Exclusive interview – Philippe Doizelet MRICS, ISHC – Managing Partner, Hotels – Horwath HTL France

Cleverdis Editor-in-Chief Richard Barnes recently moderated a number of panel discussions at the MIPIM conference in Cannes, one of which included Philip Doizelet of Horwath HTL as a panellist. After the conference, he asked Mr Doizelet to give us a run-down on the operations of this important group.

Horwath HTL is the global leader in hotel, tourism and leisure consulting. Since 1915 we are recognised as the founders of the Uniform System of Accounts which subsequently has become the industry standard for hospitality accounting. Our unrivalled global reach is matched by a global network of 45 offices and a unique depth of knowledge and experience gained from over 20,000 assignments carried out in all kinds of economic climates. Through the years, Horwath HTL has been recognised as the pre-eminent consulting specialist in the hotel, tourism and leisure industries by providing unequalled experience and expertise for client projects around the world through a combination of detailed local knowledge and international understanding.

Our services cover every aspect of hotel real estate, tourism and leisure development. Our business falls into two main categories; hotel real estate and tourism and leisure. For hotels, we provide expert advice on all aspects of development, including feasibility and planning, asset management, valuation, strategic advice and health and wellness. Our tourism and leisure team works with companies, cities and governments on all aspects of destination development, marketing strategies, project development and management assistance.

We are part of the Crowe Horwath network, a top 10 accounting and financial services network. We are the number one choice for companies and financial institutions looking to invest and develop in the industry.

Which geographic zones are you finding as being the most interesting for hotel investment at the moment? 

As tourism experienced a continuing growth over the past decades and hotel prospects are still positive. However, the situation differs according to the regions of the world and to countries’ development stages.

North America, Western Europe and Australia/New Zealand concentrate most of global hotel supply and continue to grow under the influence of various factors including a moderate although solid growth in population and GDP, changing demand patterns towards a more segmented supply and renewal of obsolete supply. These regions account for about 60% of the estimated 21 million hotel rooms worldwide and continue to grow at a pace of about 2% per annum.

The most dynamic regions for hotel development are emerging countries with a special mention for Asia, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa where international travel experience a growth of about 6% per year. However, the situation is very uneven according to regions. In Asia, most of the development is centred in mainland China and coastal South-East Asia (Vietnam, Thailand…). The Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are very dynamic and at the same time Egypt or Turkey are less dynamic than before. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and East Africa are the catalyst of hotel development whilst Morocco and South Africa remain the most mature and diversified markets.

Other regions including Latin America, Russia/CIS present more mitigated opportunities after a strong initial push several years ago. Tropical islands of the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Polynesia are subject to threats related to the climate (Tsunami, Hurricane) which may concern investors together with the collateral impact of tourism on the environment and communities.

…we take pride on having assisted some of the leading destinations in the world, working with cities, governments, and international organisations, such as The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, for example…

You have a number of tourism related activities… please tell us a little more about your current projects. 

Tourism makes up a large part of our business at Horwath HTL and we take pride on having assisted some of the leading destinations in the world, working with cities, governments, and international organisations, such as The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, for example. The purpose of a Tourism Destination Master Plan developed by Horwath HTL is to:

  • Shape a tourism development vision and ambition for the destination with new products and experiences, based on a market-driven approach, and shared by key public and private stakeholders;
  • Propose a clear tourism management model with dedicated resources;
  • Identify key recreational and cultural projects for future developments;
  • Define the investment promotion plan (including Public Private Partnerships);
  • Develop a destination marketing plan, which will create a clear image of this destination in the minds of potential tourists and industry investors.

The benefits of such Tourism Destination Master Plan are to maximize the positive outcomes from tourism for the local populations, while mitigating the risks associated with unplanned tourism growth. Currently, we are working on many exciting projects, such as:

  • The preparation of a Master Plan for holistic development tourism in the Lakshadweep archipelago and in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, in India;
  • The National Tourism Development Strategy of the Republic of Slovenia;
  • A market and infrastructure prospective gap analysis to support the development of 10 priority tourism destinations across Indonesia;
  • The preparation of a Master Plan for the Pink Lake area in Dakar Region, in Senegal;
  • The Tourism development strategy of Astana, in Kazakhstan.

Horwath HTL was entrusted by the Eiffel Tower Operation Company to create a development strategy to be deployed over the next 15 years

What point are you at with your development project for the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Could you tell us more about this? 

Horwath HTL was entrusted by the Eiffel Tower Operation Company to create a development strategy to be deployed over the next 15 years. The City of Paris is planning to carry out a 300 million Euro investment plan as the Eiffel Tower will be at the heart of festivities when Paris will be the host city for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The scope of work required was extensive, partly financial and partly organisational. Our brief included redesigning the management of visitor flows to the attraction, on its own a massive undertaking. We were also asked to establish a new pricing strategy and look for ways to diversify existing sources of revenue. Based on a diagnostic of the cultural and commercial product, visitor flows, profit and expenses centres, partnerships, image and products, Horwath HTL defined a new marketing and branding position for the development of the site. Financial projections for the planned investment and marketing strategy were made in order to evaluate the potentialities of a mid-term development. Horwath HTL’s focus has been on developing a more accurate and ambitious branding and marketing position, mainly based on partnerships with world-class events as well as luxury fashion and gastronomy brands. The sales strategy was reviewed to improve visitor reception and manage flows during peak periods.

The Eiffel Tower Operation Company and the Paris Municipality approved the recommended strategy and investment plans. Most of the investment programme is expected to be completed by 2024, for the hosting of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games. The iconic monument, which welcomes over 7 million visitors per year, will be prepared to face the challenges of a rise in visitor numbers during the Olympic festivities.

DMOs need to position themselves as the leaders of the city’s brand, for attracting talent and investments, and not only tourists

What, to your mind, are the key factors a Destination Marketing Organisation should take into account when working on future development projects? 

In order to face the challenges of sustainable tourism development, destination marketing organisations should increasingly evolve towards destination management organisations. DMOs now need to look at all aspects of a destination’s needs and overall development, and not only focus on attracting more tourists.

This means that beyond traditional objectives, such as increasing awareness of the destination and driving hotel occupancy up, DMOs must also set the goal of improving the guest experience in the destination, for tourists and residents alike. This is especially important since unplanned tourism growth often leads to threats to local quality of life, and ultimately, to a deterioration of what makes the destination attractive. Marketing is therefore only one aspect of the equation, and DMOs should get involved in city planning and programming. Currently, they generally have very little influence on all aspects of territorial policy.

The first step towards becoming a destination management organisation is to nurture stronger relations with government authorities, to make sure that tourism has a seat at the table whenever investments in infrastructures and transports are planned. A positive initiative in this regard would be creating a tourism destination master plan. It is also crucial to develop the skills and responsibilities within the DMO, with suitable funding to support them, to ensure that the recommendations within the plan are effectively implemented.

DMOs need to position themselves as the leaders of the city’s brand, for attracting talent and investments, and not only tourists. By assuming this role, DMOs can considerably increase their added value, and many are already evolving in that sense.