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Power Summit: Highlights from Hotel Investment Conference – South Asia (HICSA) 2019

HICSA 2019, held at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, was a resounding success with business leaders highlighting the latest trends of this ever-changing industry

One of the most premier events for the Hospitality industry is HICSA (Hotel Investment Conference South Asia), where hotel owners, entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts gather to discuss the future of the industry. The event, which is now in its 15th year, is organised by Hotelivate, a new-age consulting firm. This year, the event was held from April 3-4 at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai. 
The event saw the participation of 530 delegates from over 10 countries across 10 major industries, who came together to discuss best industry practices, the latest trends and the immense possibilities that the future holds. 

The Speakers
This year’s event laid special emphasis on independent hotel owners and small-scale entrepreneurs and how they can survive the shifting dynamics of the Hospitality industry. This year’s programme featured a series of keynote addresses by the stalwarts of the Hotel industry. There was Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Trusts; Sebastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO of Accor Hotels; Alan Watts, President of Hilton (Asia-Pacific region); Deepak Kalra, Chairman and Group CEO of MakeMyTrip; Aditya Ghosh, Chief Executive Officer of OYO Hotels and Homes (South Asia), among others.

Highlights
Topics discussed at the event were wide ranging. They included the ensuing battle between online travel agents (OTAs) and hotels for a higher chunk of the consumer’s wallet, the immense potential of the Tourism industry, how Hospitality and Tourism industries can help in generating new jobs, the latest trends in room rates and revenue per available room and the need for ‘intelligent capital’ in the Hospitality industry. 
The tete-a-tete with Ratan Tata was certainly the highlight of the event, with the veteran industrialist talking about his passion for Automobile and Hospitality industries and how companies such as Apple and Google have set the standards for ethical business practices.

Mine is Bigger than Yours
Manav Thadani kick-started the event with a welcome address and a speech, titled ‘Mine is Bigger than Yours’. Dealing with the issue of the ongoing battle between OTAs and hotels for a larger share of consumers’ money, Thadani showed how the entry of online aggregators played the role of a disruptor, forcing hotels to come up with innovative marketing solutions to encourage customers to book directly through the hotel’s site. Thadani added that the reason why hotel aggregators became so popular was that they could give consumers a better value for money on hotel bookings. 

New Economy, Young India
Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, highlighted the crucial role that Tourism and Hospitality industries will play in creating more job opportunities for the young Indians. “The population of India will keep getting younger while the rest of the world is getting older, and we need to capitalise on that,” he said. The fact that the Tourism and Hospitality industries account for more than 9 percent of the total jobs created in the country is an encouraging trend, he added. 
Sebastien Bazin talked about the changing trends in the Travel industry and how new entrepreneurs and existing players can use them to their advantage. Taking OYO Rooms as an example, Bazin said that OYO created a space, which combined hotel chain with online travel agency – something that has not been seen by Indian consumers.

Conversation with Ratan Tata
Ratan Tata’s conversation with Raymond Bickson, Principal and CEO, Bickson Hospitality, was the talking point of the summit with the doyen talking about his passions, his favourite industries and companies. 
He said that although his business interests have changed over the years, working for automobile and aviation has given him the greatest pleasure.
Finally, the concept of ‘intelligent capital’ in the Hospitality industry was elaborated upon by Khushru Jijina of Piramal Capital, which has been providing the Hospitality industry with customised solutions and innovative structures.

Awards
Awards were announced for some of the best hotels in their respective categories. Ibis Pune, Hinjewadi was the winner of Budget Hotel category. Fairfield by Marriott Sriperumbudur was the top winner among mid-market hotels, while Taj Aravali Resort & Spa, Udaipur, won big in the Luxury Hotel segment. 
Overall, the two-day event highlighted the fact while Tourism and Hospitality industries are great revenue generators, entrepreneurs need to constantly upgrade and keep track of the changing trends to keep healthy profit margins and give customers great value for money. 

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