París, Marriott-Starwood, and Argentina: Three surprising events with a significant impact on the travel industry

In the last few weeks, three significant events (one tragic and atrocious and two having an optimistic and opportunity-filled future) have surprised millions of people around the world, especially those in the hospitality industry.

ISIS Paris Attacks

On the evening of November 13, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks were perpetrated by ISIS fundamentalist extremists, with mass shootings that killed more than 130 people and injured over 400. It was perhaps the worst-ever terrorist attack in the Western world after the 9/11 notorious attacks on the World Trade Center.

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Just as it happened on that occasion, the industry is assessing the future impacts of the event.

Let us recall that one of the few instances when global travel dropped was precisely after the 9/11 attacks. These downtrends are very infrequent in the travel industry and have occurred in 3 or 4 cases – during the first Gulf War, the 2008 financial crisis, and as assumed by many analysts, probably during the last part of the current year and, at least, in the first half of 2016 or even longer.

It will all depend on future developments. It is a decision-making time in international politics that will somehow find an equivalent in the global travel business, with winners and losers.

 

The Marriott-Starwood Merger

An almost unprecedented deal in the history of M&A business across the world. On Monday November 16, very early in the morning and to start the week with one of the most resounding pieces of news for businesses in general and for the hotel industry in particular, Bill Marriott and Arne Sorenson, from their Bethesda HQ, and Bruce Duncan in Stamford, announced the acquisition of Starwood by Marriott, which has thus become the first giant in the hospitality industry.

Until Friday 13th, rumors indicated that Chinese buyers (several Chinese groups were seriously considering the transaction) were gaining the upper-hand over Hyatt to become the owners of iconic brands like W, Westin, St. Regis, and Sheraton, among others.

But it did not happen. The historic company founded by J.W. Marriott and led by his successors was the one to finally close the deal. Kudos to the way the operation was managed! Surely no one imagined what was going on until it was officially announced that morning. Without a doubt, Bill Marriott was right to choose the astute Arne Sorenson as his CEO.

The deal seems to be a turning point in the hotel industry. A short while ago, during a press conference with industry leaders attending the recent edition of SAHIC in Lima, a journalist asked me a sarcastic question: “You, as consultants, what do you like most? Independent or chain hotels?» I answered based on my experience of years of representing the interests of investors and owners: “I am positive that the future lies in the brands,” I replied.

I believe that setting up this first giant hotel company not only ratifies but speeds up this future scenario.

Let us see how the fusion between both firms works out. In any case, it is clear that things will be different.

This new giant’s combination of membership systems, Marriott Rewards and SPG, also deserves consideration. Anyway, it will certainly be for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

 

Argentina with new president and change of tack

After the surprise of October 25 on occasion of the first round of voting, where what seemed impossible came true, the candidate of the alliance Cambiemos (Let’s Change), the Mayor of the City of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri was elected Argentina’s next president on November 22.

A true miracle!

The Argentines went to vote on October 25 almost convinced that the ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli could win in the first round or else that he would be well ahead. That meant the continuity of the policies that had caused so much damage to Argentina.

But things were unexpectedly different and a new climate is already perceived.

The Cabinet announced soon after the elections is seen by many as top notch. Some foreign banks, perhaps with an understandable albeit somewhat exaggerated euphoria, have even said that the president-elect’s team was the “Barsa”, referring to Barcelona’s virtuoso football team that has won every single cup in the last ten years.

The first signals are very clear – a return to the values and principles that have made Argentina a great country and restoring relations with the outside world. Also, opening up the economy to investors, putting an end to a populist, interventionist, and Manichean economy that has plunged a very rich nation into needless poverty. In addition, stopping the friend-enemy dichotomy notoriously extolled by the outgoing government. In a word, going back to a normal country.

While walking around the streets of Buenos Aires, it is easy to notice that something has changed; people behave differently. No doubt, this Christmas will be different and it is good that the Argentines enjoy it.

The outgoing government’s legacy is very complex and things will not be resolved easily; but it will be done and this is what drives millions who see Macri as the leader of a new Argentina that will need the help of all Argentines.

The possibilities are out there, and they will come up in countless sectors, including the hospitality industry, which will be among the first ones to expand.

It is time to start looking at Argentina again and not miss this new opportunity.