Amidst a backdrop of European and international political and economic uncertainty, delegates gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) from 6-8th March at the Hotel InterContinental Berlin, Germany.

Overall the mood of the industry was optimistic, albeit cautious, as all indicators pointed to generally strong appetite and demand. Roger Bootle, Chairman of Capital Economics opened his economic overview saying “the world economy was set reasonably fair.”

Whilst the attitude of the industry was hesitant, delegates joined together to celebrate 20 years of IHIF in style with multiple networking opportunities throughout the event creating a light-hearted yet productive atmosphere. New for 2017, the opening night reception, incorporating IHIF’s 20th birthday party, took place amongst the exhibition stands and provided guests with a culinary tour of tastes from around the world.  Musicians and entertainers reflected the geographical origins of the food and culture and created a fun and unique environment.

The industry leading programme had been crafted to include both a retrospective look at the previous 20 years of the hospitality industry as well as a look at emerging and future trends as the speakers and audience looked forward to the next 20 years.

IHIF continues to be the preferred platform to announce breaking news to the hotel investment community and the latest news stories from IHIF 2017 can be found here. Notable announcements included IHG stating that it has signed eight new hotels to the Holiday Inn & Holiday Inn Express brand in Germany and Hilton’s news that they had passed the milestone of 100,000 rooms trading across its Europe, Middle East & Africa portfolio.

The combination of such a broad delegate reach with the positioning of a deal announcing platform continues to attract numerous sponsors, representing a wide variety of sectors across the industry. The event welcomed several new sponsors for its 20th anniversary year.

Turning to the takeaways from the conference, technology remains a significant focus for the hotel brands; accurate implementation, efficient analysis and productive use. Several speakers commented on how technology “enabled you to own the guest”.

Further key themes emerging from this year’s industry leading event included the continued prominence of alternative accommodation providers, like hostels and Airbnb, who were pushing the hotel sector to adapt as the traditional boundaries blur. AccorHotels CEO Sébastien Bazin said during his keynote speech that “these were the companies that the industry needs to watch; they are very good and what they are doing is legitimate”. A refreshingly realistic attitude perhaps and in contrast to those previously heard dismissing new entrants to the sector.

Another noteworthy point, frequently repeated throughout the event, was the similarity between a brand and an OTA in terms of the restrictions, costs and stipulations on a hotel. Cody Bradshaw, Senior Vice President and Head of European Hotels at Starwood Capital said during his panel, “in the next 20 years something has got to give – the brand fees are not that different to the OTA fees.”

Innovation and differentiation remain vital to survival and success in this fast moving, consumer lead age. Every brand discussed and showcased new concepts, ideas and formats to entice customers to experience their brand.

Tess Pearson, Event Director, Questex Hospitality Group, hosts of IHIF commented, “we are thrilled with the success of the 20th IHIF. We continually refresh and adapt the format of the event to excite delegates and will continue to provide the best in class hotel investment conference as long as there is appetite and demand for such an event. The feedback from this year’s event certainly implies there is a strong need for a face to face meeting platform for the community and we look forward to launching IHIF 2018 next year.”

For more information and to register for IHIF visit www.berlinconference.com.