It is clear the hotel industry is evolving; quickly before our very eyes. We are witnessing the winds of change; change in ownerships, strategy, brand concepts and growth. There is an evolution taking place within the industry no one seems to notice or report.ÊThe expansion of hospitality brands owned and operated by women hoteliers and their owning companies.ÊThese brands are recognized within the industry, maintain strong market share, are profitable with solid client base.Ê
A new generation of hospitality leaders, female hotel brand owners/creators are successfully achieving market-share, acquiring, developing and expanding, gaining the notice of investors and the capital markets.ÊThey have identified and established significant market share by acquiring sought after hotel properties located in desirable locations, delivering the highest service, unique design and programs. More important, they have gained the attention of the traveling public as well as capital markets eager to invest along with internationally recognized hotel brands eager to manage or acquire.
So, who are these modern-day female hospitality mavericks?ÊLet me introduce to a couple you with extreme pride and pleasure.Ê
Elisabetta Fabri, President and CEO
Starhotels, a privately-owned hotel chain based in Florence, Italy with 29 luxury hotels (23 in Italy,Êthree in London, the Michelangelo Hotel, formerly Hotel Taft in NYC, and Castille Paris in Paris, France). Starhotels was created 30 years ago by Ferruccio Fabri. Elisabetta took over the reins of Starhotels from her father in 2000 expanding the portfolio exponentially over the past decade. She has been recognized for her work as a hotelier worldwide including the Capital Markets.ÊElisabetta was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012 by the firm Ernst & Young in the Trade & Services Category.
Sheila C. Johnson, founder and CEO, Salamander Hotels
Sheila Johnson is the founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels; a portfolio of unique, luxury boutique hotels and resorts and PGA Tour golf resorts.ÊShe began her hospitality journey in 2002 with the development of a luxury resort in Middleburg, VA; Salamander Resort & Spa. Salamander Resort & Spa debuted in 2013 as Salamander Hotels’ flagship.ÊSalamander Hotels collection include: Henderson Beach Resort, Destin, Florida; NOPSI Hotel, New Orleans, LA (debuting Spring 2017); Hotel Bennett, Charleston, SC (debuting Fall 2017). Salamander Golf Collection: Innisbrook, Reunion and Hammock Beach resorts stretching across the state of Florida and unites three outstanding golf resorts, nine championship courses, exceptional villa accommodations, luxurious spas and extensive dining venues and event spaces.ÊSheila is a highly respect entrepreneur with interests spanning several sectors from sports, entertainment and media.
Priya Paul, Chairperson, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, The Park Hotels India
Priya Paul sits at the helm of the Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels group a collection of eight luxury Five-Star hotels located in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Visakhapatnam and Goa.Ê Development of additional properties are presently under construction in Kochi, Kolkata (E.M. Bypass), Pune, Coimbatore and Jaipur. Priya is highly regarded in the hospitality industry and referred to as ÒThe First Lady of Boutique Hotels.Ó She joined Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels group after completing studies at Wellesley College and worked under her father as Marketing Manager at The Park New Delhi at 21 years of age.ÊAfter his death, she succeeded him in 1990 as the Chairperson of the Hospitality Division of the Apeejay Sureendra Group; a century-old steel company. Her contributions to industry and commerce, particularly in the field of hospitality, have been repeatedly recognized and she has received several awards and citations.
Christina Ong, founder and CEO, COMO Hotels Group/CEO, Como Group
You cannot discuss the incredible contributions of women in hospitality without acknowledging Christina Ong, Founder of COMO Hotels Group.ÊShe is credited with not only creating a unique (to this day) hospitality experience; but rather a way of being.ÊCOMO Hotels and Resorts brand/portfolio consists of hand-picked, individually curated properties, including The Halkin by COMO; three Metropolitan by COMO properties in London, Bangkok and Miami, FL; Parrot Cay by COMO in the Turks and Caicos; Cocoa Island by COMO and Maalifushi by COMO in the Maldives; Point Yamu by COMO in Phuket, Thailand; and three Uma by COMO experience resorts in Bali and Bhutan. Christina created an award-winning wellness concept developed as a sister brand to COMO Hotels and Resorts; COMO Shambhala.ÊCOMO Shambhala promotes health, relaxation and learning through its products, services, cuisine, treatments and spa facilities within each COMO property. The flagship retreat is COMO Shambhala Estate in Bali, an award-winning wellness resort in Bali. If you do a deep dive into the portfolios of these formidable hotel brands you will find commonality throughout, with desirable locations, interiors which integrate the local culture into the designÊwith sense of place, are luxurious and authentic, and have service excellence.
Each of these hoteliers understand that the guest experience begins at concept and have carefully curated hotels and resorts with specific appeal to their target markets.ÊIn other words, they know exactly who their guests/clients are and never detracted from their audiences.Ê More importantly, as each expanded their respective portfolios, careful consideration was given to maintaining brand integrity.ÊAs I have watched each brand expand over the years it became very clear they never abandoned core brand messages/concepts but rather elevated standards creating not only strong positioning but value (brand and actual assets).ÊTrust me, the Capital Markets are watching very closely the latter point; VALUE.
I believe that the hospitality industry must continue to encourage women to invest and develop hotels and resorts.ÊMany hotel brands have done just that by creating programs specifically for women to become hoteliers. One such organization is Marriott and the brand’s launch of WOW Summit in 2014 designed to encourage women hotel ownership.ÊThat is a great thing; however, we must do more and better. Women bring a unique skillset to the travel industry that includes strong business acumen, practicality, sensibility, management skills, and understanding of critical factors in selecting a hotel for business and leisure travel.
Why am I so passionate about this topic? In my role on the buy/sell side (hospitality real estate investment) I am sad to say that I do not see female hoteliers and/or entrepreneurs seeking to invest in hospitality assets. I would like to see this change and change quickly. How do we make that happen? Everything begins and ends with the capital markets.ÊWhat if leading hotel brands partnered-up with leading financial institutions and investment firms to create programs specifically for female hoteliers?ÊSuch programs could exist and if it does I am not aware.
I am not referring to franchise systems (limited service et al) insteadÊfour and five-star luxury brands.ÊThe luxury brands are aggressively expanding now and seek hoteliers and investors. Why not partner with financial institutions and/or funds to target more female owners/hoteliers?ÊROI is practically ensured as the brands bring to the table strong operations, distribution, marketing and overall support.Ê
At the end of the day everyone wins:ÊOur industry becomes more diverse, women are afforded an opportunity to invest and own hotels and resorts, brands receive an infusion of talented owners/investors bringing with them new ideas, and, Guests receive an exceptional hospitality experience tailored specifically for them.
On a positive note, our industry has made significant progress in terms of the placement internally of talented women.ÊHowever, it is time for us to go from the back of the house to the front of the house Ð owning and investing in hotels and resorts. Hospitality for me is THE greatest industry in the world. We ought to encourage more talent so that we can continue to expand and deliver the ultimate guest service to the traveling public.ÊOffering opportunities and support to the next generation of Elisabetta Fabri, Sheila C. Johnson, Priya Paul and Christina Ong is a wonderful thing. A good thing for all.
By Trica Jean-Baptiste
Trica Jean-Baptiste is the founder and President of Morgensheer Hospitality, Inc., a consortium of hospitality, real estate, development, sales and marketing and communications consultants. The Morgensheer Hospitality Inc. Consortium provides strategic hospitality services to real estate investors acquiring and developing hospitality assets. Trica is also a licensed real estate sales associate (New York State). Prior to embarking upon a second career in commercial real estate, Trica Jean-Baptiste was President and founder of Trica Jean-Baptiste Communications, LLC; an award-winning boutique travel hospitality PR-based in NYC for 15 years. While heading up Trica Jean-Baptiste Communications, LLC. she represented some of travel’s leading hotels, resorts and tourism units: Rocco Forte Hotels, Star Hotel’s the Michelangelo Hotel, St Giles Hotels New York, Hotel St-Barth Isle de France, Rosewood Hotels’ Caneel Bay and Little Dix Bay, Hotel Esprit St-German (Paris, France); Dubai Tourism, Scotland Business Tourism Unit, Brussels to name a few.