Five takeways from Miami hospitality talk

Panelists included Sherif Ayad, Richard Millard, Niki Leondakis and Susan LaFleur

Oct.October 18, 2016 05:30 PM

Coping with the challenges of competition, appealing to millennials and offering memorable service were among the topics at a Miami hotel industry event Tuesday.

Hospitality insiders spoke frankly about Airbnb, mergers and the proliferation of new brands at the event, Miami’s Hospitality & Culinary Surge, hosted by Bisnow at the Loews Hotel.

Here are five takeways from the hotel panel of Sherif Ayad, Richard Millard, Niki Leondakis and Susan LaFleur, moderated by Berger Singerman’s Marc Shuster.

  1. Service matters: “If the service experience falls down, then nothing matters,” Niki Leondakis, CEO of Commune Hotels & Resorts. “It doesn’t matter what the hotel looks like.”
  2. The Marriott-Starwood merger has huge implications:
    • “None of us will say a bad thing about Marriott because we’re afraid of those guys,” Richard Millard, CEO of Trust Hospitality, said. “We’re in markets where they control the whole market.”
  3. Airbnb is impacting the hotel industry in a big way.
    • “As a percentage, there are more Airbnb rooms in Miami than anywhere else,” Millard said. “We’ve got to get smarter about how to compete or how to join [them].”
    • “It’s something I think all of us wish would go away,” said Sherif Ayad, president of ID & Design International, about Airbnb.
  4. Millennials don’t have brand loyalty when it comes to hotels, and lifestyle brands are popping up everywhere.
  5. Most large hotel operators are led by non-hotel leaders
    • “First and foremost we are in the hospitality industry,” Leondakis said. “So much of our industry has become about real estate investment and OTAs (online travel agencies).”

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