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The week that was

Welcome to the new year and welcome to the new look for your Saturday. IN Essence; a chance to think about the week in review without also having to refill the photocopier and stick a name tag on the milk. Don’t get out of bed if you don’t have to, thoughts are always better taken lying down.

This week saw us at the must-attend start to every year, the Whitebridge Hospitality New Year Summit, now in its 15th year and still setting the tone for the 12 months ahead and giving everyone the chance to compare notes over booze and scallops.

Nick Pattie, the group’s managing director, kicked off with the comment that, after stacks of GDP lost to debate and discussion we were “undoubtedly moving forward to Brexit this year, not necessarily a bright and shining star, but a light at the end of the tunnel” and this was the mood from the sidelines too, where the feeling was very much that, after an uncertain fourth quarter, everyone had hit the ground running.

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The question facing attendees was how long this running was forwards with purpose and how long it would be before it got a bit Road Runner and we were looking down to see the ground beneath our feet was long-since gone. Around the middle of the year was the suspicion.

But before that, expect transactions ahoy as London races to make up for lost time, with the brokers looking particularly haggard due to overwork. Uncertainty over Brexit had caused London to drop out of Whitebridge’s top three transactions markets in EMEA, with regional UK in at third, France second and the cannily-titled ‘Other Europe’ in at first. NOT, director Philip Camble pointed out, Spain, but markets including Greece, Italy, Portugal.

Casting his eye, Alexander Robinson, senior manager industry partner, STR described “a decade of overall European revpar growth. While we have been on a fantastic trajectory it has been undulating. Even with all of those headwinds – terror, sharing economy, increase in supply –  there has been growth.”

In 2020 the group was expecting a slightly slower year, with a 0% to 2% revpar growth range.

Camble was willing to “put on my Boris specs” – in this case meaning to look on the rose-tinted side, before you raise all those eyebrows – and forecast that London revpar would grow by over 3%, looking to Farnborough, football and our fluffy-haired leading getting ‘it’ done. Other predictions included more hotels in Greece and, as proof of global warming, an encounter with a Great White in UK waters.

We look forward to the event at the start of next year, attended no doubt by brokers sporting those lovely sharks-teeth necklaces.

Elsewhere this week, Airbnb has been shown a view of its future by the authorities in Scotland, with the news that short-term lets – but not traditional ‘sharing’ – would require licenses and regulation, while here in Europe, Union Invest has launched a fund backing mid-market hotels, away from core markets. The message as we head to 2020 is one of opportunity, although with a soupçon of invention required. Hotels are the sector which introduced the world to the wonder of electricity, the marvel of room service, the novelty of the ice machine. It’s capable.

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