As Executive Vice-President and Chief Branding & Commercial Officer of Carlson Rezidor, Eric De Neef knows hospitality.

The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group operates and develops more than 1,440 hotels in over 115 countries. Here, he shares his insights on leadership, digitalisation and the sharing economy.

Carlson Rezidor - compelo

1) What qualities make a successful hotel industry boss and business leader?

I have worked in international hospitality and tourism sector for more than 30 years. In an industry, where people make all the difference, I recognize how important it is to surround oneself with the right people with the correct profiles, skill sets and a positive mindset.

Effective leaders must also learn to trust themselves and their colleagues, and empower their team.

Furthermore, a clear strategy and excellent communication, both internally and externally, are key.

2) What are the most common mistakes that business leaders make?

Not listening or paying enough attention to what is actually happening out in the field is a common mistake. Also, leaders can be too conceptual in their thinking and end up re-inventing the wheel.

3) What have been the high and low points of your career? What has been the toughest decision you’ve had to make as EVP and CCO of Rezidor?

The high was definitely re-engineering the revenue generation team at Carlson Rezidor EMEA; comprising specialists from sales, marketing and distribution teams. This ensured that the group’s RevGen engine was geared to embrace the shifting dynamics of the marketplace.

The low, as always, was separating from close team members who did not understand their role in the new strategy.

4) What are the key trends in the global hospitality industry and what will the hotel of the future look like?

I would say there are three major changes and trends. First, the sharing economy is a wake-up call for the industry. Understanding the drivers behind the sharing economy and adapting them to our business model will be critical in the future.

Second, the increasing cost of acquisition – in other words, winning customer loyalty and trust in a highly competitive online market – is putting pressure on the hotel profit and loss. For this reason, companies need to re-think their distribution and brand value proposition strategy.

Third, the further digitalisation of our business and using ‘big data’ as an effective management tool.

The hotel of the future will become a social hub for guests. Therefore, the industry needs to go beyond just “selling a room”. It is about engaging with their customer before, during and after their stay, and with the local community.

Love is the answer to everything – we need to focus on building customer love for our brands, hotels and teams serving our guests worldwide.

5) What impact will Brexit have on the UK and European hotel industry?

It is hard to say and will depend on bilateral commercial agreements between the UK and its European partners. The pound has softened; as a result, we have seen an increase in international leisure business as well as an increase in the ‘staycation’ phenomenon.

6) What advice would you give to someone starting out in the hospitality industry?

Keep an international mindset − the world is a village. Be creative! With increased digitalisation there are more opportunities to grasp. In addition, engage internally with your teams, and externally with guests and local communities. There is so much to share, to inspire and be inspired. Live your dream and live it with passion.

Read the latest hotel news and views, plus interviews with former Rezidor CEO Wolfgang Neumann and CDO Elie Younes, in Hotel Management International.

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