Our Journey to Tomorrow
The Need for People to Meet, Learn, Socialize and Develop
An interview with Mario Maxeiner, Managing Director Northern Europe at IHG Hotels & Resorts (IHG) and supervisor of the sustainable long-term growth and performance of IHG’s hotels in the region.
Sustainability measures have long moved on from being a nice add-on to becoming the new standard. Only those who meet this standard will secure the favour of their guests and employees in the future. According to a study by Booking.com, more than three quarters of German tourists consider sustainable travel important. Three out of ten of those surveyed say that the pandemic has prompted them to change their travel behaviour in the future. This increases the pressure on hotels and lodging establishments to adapt their operations accordingly.
In response to this growing appetite for more eco-friendly stays, search engines and OTAs are now highlighting a hotel’s credentials. For example, Google labels hotels that meet sustainability criteria as eco-certified, while Booking.com introduces its own "Travel Sustainable badge" to make sustainability measures visible.
Mario Maxeiner: Sustainability has become a key agenda item over the past years, not just for us, but also for many of our owners and guests. Our Journey to Tomorrow responsible business plan is playing an important role in helping us meet this demand from our millions of guests and stakeholders around the world through a series of far-reaching commitments to drive environmental and social change.
If we look at sustainability, many companies have clear exclusion criteria for hotels that do not have a precise concept for reducing CO2 emissions. Nowadays, when booking a hotel room, the CO2 footprint is automatically calculated, including compensation options, as these things are technologically implemented.
But we’re not just looking to reduce our carbon footprint. Our Journey to Tomorrow plan also includes clear commitments towards diversity and inclusion, and how we can improve the lives of our people and the many communities we operate in. These commitments are an integral part of our culture globally.
Digitalisation in the Hotel Industry
Technology in the 21st century is advancing rapidly, and this is great news for everyone who is involved in meetings, whether as an organiser or an attendee. As hundreds of new technology trends, apps and innovations hit the market, there’s never been a more exciting time for meeting and event planners, venues, exhibitors and other participants.
Mario Maxeiner: Of course, digitalisation is another big topic which became prominent in recent years. The goal is to have an infrastructure that makes it possible to make the entire 'gastrality' worry-free, i.e. from hotel search to booking, and from arrival and stay to departure. We are in the process of building a platform that offers all these components in digital form. This includes features like ordering food in the restaurant, linking one's phone to the devices in the room, digital check-in and check-out or paying the bill.
We will be the first company with an improved reservation system that allows to combine room components in a completely different way, among other things. This enhanced platform, a new generation of our IHG Concerto guest reservation system, enables to bundle different components such as the booking engine, the whole check out process, and all the room components into one product. The guests will be able to control many of these services through our IHG One Rewards app, but it's basically an infrastructure that faciliates everything digitally from booking to leaving the hotel. IHG Concerto is being continuously enhanced with these additional features, and we will also soon be relaunching a new Revenue Management system for hotel colleagues which will be integrated into IHG Concerto, piloted and rolled out over the next two years.
Business Travel as an Integral Part of the Business Strategy
Every detail matters when it comes to planning meetings and events, and IHG has a choice of locations tailored to fit the needs of any MICE business. In 2022, IHG was recognised at the Stella Awards for the second consecutive year with a gold medal for Best Hotel Chain for providing an exceptional meetings experience.
Mario Maxeiner: Business travel has always been an important revenue driver and for most of our brands, meetings and corporate travel are part of their core business. It depends on the location and available product but at some properties, as much as 70 percent of the business is based on meetings and business travellers. During the pandemic, this part of the business was completely shut down which provided us with an excellent opportunity to review our strategy and reinvent ourselves to a certain extent. At the end of the day, our business is centred around connecting people, and people will always prefer to meet, learn, socialize and develop in person. Therefore, our MICE business will continue to be extremely important for us, but it’s only one part of our commercial strategy.