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By Georges Panayotis

Like it or not, politics necessarily enter the world of tourism, and President Trump's recent decisions to limit access to the United States are another demonstration of this. But Tourism, as an economic sector, cannot possibly flourish without political implication at the highest level. In this regard, French professionals are suspended in an uncertain void. There is no recent declaration, no evidence from the "Supervisory Minister" that would support our sector a "national priority". 

The directors of several major American hotel groups have asked the administration and their president to modify their restrictive policy in terms of visas and reception of foreign visitors on American soil. The US Travel Association, which brings together American tourism professionals, already foresees a significant drop in arrivals in 2017, due to "very negative messages" from President Trump. The association is concerned about "severe damages" resulting from the impact of this decrease on a business worth 246 billion dollars in foreign exchange revenue. According to experts, the risks are even more brutal than the impact of 9-11 on tourism business following 2001. "It took several years for us to recover," insists the spokesperson of the US Travel Association. 

Politics also impact investments when this or that nation is the focus of the news. Today, the focus is on Qatar because of its equivocal role in financing jihadist organizations. The French government is now concentrating on its very - too - favorable fiscal status that Qatari funds have benefited from since  investing significantly in corporations and the country's real estate treasures. We may legitimately wonder what consequences the fits of temper the different Qatari funds will have since they are particularly present in France's upscale hotel supply. French investors have every reason to be surprised about these considerable fiscal advantages since they are unable to get full financing or public assistance for developing and restoring the current tourism supply.

While politics upset economic models and growth forecasts, and make strategic reversals necessary, a total absence can be just as damaging to the health of the tourism sector. Political candidates have been given warning and advice, and also listened to for their view of an industry that drives growth. Since the Government's appointment, all is silent. The "national priority" is now a forgotten sector, not totally orphaned since its supervision has been transferred to the Ministry of European Affairs. But it's hard to know what will be done with it. The most optimistic among us are waiting for the legislative elections and confirmation of current staff which could tackle the problem. The most doubtful among us wonder if there won't be a revival of polite indifference towards Tourism, which is desperately unable to act as an influential group or or lobby to apply pressure. 

The bright spell was short-lived. It is not enough to be connected to a leading sovereign minister, the owner also must want to be involved, the way Laurent Fabius was. Without expecting everything to come from politicians, the fight to win market shares in order to exist on the global battlefield needs a strategy, a Commander in Chief who chooses the land, sends out scouts, activates information and uses foresight... Otherwise, no matter how determined it may be, the army of professionals loses in efficiency and motivation without firm support from its leaders.  

We have a few weeks left to be reassured or disappointed, while the context is far from being very favorable.

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is President of MKG Consulting. Born in a family of hoteliers for three generations, Georges Panayotis, left Greece at the age of 18 to pursue his studies in Political Sciences and to obtain his Master in Management at the French University of Paris Dauphine. He then joined the Novotel chain, which will become the Accor Group, to manage the International Marketing Division. After developing specific marketing tools for the hotel industry, he left the group in 1986 to start his own company, MKG Conseil, now MKG Group. In twenty years, the group has become the European leader in studies and consulting for the Hospitality industry. The company employs over 70 people in four departments: marketing studies, database, quality control and trade press, with two publications HTR Magazine and Hotel Restaurant Weekly.

The company helped the development of over 2,000 hotels in France and in Europe, with offices in Paris, Cyprus and London. Georges Panyotis is the founder of the Worldwide Hospitality Awards and the Hotel Makers Forum, and the author of several publications on Marketing and Operations in the hotel business, He is a regular consultant for several television channels, among which Bloomberg Television, and radio networks.

Contact: Georges Panayotis

g.panayotis@mkg-group.com

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