LODGING was LIVE at the 2023 NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. Find our show coverage here.
ESG (Environmental, social and corporate governance) and immigration reform were among the key topics highlighted by a handful of high-profile CEOs at last week’s NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.
Speaking during the panel discussion entitled “The CEOs Check In: A View From The Top,” Hilton President & CEO Chris Nassetta emphasized that any efforts toward sustainability need to contribute positively to the bottom line.
“In the end reducing energy use or carbon output, or using less water and pushing out less trash, if we can do all of those things in an intelligent way we can actually say to our owner community you get an ROI [return on investment],” he said.
Nassetta added, “What we’ve all been trying to figure out over time is how do you do it intelligently? My own view is there are thankfully lots of really, really good things we’re all doing that will make the environment much better over time and more resilient.”
Keith Barr, CEO, IHG Hotels & Resorts, cited the value of industry leaders “sharing best practices” as he provided the franchisor’s perspective to solving problems for everyone involved.
“What’s exciting to see is that tension of not being the asset owner forces you to become more creative and more collaborative. What are the solutions that can work for the owner, for the customer and for the environment?” he asked.
Leslie Hale, President & CEO, RLJ Lodging Trust, was asked about the owner’s perspective specifically.
“We’re very focused on ESG. I would say about one out of every three meetings I had last year I would get a question about it. It’s important to be able to collaborate with both the brands and management companies to identify opportunities like energy waste and water utilization. All of those things require that capital be put into the asset,” she said, adding that leveraging technology is key to take advantage of such opportunities for savings.
Tony Capuano, President & CEO, Marriott International, reinforced some of the overall efforts throughout the industry.
“You’ve seen us start to concentrate on water conservation, energy conservation, and elimination of food waste. Those areas not only help us achieve those [sustainability] goals, but they drive profitability that ultimately benefits the owners,” he said.
Sebastien Bazin, Chairman & CEO, Accor, agreed that elimination of food waste is critical for the entire lodging industry. “One thing we have to do is get out of the buffet,” he said, acknowledging that Accor is in the process of phasing such programs out.
Barr later referenced an AI [artificial intelligence] solution the company has utilized in the Middle East that enables properties to track food waste every single day coming off the buffet and provides real-time feedback to chefs and management.
“We have significantly reduced our food waste in the Middle East. There are ways to use technology to make them [buffets] have less waste,” he said.
Meanwhile, the CEOs unilaterally touted the importance of increasing temporary work visas as well as enacting some sort of immigration reform.
Capuano noted that U.S. resort destinations, in particular, are impacted on the labor front.
“We are woefully inadequate in terms of the number of temporary work visas we have in this country,” he said.
Nassetta—who also serves as the current chair of the U.S. Travel Association—remained hopeful that a proposed bill limiting visa wait times for the U.S. to 21 days will be passed this year.
However, he further added that comprehensive immigration reform “ultimately will be the game changer that we need for the country to get the right type of work force and for the U.S. economy to be competitive over the long term.”
Nassetta continued, “We’re in a global competition economically. The way you win for the long term is you have the best and strongest economy. The way you do that is through energy, food and labor force. We are limiting ourselves from a work force point of view because of all the infighting and fund raising that goes on with both sides [of the aisle] around immigration. As a result we’re not solving a problem that needs to be solved,” he said.
Barr, meanwhile, was given the last word as he prepares to retire from his position leading IHG by the end of the month.
“I’ve spent 30 years with the company, the last six of which have been as CEO and we’ve had amazing success. The company is in a great place so it’s time to get a bit of family time. I’ll be back doing something. I’ll be an advisor to the company for the rest of the year and then I’ll figure out what’s next,” he said.