E.H.M.A. was established in Rome in 1974. It is a non-profit association of Hotel Managers operating first class and luxury hotels across Europe. The founding members firmly believed that service is the principle tenet of quality hospitality. Personal service is the key stability, and without it luxury hotels cannot survive. Deluxe hotels are not just about beautiful bathrooms, but also about maintaining consistently high standards, and an association of distinguished hoteliers is essential in helping members and the industry uphold the standards of excellence and quality that are the hallmarks of luxury
On behalf of EP, the leading hotelier Gioele Camarlinghi interviewed Enzo Indiani, President of EHMA on a range of key topics. The new EHMA board met in Paris in March where Gioele took Enzo aside to talk about a number of key points:
Q: EHMA has thousands of years of professional experience among members, what do you think is required, for EHMA to be the first source of reference for Hotel Companies, Private Hotel Owners and Media?
A: Strengthen the relationship and good practice among all members. Get a proactive involvement, stimulate an active participation at all level of our association. Develop further and extend the General Manager Certification created with the EHMA Italian Chapter protocol to all European countries..
Q ; In your opinion and not taking into consideration Technologies, are large hotel groups just reacting to disruptors, by trying to copy each other better, or by exploring Innovation?
A: Many companies copy projects and ideas implemented by other companies often competitors by changing minor factors of the ideas and sell them as their own. In this case the followers companies are not paying for the cost of developing new ideas and can introduce the ideas already “fool proof”. These companies will never be leader on anything. There are though many other companies that are constantly seeking for new ways to develop their own product and introduce new innovative products/service to differentiate themselves and create competitive advantages to beat the competition. We can see an endless number of new hotel companies identifying themselves with new feature and concept to create new trends in the highly competitive market in which we all operate. The large companies are creating and developing new position and new ways of approaching the works tasks in order to streamline the costs, maintain an efficient delivery of service and keep the overall cost base line healthy to satisfy the investors and operating companies.
Q ;Do you think privately Owned Hotels have the capacity to Innovate, if so how?
A: Privately owned hotels, with some exception, have difficulties in innovating at large scale but many of them, where there is a wise ownership and a talented and creative general manager, come out with some incredibly good ideas. Privately owned hotels have the advantage to introduce new ideas faster than large companies and if the ideas do not work, can easily stop them. Some ideas can only be developed in owned hotels since the ideas do not necessarily need to be compatible with other sister hotels in different destination and often different countries. To a certain extent, innovation can be easier in owned hotels for the less implication to adapt the innovation to many other hotels of the group with different standard and background.
Q ; What do you consider is the main challenge for privately Owned, (non branded), properties?
A ; The distribution and the promotion of the individual hotel in a market in which more and more the large companies have a predominant position. The investment that privately owned hotel need is to keep the product at a good level and this is not so easy to be obtained by financial institution and, in certain cases, the owner are not ready or willing to invest consistently in their own hotel.
Recruiting talented people is also a challenge because owned hotels have more difficulty in securing a career progression of their people. The hotels need a strong learning and development team to help the organisation keep staff and management constantly motivated to have a health employee retention. High commissions payed to online travel agencies to also penalise the privately owned hotels for the little contractual power they have when negotiating the percentage of commissions with the Web giants. The sales activities are also quite expensive for the individual hotel and therefore it becomes vital to be represented by an international company.
Q: Would EHMA be a supportive tool for these smaller companies with limited resources and infrastructure?
A: EHMA will be supportive for the small hotels and companies by sharing the good practices of all associated general manager, provide the associated general manager with a great network of colleagues of all over Europe to exchange experiences and different know-how to improve the individual GMs knowledge.
Provide an annual meeting with a wide selection of high profile professional speakers to keep the associated GMs always updated on the latest trends. Each national chapter holds a by annual local meeting in which the members exchange experiences and know how linked to the nation in which they operate. Access to talented students from some of the best professional schools and universities of Europe. Have their own GM to be certified by Intertek following the EHMA protocol.
Q: How do you think a common and open platform to share information should be set?
A: We will communicate directly with the national delegates who in turn will communicate with members of his own chapter. We will collect and share the information via EHMA TALK, a special app designed to have the EHMA Members to talk directly among each other and keep constant flow of information in the Association.
Q: What is the overall feeling and sentiment towards EHMA, as Brexit looms?
A: We all feel very sorry to see the UK to leave the European community. We are all working to promote tourism and hotel management without any national prejudice and we hope that the separation of the UK from the European community will be “ soft” and will continue to allow the Free circulation of the European citizen in any “ Geographic “ European country to the benefit of the citizen of all Europe. We also hope that in addition to the free circulation of people there will be also free circulation of goods. We were all hoping that UK remain in Europe but unfortunately this is not happening, we hope now that the separation will be as soft as possible for the benefit of all citizens.
Q:Have Hotels seen less of their staffing community wanting to, or actually moving, to the UK in recent times?
A:We have not seen any reduction of people asking to go to the UK, in particular young people willing to learn or to improve the English language. we hope that this will continue also after Brexit. Europe needs UK as well as UK needs Europe.
The European employees are very useful for the UK hotels community and economy as well as it is extremely important for many European young people to have working experience in the UK.
Q: Do Hotels expect to feel a reaction post-March in Europe, in hospitality e.g. with higher occupancies in major capitals?
A: Many cities in Europe, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, Madrid and many others have benefited until now from Brexit.
We have seen many relocations of business offices such as: banking and insurances in particular in the cities mentioned above.
Q: Is Design and Environment-creating spaces that people desire as important to Hoteliers in mainland Europe at the moment?
A: Like any major European country the users of hotels are looking for rooms of a decent size not below 25 square meters, equipped with latest technology while being user friendly, the use of environmentally friendly products and whenever possible green areas to surround the property.
The design should also consider restaurants which are consumer friendly and on the menu they carry of variety of healthy dishes. Most of the new European projects do reflect the trend of going for “green awareness”. Most of the new hotels are, when possible, creating restaurants and bar on the top floor of the Hotels.
Q: Talent development is a hot topic or at least it should be.
There is a decline of trust between employee and employer for various reasons, which is having an impact. Do L&D budgets need to be revised in the sector?
A: I do believe that the investment a company or a standalone hotel does in training its own people is the best investment they can do. If there is a hotel in which the trust between the management and the employees is poor, I suggest that the situation should be rectified immediately because there cannot be a successful hotel when there is no trust among staff and management. L&D director should be the closest person to the GM. It is the people that makes the reputation of the hotel!!!