Check-In with Gilda Perez-Alvarado CEO of JLL's Hotels & Hospitality Group

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we're catching up with Gilda Perez-Alvarado, CEO of JLL's Hotels & Hospitality Group. For context, JLL's Hotels & Hospitality Group has completed more transactions than any other hotel real estate advisor over the last five years, totaling $83 billion worldwide. Not long after Gilda took over as CEO of the group, heading the 350-person global team in over 20 countries, we ran a three-part interview with her that has been one of the most read stories on hertelier. If you've not read the series, you should!


Gilda credits her upbringing in Costa Rica as a formative experience that has inspired her love of travel and tourism. Now, nearly two years into her CEO role at JLL, we check in.

Gilda Perez-Alvarado JLL

In your leadership role at JLL, you've been an advocate for advancing women and minorities, are you seeing positive change post-pandemic?

Absolutely! There are more conversations being had around maternity leave, and flexible work arrangements. I am pleased to see women's organizations worldwide getting together to help advance each other with the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance. The community being built around hertelier is a wonderful example of progress in this area!


Thank you : ) What are your thoughts on moving the ball forward for gender equality in our industry…of course, the Gates Foundation report that gender equality won’t happen until 2108 was a big bummer.

It is all happening very slowly, too slowly, but companies are being more intentional about gender equality.

One of the issues holding women back is being caregivers whether for maternity or elderly or sick relatives. We’ve not seen much progress on this generally in the hotel sector—this year Hilton announced: "Care for All" which includes access to Wellthy, a caregiving concierge service, which helps employees working through logistical and administrative tasks related to care, but we have yet to see meaningful change overall.

Caregiving has become front and center in many organizations. If we are serious about DE&I, support for caregivers and additional flexibility is not an option––it is a necessity.


What specific programs are you offering to support women at JLL?

At JLL we are focused on making sure we are offering the best maternity leave package and supporting our women brokers financially pre-, during, and post maternity leave as they manage their book of business.


Switching gears, JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group has just released their latest Global Hotel Investor Sentiment Survey, which reveals nearly 80% of investors plan to be buyers! That is good news, can you put it into context for us?

Despite broader economic headwinds from inflation, the conflict in Ukraine, and ongoing labor issues, hotel lodging and hospitality continues to recover at an encouraging and unexpectedly strong pace, driven by significant pent-up demand for travel and experiences. As demand for hotel rooms breaks records and prices skyrocket, hotel investors are taking notice, with 80% of them saying they plan on buying hotels throughout the remainder of 2022 and into 2023. More specifically, 20% of investors indicated they will deploy between $501 million to $1 billion+ worth of capital into the hospitality sector, up from 7% of investors in 2021 and 16% in 2020. This is the highest proportion of investors wishing to deploy this level of capital since the pandemic started.


Exciting, what are the hot hotel markets?

This year’s survey showed London, Tokyo, and Boston emerged as the top three hotel investment markets, indicating a resurgence of investor interest in urban markets, which waned during the pandemic.

TOP 3 MARKETS FOR HOTEL INVESTMENT: LONDON, TOKYO and BOSTON

Along with all this positivity, you recently commented at the annual Lodging Conference that labor and staffing remain a challenge for the industry.

Yes, we are playing a dangerous game with workforce dynamics and it is having a negative impact on major investment markets. All the currents are against each other, labor unions are not cooperating and guest needs are changing. It's eroding margins and we are nowhere on immigration. At the moment, we are stuck and that does impact valuations.


Do you see a way around the labor challenge? I know this is easier said than done, but we all need to be rowing in the same direction. If we are serious about jobs and creating wealth for all stakeholders, we need to work together in a pro-business setting that has a long-term view – one that is a win: win for labor, clients, communities, and of course businesses. Big corporations are critical, but the public tends to forget that SMEs (small and medium enterprises) make up a very critical piece of the pie. Communities need businesses, businesses need communities.


Another interesting study from JLL was the recent Future of Work Survey, which found that 72% of decision-makers believe the office is critical to doing business. How do you see this impacting the hotel sector?

Our research showed that over the next several years companies anticipate hybrid work to become the dominant model and companies will be looking across their real estate portfolios to re-think their office spaces, invest in new technology and prioritize sustainability. This will impact the sector twofold: first, we will for sure continue to see the recovery in business travel, and second––there will be more opportunities for hospitality companies to get involved in real estate beyond hotels. The future of real estate is highly amenitized. Commercial real estate is taking a page out of the hospitality playbook!

The future of real estate is highly amenitized. Commercial real estate is taking a page out of the hospitality playbook!

Do you like the word "Bleisure"? If not, what do you think of the "Mullet Trip" coined by the WSJ or I offered up "Bizcations" –– what do you think is the best buzzword for these blended trips? Out of all of them, I prefer bleisure until a better word comes up! I love hybrid trips. I think we are our most productive when we approach life as a blend as opposed to a matrix of highly compartmentalized valves.


Gilda Perez-Alvarado