If you read Part 1 of our profile about this extraordinary woman, we learned about what makes Gilda tick; how she has taken every twist and turn on her incredible journey and transformed them into learning, growing and teachable opportunities.
In Part 2, we discover what Gilda sees next for lodging, post-pandemic. Look for Part 3 on Friday.
Part 2: Gilda’s Predictions for What’s Next
We are coming off the worst year in the history of travel. How has this impacted the hotel investment cycle?
We have all been waiting for a big wave of transactions since the fall of last year. The reality is, it hasn’t materialized. It may never materialize, for a few reasons. One, lenders are being flexible and governments are being accommodating. Unlike the last financial crisis, it is not a liquidity crisis, it’s just the lights are off…for everybody. Second, we have had more disciplined borrowing this time around which has enabled owners to hold on to assets despite the lack of revenue. We are mostly past the distressed situation and now everyone is looking forward to or working towards the recovery. Hotels are starting to re-open in major cities, if they’ve been shut, and early signs from the coastal and resort markets have been doing well.
Is there interest in hotel investment now?
Yes, we have never tracked so much capital as we are right now. There are lots of new players, there is all this new capital and there is excitement around hotels and hospitality. Personal savings have been amassed globally and people are itching to fly and travel to see family. We may see the biggest boom ever, concentrated in a very short time, perhaps in a way that no one has imagined before. I would say the sentiment has shifted to the point of enthusiasm. There is still some caution, generally speaking, though, we are starting to hear good news from all sectors: the cruise lines have just announced resuming sailings, airlines are starting to add capacity, hotels are reopening, and we are seeing job gains as restaurants and other services reopen.
What are the key takeaways from the pandemic for hotel design and the customer experience?
I am very excited to see what the new normal looks like, especially after everything we’ve just gone through collectively. We are all officially going back to our offices in the fall and I’ve just had a virtual preview tour of our spaces. They’ve installed monitors in all the offices to allow for a blend of technology. I think going forward it is going to be about mixed reality.
The way you work, live, play has all changed and hotels need to think about how we interact with each other now and incorporate that going forward, be it for a meeting or social catering event, or just for regular transient guests. Will there be more pop-up concepts in food and beverage? How are hotels going to incorporate wellness programs? Are hotels going to be more practical, or are they going to feel more residential? It is so exciting. Let’s hope the leadership of hospitality companies are thinking about the new normal and not about how things were in 2019, because I do not think that is a winning formula.
What else do you see shaping changes in hospitality?
I am paying very close attention to two things: one, the amount of innovation that we are going to see because of technology, be it the AirBNB model, hybrid working or anything that has to do with connectivity or knowledge sharing. The second thing I find even more fascinating: we have five generations of people working together. What does that mean? We all experienced the lockdown differently. How is a Gen Z going to feel about going back to the office compared to a Millennial or Baby Boomer? Then, you have the underlying issues of diversity and inclusion, which is so important. Lots of things are being thrown into the pot at once, so I am excited to see what happens going forward.
In part 3, we ask Gilda what has been her experience as a woman in real estate and adjusting to life as a new working mother.