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The Big Interview: Rebecca Hollants van Loocke, Country General Manager, The Ascott Limited

Leanne Donovan 10 May 2017
The Big Interview: Rebecca Hollants van Loocke, Country General Manager, The Ascott Limited

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to your current role?

I have been in hospitality all my life as I always had a desire to create great experiences. I started working in hotel chains, then moved to real estate, and now I’m back working in hospitality at Ascott.

I’ve worked in various operations and marketing roles in 10 different countries – from the Far East, Turkey and many countries in Europe 

What is the best part of your job?

It’s the total variety. No minute is the same – it’s such a varied industry – I could be managing a tenant or a junior staff member or holding a meeting with our PR agency. Also the fact that it’s so international – I get to see other parts of the world and observe the way the hospitality industry works in other countries.

What are the key issues for the apart-hotel sector?

I think there are three different angles here:

1.)   The lack of recognition of what an apart hotel is. It’s not fully developed and understood, which is still a key issue in the hospitality industry.

2.)   Finding suitable assets to continue to expand the sector – networking is a big part of this.

3.)   Encouraging young people to join the sector and recruiting graduate students. A lot of young professionals are blinded by the glitz of hotels and perhaps don’t see all the benefits that come with working in an apart-hotel, including the ability to hone other skills and offerings.

Why do you think the apart-hotel is sector has seen such growth in recent years?

People are looking for something different. Often we have an old fashioned view of what a hotel is and this is starting to change. The rise of the sharing economy and particularly Airbnb shows us that guests are looking for a local experience, which an apart-hotel can certainly provide. They’re also looking for flexibility – an apart-hotel can accommodate the varied requirements of today’s guests, which lends itself well to the new Bleisure economy. We’re seeing more and more business people extend their business trips into leisure trips, with family or friends joining the trip. 

Lastly, an apart-hotel allows you the ability to live like a local while also having access to the security and services that a hotel provides.

Have you noticed any trends emerging in the industry as a result?

To add to my previous point, travellers are looking for an experience and also looking (to share spaces) for interaction with other guests. We’ve responded to this with the creation of our new Lyf brand, which is designed for millennials, nomads, start-up managers and those who are keen to network during their travels. The design of these properties encourages interactions among guests through co-working spaces.

 Technology is of course an integral trend, as more and more travellers book hotel rooms via their phone. Part of this is also the rise of the on-demand economy; for example in the UK, we have a partnership with Quiqup, an app that allows guests personalised pick-up of anything from groceries to keys – whenever you want.  

 How do you see the future for the hotel industry overall?

We will see a number of mergers and some brands will disappear all together. Offerings will continue to change, rooms will continue to become smaller, and we will certainly see more shared spaces.

The future is a bright one as people will always travel and need accommodation, so as long as we respond quickly enough we will evolve with the consumer.  

 What are your plans for the future?

We have a growth target of 80,000 units globally by 2020, which we plan to reach through acquisitions, franchising,management contracts and strategic alliances(our digital platforms and new brands). In fact, we recently announced two new franchise agreements in Brazil and our first Citadines property in the US.

 Last hotel you stayed at?

Citadines Austerlitz.

Your favourite food?

Spaghetti Bolognese and sushi. The more veggies the better.

 The one item of technology you can’t live without?

Definitely my iPhone.

What is the most important life lesson you’ve learnt?

Never judge too quickly – sometimes we all make snap judgements but it’s better to step back a minute and understand why people do the things they do. Everyone has a story!