Search

×

The Path of Kerten Hospitality, with Marloes Knippenberg

Marloes Knippenberg CEO of  Kerten Hospitality,  which has  11 brands ranging from hotels and residences to stand-alone food and beverage spaces, sits down for an interview with Jeff Weinstein, to discuss the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge and how she infuses both luxury and lifestyle into Kerten Hospitality’s projects in addition to her philosophy on where to locate her properties.

More specifically, Knippenberg discusses strategies to encourage women and the next generation to join the hospitality industry. Kerten also reveals that she is working on an application that would help visitors discover new places.

Click the play button above to listen to our conversation with Marloes Knippenberg.


Episode Transcript

Marloes: People are interested to stay at different projects and see even between the GMs, there is the cross-selling. And if you nurture that from the beginning, that’s something you can scale with. That’s not something that you just do with two projects. That’s something that you build into the whole philosophy of the company and the way you do business. In the moment that your head office is a service center and not just some guys that just demand what needs to happen, you have a really different business going on.

Woman: Welcome to the “Innovative Hotelier Podcast” by “HOTELS” magazine, with weekly thought-provoking discussions with the world’s leading hotel and hospitality innovators.

Jeff: Hi, this is Jeff Weinstein, editor of “HOTELS” magazine. Today I am talking to Dublin base Kerten Hospitality and its leader, Marloes Knippenberg who has more fully embraced accelerating changes in society to fairly dramatically grow the ESG-led hotel company in a very short period of time. With only a handful of hybrid mixed-use properties to show off Kerten already has a very healthy pipeline of some 50 properties and is gaining traction with developers who are finally starting to think more about long-term viability based on changing demographics and travel patterns. Listen to the up-and-coming developer talk about Kerten strategy and why she thinks they’re well-positioned to succeed as a new-age hotel operator.

Woman: This green technology podcast is sponsored by Blink Charging. About 50% of vehicle sales will be electric by 2030, and EV charging is the hotel amenity driver’s need. Blink is the leader in EV charging and offers the most flexible solutions and business models. For more, visit blinkcharging.com.

Jeff: Interesting moment in time. There’s a lot of things going on in the world, both financially and politically bigger picture, as it relates to business and your company. What’s on your mind?

Marloes: I would say growth, growth, growth, and growth. I would say COVID helped us as much as it was a very tough period, right? And I will never deny that and all the bad things that happened for many of us, but I think you could really see that there were certain companies that only just started believing that the world was changing and it wasn’t just COVID that changed it, it was happening before. So that accelerated acceptance of change, really helped us because before we were pitching a story that people said, “Ah, this will happen in 15 years, 20 years, we don’t really have to think about that now.” People during COVID and after COVID came back to us saying, “Can you tell us one more time what you believe it is people want to do and how we can really look at our asset and create something that brings an ROI for the long term and not just for a couple of years.”

And then we started this year really positive. We had a couple of signings, which had three signings in January, which for a company our size is a lot in one month at the beginning of the year. And then of course the whole war situation happened. And I have to say it really frozes to a certain part. It’s just almost like nobody knew to be excited about the things that were happening and that were good. And on the other hand to be so sad at this and now is actually happening. And I think what I’ve seen is we’re kind of trying to do both. We’ve been very helpful in the capacities that we could because we actually have our head revenue and our revenue center in Poland. So we really came together as a team and supported. And I think that really motivated the team to progress together and grew out from there. And I would say at the moment for us, the most important piece is to complete the whole process part, bring on the next project. Now the next opening is going to be in May. So we’re really going opening, opening, opening, and signing, signing, signing. And I think this really will be a game-changer for us because we’re no longer just selling this idea, but we can really show on paper, not just on two projects that actually the bottom line looks very good, but that we can do this on more projects and really bring that together and bring this whole story to life.

Jeff: So how many hotels are actually open right now?

Marloes: Two are open, 5 opening still this year, and then we have a total pipeline of 40. And so by the end of this year, that 40 should probably be 51 or 52, maybe a little bit more.

Jeff: Signed deals?

Marloes: Signed, sealed, everything. Yes, yes.

Jeff: Wow. So you only have two properties open?

Marloes: Yes.

Jeff: That’s amazing to have such a pipeline when only you have two properties to show performance and especially at a time where performance can be difficult to improve. So all over the map.

Marloes: But there’s one thing to say, when we opened Aqaba on the 28th of July, 2020, it was the first proper opening on their management agreement. We did it as a team and we had to do it remote. So we were even stretched more than we would’ve already been if we would’ve been on-site. Our head brand actually moved there just to make sure. And he was on rising chicken, I think for months and months because there was nothing else to get. That project is still 200 plus points on RGI in SDR compared to name any big brand in the market in Jordan. And so it’s running a super high average rate. And even when you look at the project in Jeddah, which is a very soft market at the moment, that project is rerunning at a top-level clientele. And I think what you can see is that there is a demand for not just good looking new style properties, but there is demand for projects that connect to the census that really connect to the communities where you can move the furniture of the lobby, where there is events happening that are facilitated for a local audience, not necessarily for the audience in house.

And therefore the audience in house comes down. A lot of the science we did before we were open, which was very tough because, you know, the biggest question was always, but what about distribution channels? Well, nowadays, and I hated that question four, five years ago. Today, I think booking.com and Expedia are driving so much business and even people in the industry. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people who complain about it still book their trips via booking.com because it’s so much easier and it just goes so much faster and you can just have so much more choice and see, and it has the ratings and everything else. And there, if you follow, I dunno, the EasyJet philosophy where you build up the plane bottom-up, instead of going out with the most expensive price and then dropping it, there is a lot you can do with those channels instead of trying to reinvent, plus the new generation. Loyalty in the new generation is a different conversation. You don’t hear a lot of the younger generations saying, “Oh, look at my points. And look, I’m only going to stay here because I get those points.” No, they’re saying, “What is this company doing? Who are they? I want to be associated to this. What is the community? Who stayed there? Let me check online, let me check the pictures.” Very different philosophy.

Jeff: So a majority of your bookings are coming through the OTAs?

Marloes: Absolutely.

Jeff: You have your own booking channel, yes?

Marloes: Yes. We do have our own booking channel, a hundred percent. The interesting thing is that when people find us and hear about us or have a connection, from there on, it just goes, repeat direct, but that’s really WhatsApp, email, etc., not even direct us in the website, but really direct, direct because of the relations people build on property. And you can see repeat kind of bookings or insane. And so yes, we use the channels that are there. We utilize them to the max. And then you can say, “Right, I think there’s this endless conversation about commissions and, you know, but commissions, one, you can negotiate. But two, doing a normal or driving a normal direct channel booking doesn’t come for free.” Now just the amount of money spent on brand direct websites and everything else, it’s really expensive. So if you ask me, would I set up a loyalty scheme or anything like that? Definitely not. I will rather partner with another number of partners or other people that have something really to bring than to just set up my own. People are interested to stay at different projects and see even between the GMs, there is the cross-selling. And if you nurture that from the beginning, that’s something you can scale with. That’s not something that you just do with two projects. That’s something that you build into the whole philosophy of the company and the way you do business. And the moment that, you know, your head office is a service center and not just some guys that just demand what needs to happen, you have a really different business going on.

Jeff: Now you’re positioning yourself not as luxury, correct, or?

Marloes: Yes. Correct.

Jeff: You do position yourself as a luxury.

Marloes: Yeah. Yeah. A hundred percent. Five star, if you wanted to put in stars.

Jeff: Okay. And you’re doing mixed use? You’re doing residents?

Marloes: Yes.

Jeff: Can you elaborate on a little bit about that as far as your pipeline goes on what the mix is of strict hotel versus mixed-use, or are they all mixed-use?

Marloes: So actually one of the things that we’re doing by default is every single project has a long-term component into it, even if it’s a short-term product. So what we do when we build the story, and when we build up the project for an opening, we really look at how can we facilitate for the short stay product, the long-stay product, and facilities as and such. And so if you have a long stay product and a short stay building, you need very different facilities and you need to provide in a different way because nobody stays in the hotel room for one, two, three, four months. We have a mix where in Egypt, we have two developments. On each we have four hotels and all come with a set of service departments and residences. Those are branded, sold and part is given back to rental pool. And the other part is just simply people having it in their own possession and taking services. Kuwait is a mix. Georgia is a mix, let’s say 30, 70, but the whole mixed-use philosophy. And I think this is much more than the actual, is it residential or is it retail, etc. What the whole idea of this mixed-use is that it’s a philosophy and a process that you can apply to any building.

And so you have a long and a short stay component in with a working component, and that working component doesn’t necessarily have to be co-working desks, right? It can be smaller offices, it can be event space that you can turn into anything, but it’s never just a classic meeting floor that has low occupancy and that just sits there as an add-on product. And the moment that you have that, you will have a bit of F and B in retail. Now what we do is we look at the neighborhood and we say, do we need to have our own restaurant, or do we tap into the restaurants that are there? And then that’s the same with facilities. If you want a pair of runners or you want a telephone cable or whatever, we’re actually launching an application or actually more a digital platform that brings together the neighborhoods. And that really means that when you’re in a room, you can tap into the neighborhoods around you and make use of that. And so the whole philosophy of mixed-use is that it’s brand and brand concepting concept. You have the different elements together, and this, you can make it as big or as small as you want, but it allows you to extend seasonality. It really extends that business and it offers you different business angles and sources of business, versus just having a singular kind of product.

Jeff: I understand.

Marloes: Which is different than a real estate owner, right? A real estate owner and a developer says mixed-use is these three components together. From a consumer, you would never think it’s mixed-use because if you want to go into the residential piece, you have to change the wifi. If you want to order something from the restaurant, you still have to walk downstairs. So you better off to use one of the bigger platforms that are out there. It’s very difficult to find a place that is really curated and connected. And that’s the philosophy of mixed-use.

Jeff: Interesting. It’s really different. Are you doing mostly new development or are you able to do conversions here?

Marloes: Rome is a conversion, existing building city center of Rome. Well, I think we can almost touch the Spanish Steps, fine amazing owner actually, who his grandpa owned a building, worked there forever. He grew up in, you know, going into that building. What are the other investors over the years? And really wants to build something up for his family together with his sister. And that building was a local hotel for a number of years. They’ve just received that back end of last year or mid of last year. And that will be a conversion. And then for the rest, a lot of them are new builds. We’re working at the moment on a couple of conversions, but I have to say for us, it doesn’t really matter if it’s new built or conversions. The philosophy works on all. I think what’s really important is the owner that comes with it is really somebody who understands that it’s not just buying some furniture, changing the color of the wall, and you can bring something to life that makes your asset go for a very long time. And I think there, you can see the struggles already, but there’s more and more even the larger developers that are coming to us to say, “Can you have a look? And can we work on how we can maximize this space, how we can curate different brands and therefore have something that people want that really becomes a hub.” And for that, it doesn’t matter if it’s an existing or a new build.

Jeff: Got it. So I know it’s early days from a performance standpoint, but can you share anything on GOP for the owners so far?

Marloes: If you look at Aqaba at the moment, we’re still going over 40% GOP, right? For Jeddah, it’s doing well, but it’s way too early.

Jeff: Too early.

Marloes: We’re performing. I…

Jeff: What are your proforma saying for all these?

Marloes: You know, against proforma, we’re better. But you know what’s interesting is that we never won projects on proformas. So it wasn’t just an exercise on numbers. It’s really interesting when you start talking to people who understand their market and who understand that the world is changing. What they want to do is really focus on the product, focus on maximizing the asset on the footfall and everything else, because you know that you increasing the value of the asset by default. And then you start maxing the way that you integrate everything within a property. So for example, Jeddah, the breakfast restaurant is a brand. And so you have a branded breakfast experience that drives really high footfall for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is one of those bistro kind of places. And you might know, actually it’s Baker & Spice. There’s one in New York, the places in Dubai and Kuwait, in London, even our coffee shop is curated and outsourced by a local coffee roaster pretty much. When you look at that is could I have envisioned in the proforma that we could lease out those spaces, have those collaborations. You take out that kind of really big cost bulk, but it’s not as easy as just saying, “Let’s just call a brand. Let’s just give them this.” They release it. And that’s the end of it. It’s really how do you create? Because today when you come in, you wouldn’t know, because the spaces really flow into each other. The teams work together, they use the same back of house areas. If it’s busy somewhere, the hotel team comes and works. We say that the walls of the building go anyway, a hundred meters beyond the physical wall. So you have to really do this from the beginning. It’s not just let’s stick it together and it will work. It doesn’t work that way.

Jeff: Do you lease all your F and B?

Marloes: No, not at all. We have a lot of F and B brands. We run some great concepts. We’re just launching, Nakhati, a gelato brand run by women. And actually, the philosophy of that is not just a pro-women feministic kind of concept, but in a lot of countries, it’s still very difficult for women to get financing for their first business and their entrepreneurial business. So we’re working with financial institutions to really kind of package that and launch that to market. So we should go live mid of May. And then from there, it’s quite an aggressive expansion plan. We have in the team a local female Sali Chef [SP], we have Mishi Lasto [SP], our Spanish chef. Our head of F and B is based in Dubai, used to be with Emirates for a very long time opening project after project. And so he even has to rethink his way, but he looks after not just the expansion of the F and B brands, but also the neighborhoods, the integration complementing the services and facilities. And so we run F and B or can run F and B separate from our own projects. But the whole thing is that it’s not just about selling your own brand. It’s about trying to create the right mix. And sometimes the right mix is owning it, doing it, and making sure that everything is coming together holistically. And sometimes it’s just great to offer different brands.

Jeff: Right. And not all of the F and B concepts that you’re developing are necessarily in your hotels?

Marloes: Correct. That’s right.

Jeff: This gelato concept, is it going… You mentioned the first one’s standalone.

Marloes: Totally. A hundred percent. Yes.

Jeff: Interesting. But within your hotels, you’re self-operating in some of your hotels as well?

Marloes: Yes, we are. So well, in Jeddah and Jordan, we’re not at the moment, but we are in Georgia opening, which is coming up now, Kuwait we are, Egypt we are, and we’re actually going to do. In Egypt, we’re going to do a lot of F and B because it makes sense. So I can’t say it’s always this or always that, it just really a mix. We look at it, if we were the owner, what we would do and what’s available. And also every audience is different. If you’re in a market where the audience is very brand-centric, you better off to have brands and brands. If you are in a market where there’s a greater focus on a holistic approach… For example, we’re doing a project in Abha, is this eco villa project, we’re next to farms. And already the farmers have said they really want to collaborate and cooperate. So from the beginning, we’re developing farm to table concept, but with them from the beginning, not somebody sitting at their desk, drawing something out, and then seeing if that works.

Woman: This screen technology podcast is sponsored by Blink Charging. Did you know electric vehicle sales are predicted to increase from 3 million in 2020 to 14 million in 2025. Providing electric vehicle charging is a hotel amenity EV drivers need. Blink is the global leader in EV charging and has deployed over 30,000 charging ports in over 18 countries. Attract a higher income demographic, brand your hotels forward-thinking and stand out from the rest. For more information, visit our website at blinkcharging.com.

Jeff: So I’m still sitting here kind of astounded because you have two hotels open, you’ve got this huge pipeline, and developing any individual project seems to be very detailed. It’s a lot of work. And I’m thinking, how are you able to manage this huge amount of growth so quickly and doing the types of projects that you’re doing. They’re far from cookie cutter. How are you able to do that? You must be growing like mad.

Marloes: No sleep and process. One of the things I really have embraced over the last year is the need for not necessarily brand standards, but a processed approach of how to do this. So we built a story for every project, right? When we built a relation with the owners and do the signing, there’s so much information that’s being shared. There’s so many dinners we have, so many gorgeous places we look at. And instead of just saying, that’s part of the development process, we actually capture that. We share that with the team, we make this a piece of the handover than to anybody else. And then every project has a different champion. So it doesn’t matter what your role is in the organization. And the champion is not the person who brings it to life, but is really the one who coordinates it. And then it really follows ESG product neighborhood and goes from there. Once you actually do this and you follow it systematically, as much as every project sounds crazy in its own way, you follow the same philosophy. You follow ESG, mixed-use, people, and locality, and you are working with an owner and you’re working very closely with an owner. So instead of having an interior designer and using products from everywhere else, we try to bring it in as local as possible. We really try to collaborate with an owner because they have most of the information and wealth of experience there. And so once you start doing that smart, I actually probably feel more than ever because I can see how we can grow this out with the way that we’ve built it up.

Jeff: Yeah. There are other challenges right now. You’ve got supply chain, inflation, rising interest rates. How is that playing out?

Marloes: There’s an opportunity as well in that because we’ve been talking ESG for quite a while and we’ve talked community and locality. If you have big agreements on an international level, and you have exclusivity with certain providers, you really in a bad position because you have to wait and the prices are rising like crazy. If you are able to source as much as possible locally, it changes quite a bit. And even though the interest rates are going up, there was a lot of capital available still from this whole COVID period. People are sitting on money wanting to spend it.

So, I think there’s this massive contrast between people saying, “My project is much more expensive than I expected it,” which is a great opportunity for us because they might not be able to finish it as per the brand standard manual. We have brand guidelines. So if you tell me that you can finish X, Y, Z to a great standard, but maybe not all the way, that would be great. And others are saying, “Actually we have the capital. We can see the opportunities. We can see that people want to do transactions and therefore start spending.” I think where there’s a down, there’s always a up and it’s just, you know, it depends on which pond your fishing.

Jeff: I understand. Any multiple owners, developers, or are these all in one after one, after one, you have somebody coming back for more?

Marloes: Pretty much one after one, after one, the owners in Egypt have two and a half thousand keys with us, but we can see now that for example, the owners in Georgia assigned one project a couple of years ago and they signed another two projects just two years ago. So I can see that with the current set of owners, we’re having discussions about further projects that are coming up and people that are interested. And then we have cloud seven mid-market, younger brands, and really maximizing the space where the house is really premium product focused on the experiences within the product. Then we have our space, which is our business hub, and these can be events. It can be private offices, can be co-working or anything in between. And that really goes into every project to ensure that we have a working piece into every project. And that really comes back to these whole digital nomads and everybody now working from somewhere, right? Doing a Zoom call with the bed in the background, however modern we are, it just doesn’t work. It’s just really thinking of where people can work and how they can do that and building up onto that. And then we have our range of F and B brands from Nakhati degelato to Joontos, which says Mediterranean sharing to Nyssa, which is a beach club. And we can run everything with and without alcohol, depending on which part of the world we’re operating in.

Jeff: So the pipeline of some 40 is a mix between house and Cloud 7 pretty evenly?

Marloes: Almost 50-50. Yeah. There’s maybe more difference, but it’s very equal. Yeah.

Jeff: How do you explain that? I mean, why is it kind of worked out that way?

Marloes: Good question. You know, it’s the one question I possibly don’t have a perfect answer to actually, I can’t say it just happened, but it just happened. It’s when you have different locations, right? We don’t just say we need to grow five the house this year, and therefore we’re going to find those and those owners just have to fit. It’s really… And I think Aqaba has definitely helped the Cloud 7 brand as a brandness and such because it’s beautifully done. And the philosophy there was there, or the whole background was Mykonos meets Marrakech at the Red Sea. So you see the words, you see the whites and the blues and you see the Arabic influence. So for a local audience, they feel that they’re somewhere really far away from local, and for an international traveler, they can definitely feel that they’re in Jordan. So the projects really developed through that. So the projects in Abha and the same with the eco villas in [inaudible 00:27:50], they’re both Cloud 7 because it wouldn’t make sense to do a premium upper upscale product. Although when you look at the developments today, they could hit four or five stars easily. But when you develop and you have a development cost at a five-star product in a market that does really well seasonal and not so well off-season, you better off to do mid-market because you can really go with the rates of the city, cream it in the season, not so much off. And you are able to provide the owner a better ROI than just developing this five-star super luxury project every single time. And the one thing that we’ve really tried to avoid is to say to people, “Yes, five star, do five star, do five star. And we really like this picture. Please, can we have it?” We really try to think what makes sense from the location, the owner, and the development, and then go from there.

Jeff: Yeah. So we’re all a work in progress. What do you need to do better?

Marloes: I don’t think I do patience very well.

Jeff: Heck going on. I don’t know how you can remain too patient.

Marloes: On the next piece, I think where… And I have to say I’m a bit wary, but I know that we have to touch is the whole conversation around the metaverse, the twins. Yes. But even the NFTs. And I’ve made this example a number of times, and I always refer back to it. When we did a trial project four, five years ago, there was these owners who came to visit. They’re still very dear to me, large family office. They brought their 10-year-old son and we had this entire day looking at interior design and the concept, the details of the concept, and the brand standards. And at that time we still had standards, not guidelines. And this kid after just simply said, “What’s the fuss about? What does it matter?” And I still remember looking at him going, like, “What are you talking about?” And he just simply said, “This one, you just put some Oculus glasses. And if you want the wall to be pink, make a pink. If you want to be blue, it could be something different every day.” And you just go, like, “What? That’s ridiculous.” You know, but it stayed in my head forever.

If I look today at my cousins, they do play dates from their own living room, playing PlayStation with somebody who’s really not in their living room. And they’re online. They’re together. You know, one looks like this and they’re living this way. They’re not so keen on going out of the door and everything else. And we’re saying, “No, but it’s not supposed to be. You need to see people and you need to talk to them.” And we were saying the same when Instagram came, right? Me on this sofa, me in this chair, me in the whatever. People now are making a living out of that. The company our size could never have grown as much if we didn’t have a platform to share and communicate on. And not just we’re sitting on the sofa, but really where is the industry going? And I think this is something that I’d say we try to embrace without going crazy. So we’re not building the next metaverse at the moment, but we’re definitely keeping a close look at it. And I think what would be great for a company like ours is further collaborations with tech companies, retail companies, etc., who really are a bit more progressive and who really miss this kind of connection to hospitality and for us probably to miss the connection to the crazy future.

Jeff: Yeah. Interesting. Yeah, though, there are a few companies already coming out. CitizenM is building a platform, building their first virtual hotel. And there’s a lot of applications here. If you wanna put the time in, it’s interesting how you have to prioritize.

Marloes: Yes. And think that’s exactly to your point of what the future brings and what can we do better. And I think if you want to be everything to everyone, you almost you’re going to do nothing, right? And so I think at one stage, it’s just, you don’t need to be the trendsetter in everything. There’s certain things that you can follow what’s happening, if that is the demand. And it would be very interesting to see when there is really a serious paying demand for this. It might be sooner. It might be later, but yes, we’re looking at it interested.

Jeff: So speaking of priorities, I understand how focused you are in ESG, which is wonderful. And you see everybody talking the talk, I don’t know how many are really walking the walk. So I’m curious, when it comes to ESG, what’s the most important piece of your soon-to-be-launched ESG brand.

Marloes: Locality I would say is the driving factor for everything. We’re going by the butterfly effect. So really saying that events, small actions can have a massive global impact. And then when you look at what we’re doing really well as the community piece, so the community, the connection to community and bringing that in, we’ve done from the beginning. And it’s something that we can probably help the rest of D&I sounds a bit arrogant, I guess, we can really be an example or people can learn from the things that that we’ve been doing and putting out there and living on the sustainability piece. I’d say that’s the most tough and complicated, but on the other hand, our head technical services. And maybe we didn’t utilize that as well used to be with Starwood at the time, ’78, ’79. I think he went through the whole journey. At that time, there was already conversations on sustainability, but his background and his knowledge is from the times that there was no heating and cooling and everything else.

So he’s really smart in playing with the size of the walls, the MEP that is there, reusing of materials, reusing of the water. I’d say we’re not one of these companies that are trying the newest technology and putting solar panels on every single one of our buildings at the moment and flying, I don’t know, recycled cans from Peru to Saudi because they were recycled there, but we’re increasing the footprint somewhere else. What we’re doing is we look at the locality of where we have a project. We look at what the government initiatives are, what the shortages are, what the possibilities are with regards to materials available. Once that local approach is done, we just decide direction for sustainability, direction for community. And then that builds through the entire project. And so then every project is a little different. And to your point again, is that very labor-intensive? Yes and no. But once you set the rule, it’s so much easier to doing it local than trying to set an overall company global rule that you have to adjust everywhere because every part of the world is so different and the requests and the requirements are so different.

Jeff: What about women you’ve talked about earlier about the gelato company that is, you’re empowering these local women to get the funding. They need to build their business, which is wonderful. What else are you doing as from an inclusivity perspective and what have you identified as the way to go when it comes to promoting women to being more inclusive, how are you addressing that platform?

Marloes: We’re 65% or 70% women in the organization at the moment, the two open projects, both GMs are women. And not because we were recruiting women, or we wanted to have the percentage of diversity up, it just happened. They were just the right people for the job. And I think there’s a big benefit or advantage I have, women hiring women is easier. And I think there is something, and I’ve said this before is you will never hear me say in any interview, it was the guys or we didn’t get the opportunities, or I’ve been very lucky, right? I’m a CEO of a growing company. I’ve had the opportunity to grow this company. But with that comes that I am very little at home and that’s, you know, you can call that a sacrifice or you can call that part of it. But it’s very difficult to run a company, build people, relationships, do everything at home. And unless there’s all of these perfect humans, the day has 24 hours and people still want people interaction. And I think it’s great that the conversation started because I don’t think many of us, men and women, realized how bad the percentages were until we really started concentrating on it and focusing. And I think there has to be some rules and some pushes because else nobody does it because out of free will, you know, nobody really likes to change. But I think as women, we have a great opportunity to buddy and support each other. It’s easier for women to sell other women and promote other women and talk about other women than women talking about themselves.

And I think it’s a bit like when you see a job spec and there is, I dunno, 10 criteria, a lot of women when they see one item that they don’t fulfill and actually not apply where men might see it and say, “That’s just me who never cares about that last point or the last three points.” That’s not something you’re just going to change. That’s nature, right? There’s something in all of us. But even when you look at ethnic diversity, I think we weren’t really looking so far. Now we have a great ethnic diversity because of the locations that we’re operating, right? So it’s much easier because the places we are are so diverse and so multicultural that mean from any part of the world, including South America, as somebody in the team. And we’re only 30 people, right? So we take those boxes, but we don’t take them because we focused on it and we want to be diverse, etc. It’s just part of the culture. And I think there, again, it really depends what kind of culture there is in an organization and how the emotional pieces and the soft bits are important or not important, how hard the games are played, etc.

And this is something that only over time really changes when you listen to the new generation. It’s no longer cool to say, “Oh, I worked 18 hours, six days a week. Look at me.” Yeah, nuh-uh, it’s you look more like the loser than the winner. Building up to be the biggest person in an organization. And it takes you 15 years and you have to crawl through the dust and you will have to take all of the stuff you have to take. That’s not in this generation’s philosophy. So I think with that, it will change anyway. I’m not sure our generation will necessarily change that so much, but I think we have a responsibility to leave something behind that’s responsible and cared for and that we can do our utmost and we say that we did our utmost to support that.

Jeff: If you were standing up in a room in front of your contemporaries, you know, other brand leaders, other developers, other operators and, you know, you had, you know, to explain to them Kerten Hospitality, you know, what would your message be to the global hospitality community at this moment?

Marloes: If I was describing us and just standing us and just really bring across one message, I’d be two things, one, collaborate, and two, look outside of the industry. And we’ve been talking about this for so long, but there’s just such a slow integration of, you know, there’s some people from Google now joining some of the hospitality operating companies. There’s still very little collaboration. If it’s not internal within the hospitality section, it’s with other brands, but we’re one of the only sectors that is still really within their own box and frame, instead of really looking out there. And I think the world is just changing so fast that we have a responsibility to owners as well to change with it, so their assets actually remain profitable and really remain relevant for the future.

Jeff: Thank you for sharing your time. So nice to meet you virtually. Hopefully, you know, we’ll be able to do that face to face in the not too distant future.

Marloes: Thank you very much.

Woman: You have been listening to the “Innovative Hotelier Podcast” by “HOTELS” magazine. Join us again soon for more conversations with hospitality industry thought leaders.