 


My goal was always to ensure that every story, regardless of the individual’s level of experience, is heard. I believe everyone has the capacity to inspire, and by sharing these diverse journeys, I hope to create a sense of community and connection.  

The podcast aims to resonate with listeners, helping them see that they are not alone in their challenges and aspirations. Ultimately, I seek to foster a reflective space where we can pause, listen, and draw inspiration from one another. 

With joy being a core value of yours, what have been the most fulfilling and joyful aspects of setting up the Inspire Community, and how do you ensure that this stays central to the values of the business? 

Joy is at the heart of everything I do with the Inspire Community. The greatest joy comes from creating spaces where women can come together, share, and support each other, whether online or in person. It’s deeply fulfilling to facilitate these nurturing environments where open, judgement-free conversations allow us to celebrate our successes and navigate our challenges together. 

Maintaining this atmosphere of joy, positivity, and communal uplift is fundamental. It’s about ensuring we progress as a community, fostering an inclusive space where everyone’s growth is intertwined with mutual support. This commitment to collective upliftment and optimism is what I continually aim to embed in the core values of the Inspire Community. 

In your experience, how does the gender disparity in leadership roles within the hospitality industry impact the work environment and team dynamics? 

I’ve been fortunate to work in environments where gender balance was more or less maintained, even finding myself in teams at STR where women outnumbered men. My teams have varied over the years, from being all men to a mix, and coincidentally, by the time I left it was a team of all women, not out of design but based on talent. Personally, my approach has always been to hire the best candidate, regardless of gender. 

However, looking at wider research and insights, it’s clear that opportunities aren’t equally distributed between genders, with bias—often unconscious—playing a significant role. My aim is to raise awareness, educate, and challenge potentially biased decisions to ensure a more even distribution of opportunities. 

An interesting statistic from my interviews is that 51% of the women I’ve spoken to have started their own businesses, choosing entrepreneurship over navigating the complexities of corporate work-life flexibility. This trend underscores a need for more inclusive conversations around work arrangements, not just for women but for all caregivers, encouraging a shift towards more flexible work environments for both parents. 

In advocating for gender balance, it’s crucial to involve men in these conversations too. I’ve met many men in the industry who are strong advocates for gender balance. It’s important to engage with them, learn from each other, and work collectively towards uplifting everyone, finding solutions that benefit all, not just a select few. 

How has your personal leadership style evolved as you’ve navigated through your career?

It’s a bit challenging to pinpoint this, but I’d say it comes down to two things. The first is that my leadership style is incredibly flexible, tailored to the person standing right in front of me. This realisation came from understanding that everyone I work with brings a different set of experiences, backgrounds, and motivations to the table, and my approach needs to adapt to meet those diverse needs. 

The second, and perhaps the most pivotal shift in my leadership, has been recognising the role of empathy. For the longest time, I didn’t openly attribute my success in leadership to being empathetic. It wasn’t something that was traditionally highlighted as a key trait for leaders. But over time, I’ve come to see that empathy is what truly defines me as a leader. It’s allowed me to listen more intently, create a supportive space for my team, and understand their unique needs and motivations. This deep level of understanding has been crucial in helping each member of my team grow and develop in the direction they aspire to. 

What are the most significant challenges that women face in the hospitality industry today, and how does your platform aim to address these issues? 

We’ve all heard of the “old boys’ club” – a network that, frankly, doesn’t exist in the same form for women. At the same time, I’ve come across too many stories of women competing against each other due to the scarcity of leadership roles. This counterproductive mindset needs to change, and that’s where my platform steps in. We’re here to create a foundation for strong bonds and mutual support, to counteract these outdated dynamics. 

The community we’re building is not just about making connections; it’s a space for learning from one another. Each month, we delve into topics aimed at career development, offering practical insights that members can apply directly.  

Furthermore, recognising the gap in mentorship opportunities for women, we’ve initiated mentor matching to make these crucial relationships more accessible. It’s become clear to me that women often don’t have the same networking opportunities as men, especially those who juggle their careers with primary caregiving responsibilities. This limitation often restricts their ability to attend events and conferences, which are traditional networking avenues. 

By creating this community, we’re breaking down the barriers to networking and mentorship. We’re addressing challenges like building your profile and networking, both of which are essential for career advancement. Yet, it’s not just about what we can do individually; organisations also play a crucial role. They need to cultivate more inclusive cultures where everyone feels comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas. If the environment doesn’t support openness, progress for anyone is stifled. 

This need for cultural change in the industry also ties into the broader issue of showcasing the diverse career paths within hospitality. Part of my motivation for the podcast was to highlight these opportunities, to show that there’s so much more to the industry than is commonly perceived.  

Organisations need to do a better job of marketing themselves as desirable places to work, focusing not just on customer satisfaction but also on being employee-centric. It’s about making the industry attractive to potential talent, and addressing the labour shortages by showcasing the variety and richness of careers available in hospitality. 

Looking ahead, what changes do you hope to see in the hospitality industry regarding gender balance and inclusion, and what role do you see the Inspire Community playing in this transformation? 

While some organisations and regions, not just in hospitality, have adopted quotas as a means to ensure diversity across the board, I must admit, I’m not a big fan of quotas. However, I do believe in the power of starting conversations and taking a hard look at the existing data within organisations to understand where the gaps and patterns of exclusion are. 

From my perspective, the focus should not solely be on recruitment but on nurturing and retaining the talent we already have, particularly women who have been invested in by their companies. It baffles me why any organisation would want to lose such valuable assets, especially considering the costs associated with hiring new employees versus retaining existing ones. 

Flexibility in the workplace is another area ripe for innovation, extending beyond the option of remote work to include flexible hours, part-time roles, and job sharing. Moreover, the approach to parental leave needs a broader perspective, encouraging leaders, especially men, to lead by example by taking their full leave if it aligns with the company’s values, setting a precedent throughout the organisation. 

As for the Inspire Community, I see it playing a crucial role in this transformation. Our community, predominantly composed of women in mid-career positions, represents the next generation of CEOs and industry leaders.  

My vision is to prepare and propel these women into leadership roles by fostering a strong support network, increasing visibility, and encouraging them to be vocal and recognised for their contributions. We aim to ensure that these women are not just filling positions but are also on stage, leading discussions, and gaining the recognition they deserve.  

The change starts with each of us, working together to create a more inclusive and balanced 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 on Tel: +44 20 8600 1180 or directly with team below: 

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

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   

Andrea Shaw, Director – FM Recruitment
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7714 236469  

The Importance of Awards in the Hospitality Industry: A Balanced Perspective

Awards season is well and truly underway. With the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars all grabbing headlines at this time of year, it is an opportune moment to look at the impact awards can have on people strategy and overall business goals.  

Winning awards, receiving nominations or simply making a red-carpet splash can help shape reputations for years to come, drive business growth and set the bar for high standards.  

With awards bodies such as The Michelin Guide, Forbes Travel Guide, The Cateys and Hotel Cateys, the hospitality industry has a vibrant awards season which can have a significantly positive impact on hotels, restaurants, and the professionals within.  

However, like any system of recognition, there are considerations and the emotional, financial and time investment should be weighed up before committing to participate. 

In this article, we look through some of the details you may wish to consider before implementing an awards strategy. This could help you and your team make the right decisions for the future growth and development of your business, while continuing to prioritise your workplace culture.  

Michelin and Forbes: Setting Industry Standards 

The Michelin Guide and Forbes Travel Guide ratings are among the most coveted recognitions in the hospitality industry. They are awarded based on rigorous criteria that assess the quality of food, service, and overall guest experience. Inspectors do not announce their visits (either on arrival or departure) and the smallest details can have a significant impact on the rating. 


  • Boost in Prestige and Business: Achieving such awards can significantly elevate a property’s status, attracting more guests and increasing revenue. A Michelin star, for instance, is not just a mark of culinary excellence but also a powerful marketing tool that can put a restaurant on the global map. 
  • Benchmark for Quality: These awards set very high standards, encouraging establishments to strive for excellence. They serve as a benchmark for quality, pushing the industry, and those in it, forward in terms of innovation, service, and culinary artistry. 
  • Establishing Trust: For guests and employees, these accolades are a mark of trust and quality assurance. When choosing where to dine, stay or work, awards from Michelin or Forbes can be decisive factors for those seeking high-end luxury experiences, or a workplace that aligns with their own values and ambitions. 


  • Pressure and Stress: The pursuit of these awards can create immense pressure on owners and employees. The stress of maintaining standards for Michelin or Forbes evaluations can be intense, sometimes leading to a stressful work environment. 
  • Cost Implications: Striving for such high standards often comes with significant financial investment, which can be a challenge, especially for smaller, independent establishments. Many operators have argued that the higher revenues don’t necessarily lead to higher profit. 

Individual Awards: Recognising Personal Excellence 

Awards like the Cateys and Hotel Cateys celebrate the achievements of hospitality professionals, from chefs and managers to front-of-house teams. Entrants are nominated by peers and senior management and entries are submitted for judging by a panel of industry experts who volunteer their services. The ceremonies are often glitzy affairs in grand hotel ballrooms.  


  • Career Advancement: Winning an individual award can be a significant boost to one’s career. It not only recognises talent but also opens doors to new opportunities, networking, and professional growth. From a recruitment perspective, there is no doubt that winning awards will raise an individual’s profile and attract attention from headhunters. 
  • Motivation and Morale: Such recognitions can greatly motivate staff, enhancing morale and fostering a sense of pride and accomplishment. They highlight the importance of individual contributions to the success of an establishment. 
  • Industry Benchmarking: These awards set benchmarks for individual excellence, inspiring others in the industry to strive for similar achievements. 


  • Subjectivity: Unlike awards based on specific criteria and mystery guest visits, individual awards are often based on a written application, which can be more subjective, sometimes leading to debates over the deservingness of winners. 
  • Overemphasis on Recognition: There’s a risk that the pursuit of awards might overshadow other important aspects of the job, such as teamwork and guest satisfaction. 
  • Limited Recognition: With so many deserving candidates in the industry, individual awards can only recognise a few, potentially leading to feelings of undervaluation among others. 

Awards in the hospitality industry, whether for establishments or individuals, have a profound impact. They drive competition, encourage excellence, and provide a framework for what constitutes high-end service. For consumers, these awards simplify choices, offering a guide to exceptional experiences. 

However, it’s crucial for the industry to balance the pursuit of awards with the overall well-being of employees and the financial health of the establishment. The pressure to maintain or achieve these accolades should not come at the cost of employee well-being or lead to unsustainable business practices. 

Moreover, while awards are important, they are not the sole measure of success. Many outstanding establishments and professionals thrive without them, focusing on delivering exceptional experiences that resonate with their guests. Ultimately, the true measure of success in hospitality lies in the satisfaction and loyalty of guests, and the fulfillment and well-being of the staff who make those experiences possible. 

If you would like to chat to us about giving your people strategy the red carpet treatment, then get in touch on +44 20 8600 1166.  

Success Stories – In Conversation with Guy Lean, Managing Director at Madison Mayfair

This year, Guy Lean is celebrating his 20th anniversary at Madison Mayfair and, as such a stalwart hospitality industry, we thought who better to kick off our 2024 Success Story series. 

Having studied recreational management in college, Guy’s journey into recruitment was not a conventional one. His early experience at Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club led to his first role in recruitment where he quickly realised the importance of nurturing personal connections as he carved his career path through sales, training and recruitment, with some help from Dr Seuss along the way. 

At Madison Mayfair, Guy’s focus goes beyond merely placing candidates in roles, but rather measured by their long-term achievements of these placements, underlining Guy’s commitment to nurturing meaningful and lasting relationships for both his candidates and clients alike. 

In this interview, Guy shares his rich experiences, insights, and perspectives on the recruitment landscape, offering valuable advice and observations that stem from a career built on genuine connections and a deep understanding of the industry.

Please tell us more about your career path and how you become known as one of the best-connected recruiters in the hospitality industry. 

Recruitment isn’t really one of those careers that you study in college and then start head-hunting. Like many of my peers, I fell into it somewhat. After finishing my studies in recreational management, with the initial goal of managing a leisure centre, I found myself at The Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club in Richmond. There, I was not only involved in selling events but also managed the bars and looked after the events themselves. This was my first real exposure to high-quality hospitality and the art of connecting with people on a daily basis. 

While at the golf club, a member noticed my potential and asked what my future plans were. He offered me a job at his recruitment firm back in my hometown, Cambridge. I started placing salespeople in various industries including agricultural machinery and pharmaceuticals, working with anybody that sold anything across East Anglia. This job was a real ‘school of hard knocks.’ It involved picking up the phone hundreds of times a day, making connections and really understanding sales.  

I then moved to work for a pharmaceutical recruiter, specialising in the niche area of tamper-evident packaging. This was a significant step in my career, as I eventually became the number one recruiter in the US, while still based in Europe. This led to me being headhunted by Humana International to help sell franchises and teach franchisees to become head-hunters in their respective fields. Humana was eventually sold to an even bigger company called MRI and I became their Global Head of Training while also out there selling franchises. 

Mentorship played a crucial role in my career development. I was fortunate to work with and learn from prominent figures in the recruitment industry, like Tony Byrne and Steven Finkel. These experiences not only shaped my skills but also instilled in me the importance of mentoring others. I’ve trained and hired many individuals over the years and take pride in seeing them achieve great success in their careers.  

In recruitment, statistics play a significant role, even though it’s very much a human-centered field. It takes about 75 conversations to find the right person for a job, someone who would truly excel in their role.  

Our approach at Madison Mayfair involves understanding and connecting with a vast network of people – around six and a half thousand in each market. These individuals are not just clients or candidates, but they are all people with unique needs and aspirations. We are proud to say that most of the clients we work with have been candidates in the past.

Can you share your top tips for candidate who might be preparing for interviews in 2024. 

I’ve always said that when we’re interviewing, we’re all in sales. Regardless of what role you might be applying for, and whoever you are in front of, you’re selling.  

I think you have to follow a sales process and preparation is everything. I would suggest reading a sales book and my top recommendation is “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss which gets to the essence of sales faster than any other book.  

From there, researching the company and having excellent questions are great ways to build rapport. Technically, most candidates who get to interview stage could probably do the job, but in most cases, it’s the most enthusiastic person who gets it.

Are there any industry technologies that you are excited to see continue to develop. Conversely, are there any industry technologies you would prefer never to see again? 

I believe that certain technologies, particularly those aiding in research and networking, are incredibly beneficial. LinkedIn, for instance, has significantly transformed the recruitment landscape. Its ability to facilitate connections and provide instant access to individuals’ backgrounds is invaluable. This tool is essential in our industry, to the extent that if someone isn’t present on LinkedIn, they might not even be considered a viable candidate. 

In terms of communication preferences, I’ve noticed a generational shift. Younger individuals often prefer text messages or platforms like WhatsApp over traditional emails or phone calls. These tools have been effective in connecting with people in ways they are more comfortable with. 

However, there’s a downside to technology when it oversteps and replaces human interaction. In our industry, which is very personal and deals with people’s careers and lives, losing the human touch can be detrimental. For example, when companies provide feedback or rejection via email, it can feel impersonal and inadequate. Human connections are vital, and technology should not overshadow them. 

While I am relatively new to AI and its applications, I can see its potential, especially in speeding up processes like research and initial connections. It’s a remarkable tool for gathering information and bringing back relevant findings quickly. However, the recruitment process in hospitality still requires a balance. While technology can expedite certain aspects, the final stages of interviewing and truly understanding what people want and need must be done through direct human interaction, either face-to-face or via video conferencing. This balance ensures that while we embrace the advantages of technology, we do not lose the essence of personal connections that are fundamental to the hospitality industry. 

Business travel is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels of spend, but many analysts, feel that it will never be the same. Do you feel that candidate expectations have changed regarding travelling for business? 

I believe there are two main elements to consider. Firstly, there’s a heightened focus on the carbon footprint. People have become more environmentally conscious than ever before, and a genuine shift in focus towards sustainability is influencing decisions to travel less. 

Secondly, the importance of maintaining relationships plays a significant role. While the pandemic demonstrated the effectiveness of video conferencing for meetings, which had not been widely popular before, certain aspects of business, such as the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) market, team building, and relationship building, still necessitate physical travel. In these areas, face-to-face interactions are essential and irreplaceable. 

An interesting observation I’ve made is that fewer people are now relocating for work post-pandemic. There seems to be a change in mindset where individuals are more content to stay in their area, seeking a different balance in life and work. This contrasts with the previous norm, especially among general managers in hospitality, where career advancement often meant travelling globally to gain diverse experiences. Now, many seem more satisfied with remaining in their local area. 

However, this shift in perspective towards travel and relocation seems to vary between generations. For instance, I’ve noticed that younger generations, like my two sons in their early 20s, are driven by experiences and the desire to travel. They work hard and then use their earnings to travel extensively. This love for experiences and exploring the world seems more pronounced among them, whereas the older generation appears less driven to relocate or travel extensively for work purposes. 

What do you feel are the most important traits for hospitality leaders to demonstrate? 

For me, the most important traits for high-level leaders centres around emotional intelligence. Leaders who exhibit high emotional intelligence can better communicate with their team, providing information effectively and motivating their teams while displaying empathy and impeccable social skills.  

The most successful leaders generally display a strong self-awareness of their own emotions that helps them understand that people often leave jobs due to poor relationships with their supervisors or a lack of connection with the leadership. They can create work environments where employees feel valued, understood, and motivated, leading to better retention and a more positive workplace culture. It’s not always about monetary compensation but more often about the quality of the work environment and the relationships within it. 

What do you feel has been your biggest achievement and why?

I’ve placed over a thousand people in their careers, many of whom have risen from their first jobs to C-level positions but I feel my biggest achievement has been my work with people and teams. I’ve had the incredible fortune of working with extremely talented individuals throughout my career, and the amount I’ve learned from these experiences has been immense.  

At Madison Mayfair, we have a unique focus: we aim to ensure a return on investment for the candidates we place. Our measure of success isn’t just about filling positions. We look at their progress after 12 months. We follow up to see if they were promoted, if they hit their KPIs, met their targets, or received bonuses. I’m particularly proud of this aspect because it signifies that we’re genuinely contributing to the career growth and success of individuals and our clients’ businesses. 

I am also very proud of the reputation and regard Madison Mayfair has earned in the marketplace. We’re a boutique firm and take pride in the quality of our work and the lasting relationships we build.  

Often, candidates come back to us as clients, and companies return to us for our services, which is a testament to the effectiveness of our approach. Just recently, I had a conversation with someone who had been with a company for six years and reached out to us because of our longstanding work with them.  

This kind of feedback and repeat collaboration reinforce that we’re doing something right. I’m extremely grateful for the great teams we have and the collaborative efforts that contribute to these successes. 

What is the best piece of advice you have been given on your career journey?

I think the best bit of advice I’ve ever been given is, “put your brain into gear before you put your mouth into motion.” 

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:  

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