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by Georges Panayotis

Recent events affecting the global hospitality industry bring plenty of reasons for employees to be concerned, especially as another wave of consolidation is taking place. This gigantic Monopoly game between global leaders should keep bankers and business lawyers quite busy, yet very legitimate questions remain for hotel groups and their employees wondering about their future.

Corporate culture was shaped by years of organic growth, support from a management loyal to core values introduced by the founder(s), and through shared hardships and victories: all the more reasons to explain how hard it is to imagine this culture keeping its relevance while at the same time merging into some newly-built colossus.

Battling to reach critical size, albeit most likely necessary to compete with powerful and ambitious partners, should not eclipse the importance of staff commitment and employee engagement on every level, as these are the core values in any service industry. It is essential to achieve the best possible results in terms of both customer service and financial success. A hospitality company is a living body, belonging to shareholders, employees and customers alike, and even to authorities when they endorse their role. Without visibility about the project or a shared vision, employees and associates will not be more motivated than the robots that are starting to replace them. Is this the discarnate future of the hotel industry?

We legitimately expect technological progress to free up energy and time so that women and men can establish closer, more useful and more authentic relations with customers, and even initiate new practices in tune with the latest trends. HR optimization, together with fiscal optimization, cannot be satisfying objectives resulting from today's mergers or future OPAs currently taking shape -especially in the case of hostile takeover bids. Current political debates highlight the defiance that has built up against the motives behind corporate strategy, new labour laws or trade deals, because the paradigm shift involved may be destabilizing if it cannot bring human and professional rewards.

Startup business models are often used as an example, because they entail a collective "adventure", and the shared construction of an exciting future. Personal motivation is essential, and the reward measures up to the demands and risk taking they require. This explains why franchised hoteliers tend to perform better than their affiliate counterparts, trapped by bureaucratic temptation and procedure.

Nothing can stop the new alliances that are reshaping the hotel industry. They are inevitable -and certainly desirable- yet one should also consider some essential issues: integrating cultures and getting people to share core values is just as key as thinking about brand complementarity and geographical segmentation.

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is President of MKG Consulting. Born in a family of hoteliers for three generations, Georges Panayotis, 51, left Greece at the age of 18 to pursue his studies in Political Sciences and to obtain his Master in Management at the French University of Paris Dauphine. He then joined the Novotel chain, which will become the Accor Group, to manage the International Marketing Division. After developing specific marketing tools for the hotel industry, he left the group in 1986 to start his own company, MKG Conseil, now MKG Group. In twenty years, the group has become the European leader in studies and consulting for the Hospitality industry. The company employs over 70 people in four departments: marketing studies, database, quality control and trade press, with two publications HTR Magazine and Hotel Restaurant Weekly. The company helped the development of over 2,000 hotels in France and in Europe, with offices in Paris, Cyprus and London. Georges Panyotis is the founder of the Worldwide Hospitality Awards and the Hotel Makers Forum, and the author of several publications on Marketing and Operations in the hotel business, He is a regular consultant for several television channels, among which Bloomberg Television, and radio networks.

Contact: Georges Panayotis

g.panayotis@mkg-group.com

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