The European hospitality industry is up against major challenges that go beyond the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and its impact on travel and tourism, and require immediate planning and investment, according to Marie Audren, Director-General of HOTREC, the European umbrella association of hotels, restaurants and cafés.
Among these are the sector’s digital and green transition as well as the need for experienced personnel.
A non-profit organization, HOTREC brings together 44 national associations representing the interest of the industry in 33 different European countries.
Aiming to support businesses and employees in the travel and tourism sector, HOTREC in late March rolled out the digital awareness campaign #TogetherForHospitality.
“When we launched our #TogetherForHospitality campaign on 31 March, it was mostly because we wanted to take our commitment a step further in making the voice of European hospitality heard,” Audren told GTP Headlines.
In this interview, HOTREC’s director-general tells us about the challenge of the coronavirus era, the road to recovery and the opportunities that will drive development and growth in the hospitality industry. She also shares the aims of the association’s #TogetherForHospitality campaign.
- GTP: What do you see as the most important disruptions that will shape the hospitality sector in the coming years?
Marie Audren: The European hospitality’s recovery will remain a priority in the years to come, until we manage to return to pre-Covid-19 levels, that – according to the UNWTO estimates – will take a minimum of 2-3 years.
Nonetheless, it is important to acknowledge that, in the next few years, hospitality will be facing many other challenges that will not wait for the recovery and require immediate planning, investments and resources deployment.
The digital and green transition ahead is the perfect example of this trend.
Everyone is aware of how technology is impacting our industry – from the ever-increasing role of online platforms to the future applications of AI, blockchains and virtual reality in hospitality establishments. It will take years to regulate the use of this technology and to train workforce.
HOTREC has welcomed the European Commission’s proposed landmark regulations – the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) – as actions ensuring fair play, curbing illegal offers of services, and giving small and medium-sized hospitality enterprises more control over their digital presence.
The future of hospitality also depends on its potential to remain competitive and by now it’s clear that this will only be possible by embracing sustainable development (e.g., by favoring green tourism and building renovations, prioritizing the use and consumption of healthier food, etc.).
- GTP: What are the biggest opportunities and threats for your sector in particular?
Marie Audren: All the challenges mentioned above also represent opportunities for hospitality to improve their services towards guests, offer more and more exciting and unique opportunities and, of course, thrive and support the European economy.
There are many risks facing the hospitality industry. Just to name a few: skill shortages; the necessity to further regulate platform to business relations; constant changes in the consumers’ demands; the lack of experienced personnel and the fall in travel confidence brought by the pandemic.
However, we are confident that, with adequate support, hospitality can recover and continue being a key driver of economic growth and boost jobs creation in Europe.
- GTP: How will HOTREC’s #TogetherForHospitality campaign contribute to the sector’s recovery?
Marie Audren: Over 12 months without regular visits to our favorite hospitality establishments clearly showed us what critical role the sector plays in shaping our everyday lives.
In the past year, HOTREC has worked hard to help the sector recover by maintaining a continued dialogue with the EU Institutions and teaming up with our membership and industry partners.
When we launched our #TogetherForHospitality campaign on 31 March, it was mostly because we wanted to take our commitment a step further in making the voice of European hospitality heard.
We firmly believe that helping the industry recover at such a difficult time and secure a better future isn’t just crucial for the economy, but it’s also the only way to protect our way of life and of granting a better future for all.
To this end, with this campaign, we want to raise awareness of the hardships that workers, business owners, chefs, etc. are facing after Covid-19.
We want to especially seek support from EU decision-makers to clearly highlight which policy actions could better serve the sector in this moment of crisis.
We believe that the following steps will be necessary to help the industry heal: increasing the level of coordination in travel restrictions; granting adequate funding; ensuring predictability and consistency for the sector to reopen across Europe; and supporting the European hospitality value chain.
- GTP: The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels recently ran the “filoxenia MoU” campaign, which was dedicated to the importance of hospitality in restoring the tourism industry in the aftermath of the Covid-19. Do you think that similar national campaigns can effectively contribute to the recovery of the tourism sector on a European level?
While we believe our campaign will be crucial to join forces on an EU level and clearly explain what the next steps must be to save millions of jobs and businesses, we also need engagement, exchange of information, and help on a national level.
Campaigns such as #filoxeniaMoU are exactly what we need to stand #TogetherForHospitality and we are glad to join forces with our membership to help save the industry.
Marie Audren is Director-General of HOTREC since August 2020. She has extensive experience in EU public affairs.
Previously in her career, she was Deputy Director-General of spiritsEUROPE, the European association representing spirits producers. She has also worked as an adviser in the EU office of the French business federation, MEDEF.
Marie is a French national and lives in Brussels with her family. She holds a Master’s degree in “European studies” from the Louvain-la-Neuve University (UCL) and a Master’s degree in “Public Administration” from Sciences Po (Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Rennes).