Comment: IHIF has never been more meaningful than it is now

Networking at IHIF
Networking at IHIF. (Louise Barker/Questex)

The hospitality industry has always been a bastion of camaraderie. And the International Hospitality Investment Forum, or IHIF, has always been where the vanguard of the global hotel community comes together to broker deals, launch new brands, network at the highest level and learn and discuss the trends impacting the hotel industry.  
It’s now back.  
IHIF is the place where the global hotel community meets; where it joins together as one. That’s what’s always made IHIF distinct. This year’s event, 1-3 September, at the InterContinental Berlin, will be no different, but it will carry more meaning. It will be proof and evidence of a greater goal met; that we can all convene again—confidently and safely. We, the hospitality industry, must lead the charge back to normalcy, setting the tone for other industries, a north star lighting the path for those to follow. If we don’t, how can we expect other industries and companies to travel again, book meetings and overall support the hotel infrastructure. Leading by example has never felt more sincere. 
This is a moment to not shy away from but lean into. IHIF has never been more meaningful than it is now—a representation to ourselves and other industries that we are back to doing business safely.   
IHIF is not happening in isolation. Our fellow organizers of the sector’s conferences from AHIC, ALIS, NYU, APHIC and the Lodging Conference have either already convened this year or are pressing ahead with events in 2021. They are also leading by example. 
Questex, which operates IHIF, has organized more than 17 global events this year, ranging in size from 17,000 delegates to several hundred. There is no doubt that more and more business travelers want to get back on the road and in the air: meeting current and prospective clients and gathering at industry conferences. According to a July 2021 Global Business Travel Association poll, a third of companies surveyed noted that they now allow for non-essential domestic business trips. And when asked about their employees’ willingness to travel for a large meeting or conference of more than 500 people, 32% noted that business travelers are willing to do so. Forty percent of the companies surveyed say business travel had resumed fully. These numbers are growing by the month. 
The IHIF community is ready to be back, too with approximately 1,500 delegates expected to attend this year’s event.  
Meanwhile, investors are ready to get back to dealing and are bullish on the prospects of hotel-related investment. According to the Hospitality Insights Investor Sentiment Assessment for the second quarter of 2021, the proportion of investors who are “strongly positive” on the hospitality sector for the next 12 months has increased by more than 50%—from 22% to 36%. Overall, 85% of investors expressed a positive or strongly positive investment sentiment for hospitality. Contemporaneously, the percentage of investors whose investment sentiment has declined dropped to 2% in Q2, compared to 7% at the finish of Q1 and 20% at the end 2021. 
Economic indicators back up the optimistic sentiment. The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 6.5% in the quarter that ended in June, the first time since the pandemic’s inception that economic output, when adjusting for inflation, eclipsed its pre-pandemic high. In Europe, though GDP has not reached pre-pandemic levels, Q2 growth was propitious. Across the European Union, GDP rose by 13.2% compared with the same period last year, and by 1.9% compared with the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the 19 EU countries that use the euro posted even stronger growth of 13.7% and 2%, respectively. Expectations are that, across the globe, the third quarter will see further improvement. 
The economic data support the belief of investors. Those surveyed expected a “significant improvement” increasing by 50% from 40% of investors in Q1 2021 to 60% of investors in Q2 2021.  
On the way to success, hardship often passes. It galvanizes us; it makes us stronger; and its upshot is resolution and revival. Now, IHIF is back. From 1-3 September, the doors of the InterContinental Berlin swing open, a symbol far greater than simple ingress, but indication that the hospitality industry is back and ready to do business.  
IHIF has always been where it happens. This year, just showing up and being in the room is half the battle.  
I look forward to seeing you there. 

Alexi Khajavi is President Travel & Hospitality at Questex LLC