Alexi began by explaining that the Questex model is based on staging events which allow people in the travel and hospitality industry to convene in order to do business, and on providing a wealth of information to delegates beforehand, thereby “making the market smarter.” IHIF Berlin is the largest of these events, and is undoubtedly the place to be if you’re looking to buy or sell a hotel, or find investment for a new development. However, Questex now has more events in Asia than anywhere else.
“Asia is the frontier,” said Alexi. “It’s where the opportunities are.” While demand for travel to and within Asia is growing exponentially, the fact that the continent comprises developing economies means that investment in the supply side is very much needed. The infrastructure in Asia compares favorably with that of other developing regions, such as Africa, and not even Thailand’s ongoing political troubles could deter Alexi. “I see those things as temporary,” he explained, “because when you look at the history there’s always been unrest, yet in the long term, investment growth has steadily gone up, and the returns on those investments have also gone up.”
Alexi then touched upon a second reason for Asia’s potential; “tourism is a value-add industry and Asia as a whole has an inherent expertise in hospitality.” In the long run, this all points to a very positive outlook for Asia, but how does the continent compare today with the strongest investment regions like North America?
Alexi gave an overview of the general data, noting that total global transaction values for 2015 are expected to reach 68 billion dollars, while Asia (excluding China) accounts for less than 10 billion. North America’s current share is around 35 billion dollars, yet land prices and entry points in major American cities mean developments can take thirty years to break even. The advantage in Asia is that even in major markets, “it makes more sense to come in at a lower entry point and higher cap rate.” In the US the potential lies instead in the secondary markets, in cities like Cleveland or Nashville, and it is these destinations which are likely to be of interest to Asian capital, and especially Chinese capital. “As destinations become discovered, new ones come up.”
We hinted earlier that Questex has some exciting ideas, and Alexi duly revealed that while event hosting continues as normal, the approach in Asia might be a little more direct. An upcoming event in Jakarta sets the tone as “an exclusive invite-only round table event, focused on the travel technology space – a small group of people (25-30) where we can introduce technology and talk about it, and show how it can reduce costs, improve revenue and ultimately make hotel brands more profitable.”
Questex has also recently begun an arrangement with the Asia Hotel Forum – arguably the best investment conference in China in terms of attracting the real decision-makers in Chinese hospitality. “We work with hotel suppliers worldwide – high end furnishings, technology, lighting – we think they would like to come in and represent their products to Chinese owners and operators, so we’re building that relationship.”
“Then with our events in Thailand, Miami, Istanbul, Dubai – we want to bring in Chinese investors who are looking to build their brands and make their investments globally, because here you have independent owners looking for capital.”
“What we’ll do is work with those owners, ask what kind of investors and projects they’re looking at, and then we’ll take those projects and specifically match them with the right kind of investor. We’ll do the matchmaking, so they might have 5 or 10 appointments at the events in addition to the content and networking.”
As Alexi was keen to point out, “the reason these events are successful is it’s a people-to-people business, based on relationships, integrity and trust, so if we can develop the opportunities, these events will continue to be even more successful.”