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by Georges Panayotis

That the State can be backhanded is nothing new. It is capable of simultaneously multiplying restrictive measures against smokers and alerting the population as to the dangers of smoking, while it greedily garners tax revenues generated by the sale of each pack of cigarettes. In the same vein, it is not the last to congratulate itself on the results of our tourist industry, while regularly thrashing it.

Doubling the VAT across a three-year period, lowering contributions to tourism promotion, and multiplying strict regulations are all measures that go hand in hand with official discourse on the need to transform our industry. It may be questioned whether or not there is a real political will to support success, regardless of the sector, or if the unconscious hypocrisy of Bercy does not consist in promoting a sector only until it is strong enough to bear the fruit of its growth.

In the past, it must be admitted, the hotel industry benefited from several different financing mechanisms that encouraged the birth of a new supply. The development gained strength, making it possible to restructure and renovate a hotel supply that has not evolved much since the end of the Second World War. And suddenly, without warning, the pendulum swung back, and the State cut off the supply and changed the rules of the game. It opted for a numerus clausus, giving in to calls from entrepreneurs who prefer Malthusianism over growth. While growth was not exactly restrained, the time it took to receive CDEC authorizations made each project take longer and more difficult to realize. The shortage grew, rarity encouraged price inflation, generating a broader base for a more productive VAT. Just what was needed, rejoice top administrators at the Treasury.

Our administration appears to be there just to "arbitrate", offering evidence of sovereign power by deciding which new priority sector will benefit from redistribution. From cronyism to ideological shifts, in just a few years, budgetary voluntarism has succeeded in undoing what it took a generation to get going. Success is not viewed well in a country where it is advisable to beg while assuming the most desperate appearance possible.

But in the end, the tourism sector, being poorly represented, easily divided, terribly fragmented, is easy enough to control. The field is propitious to draining of all kinds because entrepreneurs have not really succeeded in imposing a modern image and real will to change. The lack of foresight just when globalization was taking shape, made them prefer the safety of their own backyard over the challenges and risks of a dynamic approach to new global markets. Only a few French groups have reached beyond the national borders, a few well garnished trees hid a forest of small, sickly saplings. The observation is implacable: in twenty years the respective share of French and Anglo Saxon groups in European hotel groups has been reversed.

As for the food service industry, its is contending with an old economic model based on skirting social mores and avoiding taxation. On several occasions it failed in public relations so it still portrays the image of a profession of profiteers standing behind their stoves less and less, and behind their cash registers more and more. Despite the undeniable prestige of a few important chefs who are putting on a show in the media and at center stage, food services is not getting sympathy, nor is it drawing interest  from public powers.

Saint-Exupéry once said: "In life, there are no solutions; there are forces underway. They must be created and the solution will follow." ...Sharing sites have stirred things up and revealed that the public and clients expect something other than protectionism and conservatism. The forces are there, egos just need to be forgotten and energies combined. It is a question of will.

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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