Don't ‘throw away' money on the wrong general manager, says Hilton executive

15 November 2023 by
Don't ‘throw away' money on the wrong general manager, says Hilton executive

The importance of hotel general managers is "often overlooked" despite them being a key part of the business, a Hilton executive has warned.

Patrick Fitzgibbon, senior vice president development, EMEA, at Hilton, told Alvarez and Marsal's European Hospitality Investment Conference the right manager could make the difference between "an ok hotel and an incredibly successful hotel".

He said investors who hired the wrong manager would find it was "the worst 50 grand [they] just threw away".

"General managers ultimately set the tone and set the direction," Fitzgibbon added. "It is the one thing people just miss. To me, it is the difference. Never miss that."

He also warned the commoditisation of hotels was "the biggest danger" faced by the sector.

"For us in hotels, there's never been a better time to grow, but we've got to be super careful. If hotels haven't been properly capexed and a customer has a poor experience, the chance of them staying there again is eradicated," he said.

Willemijn Geels, vice president development Europe at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), said the business, which is made up of 19 brands, had tackled this problem by converting its existing hotel stock.

Geels said: "We have some really standardised brands we have done a lot of conversions with, like a Holiday Inn. We fit into those existing buildings to be smarter and more pragmatic."

IHG launched its midscale conversion brand Garner in the US this summer, which is set to expand globally to over 500 hotels in the next decade.

Jerome Briet, chief development officer, Europe, Middle East and Africa at Marriott, said the company had launched midscale conversion brand Four Points Express due to the difficulty in finding new build locations.

He added: "If you look at the midscale segment in Europe, you have more than one million rooms, 600,000 of which aren't branded. There's clear room here to help independent hotel owners and brands bring a lot of value."

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