FORESIGHT : Speech by Giovanni Angelini at the SKAL Club of Hong Kong

Giovanni Angelini, 27-1-2022


Speech by Giovanni Angelini at the SKAL Club of Hong Kong Park Lane, A Pullman Hotel 27-1-2022

Good afternoon and thanks for the invitation, it is an honor to address this prestigious group of hospitality professionals.

We are entering the 3rd year of this nasty pandemic and yes, all of us are tired and fed up with it in particular with the traveling restrictions and with the status of our business, travel and tourist continues to be brutalized. And even worse, is that no one can accurately predict the course of the pandemic. When all this will end? We simply do not know.

And then in all probability, we will have to learn how to live with an endemic for many years to come. More vaccinations on the way ….

Looking back at the past two years, what have we learned?

Please bear with me, I may sound repetitive but want to touch on the most important topics that we are facing. I will touch on what we have learned so far, and on the discipline that we have to put in place in order to succeed in the future.

Hope that it is not too boring….but….we all need reminders once in a while…

– We learned that no one was prepared for the economic and social impact of this pandemic. (And here is a rising question; do we need to be prepared for a repetition? You are all smarter than me and can easily answer this question).

– That a lot of mistakes have been made by many; from the governments, from the medical sector, and also from the business sector.

– In particular, we have seen a lot of very poor leadership. (Leaders are judged during difficult times, not during good times).

– Governments that reacted far too late to the situation and in many cases, made the wrong decision.

– We have seen business leaders who got totally lost and some who placed more importance on profits over empathy. – We have seen a rise in income inequality, and very sad to see that many poor people are getting poorer.

– We learned the hard way that cash flow has been and will remain a top priority for all organizations and that we always need an emergency plan in place. A plan that address where operating funds comes from during good times and during bad times.

– We have seen far too much fake news creating fear, confusion, distrust, and in some cases even stigma. And without much empathy.

– We learned that the pandemic has accelerated global shifts in consumer behaviors, values, and expectations. Consumers have become much more selective about what they consume, how they travel, where/when they go, and where they stay.

– Traveler’s priority has changed and there are indications that Health and Safety are as important as the Location and the Brand.

– We are learning that the industry has to move beyond symbolic statements on sustainability and put in place clear priorities and metrics. (A very hot topic that will not go away).

On the personal side, we have transformed the way we live, work, and interact.

– Learned to cope with lockdowns and how to work from home.

– Also learned to make the best use of virtual and hybrid technology.

– And it appears that there will be no going back to the way many things were before the pandemic.

Now, what is our foresight? And what are we going to do?

Please allow me to share my believes; Under this situation, all of us have to determine what will reshape and revitalize the future of our business.

– In our industry, the core business of providing hospitality and experiences has not changed and it will not change. But…. we have to work much harder to compete at par and be profitable. – We have to learn how to differentiate, innovate, eliminate formalities, and be much more efficient. It will be a must for any organization to create a strong culture of revitalization and adaptability. Organizations are driven by culture.

– In particular, we must create and be very clear on what is our competitive advantage (or competitive edge).

– What are you providing? and why a customer should choose you versus your competitor? The competitive landscape is going to increase in complexity. What do customers expect from you and from your brand? and are you providing it?

– As an example, is the customer coming to you because of your points rewards or because of your brand? You must be able to answer this question. Why a customer comes to you?

– The creation of credible value perception, quality, and product consistency is simply imperative, no way out.

– Guess you are all aware that accepting the “status quo” for a period of time is in most cases, a gradual decline into failure. Very dangerous. By the time you realize it is far too late.

– I believe that within the next decade alone, we’re likely to experience more progress than we’ve seen in the past 50 years, are you ready for it?

Need of a learning mindset, there is a need for fresh thinking, learning agility, emotional flexibility, and decision-making skills based on “first things first”, don’t get lost…. and must seize on every opportunities.

– Trusted leadership and responsible governance are simply a must. A lot to say about leadership, as from what I have seen, I really worry about the leaders of the future. This can be a long discussion….but we do it at another time.

– This is a time for a clear vision supported by a solid plan of action and measurable targets. A time to invest in people, in products, and in systems for the future. – Leaders cannot fall into the trap of doing something just to do something. Change for the sake of change is not planning nor strategizing, it is a fast-track to failure (don’t be like a dog chasing its tail).

– In-Need of a strong “people-centric approach”, the hospitality industry has always been and will remain a people-first business, people as colleagues and people as customers.

– Yes, we will have much more automation, more of technology driven service delivery, and virtual functions in our business, but the human touch and the human value will always be in demand and expected.

– Handling people is becoming more and more difficult in particular when we are faced with the task of bridging generational differences. Unfortunately, we have seen a serious attitude change from the workforce and not for the better. This is the biggest challenge faced by the industry. Facing great resignation and great reshuffle.

– This must be addressed as a priority and accept the fact that the industry has to be much more generous with compensations, benefits, flexible schedule, incentives, and others as appropriate. We are too “stingy” and at times we do not recognize the needs of some of our people. In principle must get away from the minimum wage. Objective here is to have a connected, creative and productive team.

– Owners, operators, and leaders must accept this and respond to it if they want to remain in business and grow.

– This is a challenging time for most, but with a proper vision and actions, it can also be a very interesting time and must be optimistic vs negativities. Need to be smarter, faster, more agile. This require big changes and commitment. Now is the time to prepare for future demand starting with investment in people/talent and in offers.

– Have to improve the entrepreneurial approach, adjust core activities in line with emerging trends, and look/plan for better times ahead.

Thank you.