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Ashmore confident recovery in sight
Hyatt International is expecting the second half of 2009 to be better in terms of customer demand than the first.
Andrew Ashmore, its vp sales and marketing for EMEA, said he was "confident" business would improve in the autumn with September, October and November seeing a rise in corporate travel.
He said that March and April had been "quite good months" for Hyatt in London after poor results in January and February.
"Two out of four months is not a basis for saying there is a recovery but May is looking good. We shall wait until October before we know," he said.
"But while it is hard out there, it is not a disaster. No one could tell what was going to happen in December.
"January, with people not returning to work until the 12th was a write off and February was wobbly.
"But people have to travel and things began to pick up in March so it has not all been gloom and doom."
Mr Ashmore said that Hyatt's policy during the downturn was to keep its rates in tack. "The overall strategy has been one of rate integrity.
"We have had to bring it down in some circumstances but we have learnt from experience that if you bring the rate down, it is a five, six, seven year cycle to get it back up again," he said.
"Where we can we will manage this but it is not working everywhere because some of it is out of our hands, like Moscow, Almaty (in Kazakhstan) and Kiev (Ukraine), places where there has been some unrest.
"But in key destinations and with key brands, you have got to hold out."
He said there was also a danger when dropping rates that service levels suffered. "Even with a 45% occupancy with people paying €200 a night, you have got to manage service levels. If you make cuts, it has to be where they do not affect the customer."
But Mr Ashmore admitted that Hyatt had been "savaged" by some corporate customers.
"Big corporate accounts have come in looking to save €50-80 a night on what they were paying two years ago," he said.
He said a positive outcome of the tough times was that hotels had been taught to be less complacent about the good times in the past.
"It has given us the opportunity for a leaner budget. So what we will be is a bit more cautious about spending in the future.
"I am certain with our rate philosophy that we will come into the good times more quickly than those hotels which have cut their rates. I am horrified to think how they will bounce back.
"The good times will come back but they may not be as good as they were before."