More than 300 participants from several countries discussed the future of hotel investments and the challenges at the Adria Hotel Forum Hotel Investment Conference in Zagreb on 18th and 19th of February.
The Adria Hotel Forum, the leading hotel investment conference in Southeast Europe, has returned to Zagreb again this year. Thus, for two days, distinguished international hotel owners, investors, representatives of world management companies and experts in the field of finance and consulting gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Various interesting panels took place, led by important actors in hospitality and investment. Jonathan Worsley led the panel discussion on the future of hospitality in terms of 5- and 10-year plans, featuring James Chappell, Global Business Director at Horwath HTL, Markus Lehnert, Vice President of Hotel Development at Marriot International, Frank Reul, Head of Development for Eastern Europe at AccorHotels, and Stefan Trienen, Head of Vertical Search Travel for Eastern and Central Europe and Africa at Google. They concluded that the only certain thing is that circumstances will change dramatically in the next few years, due to the continued development of digital technology that enables people to book their accommodation anywhere in the world quickly and easily. All companies will adapt to this trend further and base their development on following the wishes of their potential customers, who have increasing expectations.
The topic was further discussed in terms of the region, by Thomas Emanuel, Managing Director of STR giving an overview of hotel performance from a global and local perspective, and Siniša Topalović of Horwath HTL assessing the investments in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Albania and Montenegro. Investors are very interested in investing not only in the hotel sector in this region but also see a lot of potential in Montenegro. Out of all the countries in the region, Croatia was considered the most attractive country for tourists.
James Chappel also led a discussion about government grants, offered to attract investors and was joined by Tonči Glavina of the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and his colleagues from the ministries of Serbia, Slovenia and Montenegro: Renata Pindžo, Eva Štravs Podlogar and Damir Davidović.
The offer and investment opportunities in Belgrade, Ljubljana and Zagreb were discussed by Thomas Emanuel, Director of STR as Panel Leader, David Jenkins, Vice President of Business Development at Radisson Group, Josipa Jutt Ferlan, CEO of Zagreb City Hotels and Cluster Manager at Hilton Hotels in Zagreb and Živorad Vasić, general manager at IHG. It was concluded that all three cities have a bright future as they are already investing big and will continue to do so.
Countries that have only recently decided to expand their tourism were not left out. The panel entitled Focus on the MAC – Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, discussed their plans and potential and reportedly the number of branded resorts and hotel investments in general in this region will continue to grow strongly.
The second day of the Adria Hotel Forum began with a bargaining panel on hotel buying and selling, moderated by Frederic Le Fichoux, Partner at Cushman & Wakefield. Martin Edsinger, Manager at KSL Capital, Gregor Famira, International Partner at CMS Hotel Reich-Rohrwig Hainz and Oleg Uskoković, owner of the investment firm Auctor debated the topic and concluded that Croatia is attractive to foreign investors in terms of tourism, but they recognise confusing land registries and unknowns about the valuation of tourist land as potential difficulties. The message from foreign investors to local entrepreneurs is that they need to have a clear idea of what they want to sell, without any hidden information.
Borivoj Vokrinek, Partner, Strategic Advisor and Head of EMEA Research at Cushman & Wakefield, led the panel about branded resorts, discussing their strengths and weaknesses. All the participants emphasized the benefits of their brands they are offering to hotel investors and introduced their expansion plans while concluding that the trend of growing the number of branded resorts in this part of Europe will continue.
The last panel at this year’s conference was dedicated to Montenegro and the question of whether the market can stand a large offering or is it already too saturated in the luxury segment. The panel was moderated by Milovan Novaković, general manager for Colliers International in Montenegro, who spoke to representatives of large investments in Montenegro. The plans are abundant and extensive, and the main constraint is the relatively short coastline. Therefore, Montenegro is already considering supporting investors who would invest in the northern part, to open ski resorts in the mountains covering most of Montenegro’s territory. In the next five years, Montenegro plans to tackle a major challenge of reducing its high seasonality and becoming a member of the European Union, to obtain more new investments.