With the hospitality industry returning to pre-pandemic levels and technology giving us unprecedented insight into the guest experience, identity, innovation and the effective management of hotel operations have become more crucial than ever before.
Devin Grosse, CEO of Focus Hotels, has seen the evolution of the industry firsthand, with over 35 years of experience in hospitality. Since joining Focus Hotels as CEO in May 2023, Devin has prioritised the experiences of guests, employees and owners alike. Here, he discusses what sets Focus Hotels apart from its competitors, industry trends for 2024 and some of his highlights as the CEO of Focus so far.
- What is your favourite thing about the hospitality industry?
- What was your first role in hotels?
- What sets Focus Hotels apart from other hotel management companies?
- Why do we believe in what we do?
- What do you see as the most significant trends for hotels in 2024?
- What are some of your highlights as CEO of Focus Hotels so far?
- What’s to come for Focus Hotels in 2024?
- What one piece of advice would you give to hotel operators?
What is your favourite thing about the hospitality industry?
“Working in hospitality is so far from a nine to five desk job, it’s untrue! I love the variety, the people, the ever-changing landscape and the never-ending opportunities for growth and improvement. It doesn’t get better than seeing a hotel reach new heights and knowing that you supported that journey.”
What was your first role in hotels?
“I was a waiter at Ringwood Hall Hotel in Derbyshire at the age of 15. I learned that although the world of work had always sounded boring, having a hotel as your playground was the most fun you could have. By 16, I was running Sunday lunch for 200+ guests with a team of about a dozen staff. I remember realising that if I could do that within a few months of work, then maybe there were no limits to what I, or anyone else, could do to progress in hospitality. Sadly, I had to go back to school on a Monday.”
“Hospitality is about people, and we believe that staying closely connected to the teams, processes, strategies and goals of each hotel is the key to success.”
What sets Focus Hotels apart from other hotel management companies?
“One of our guiding principles is that we’re “big enough to make a difference but small enough to care” – we don’t want to grow so much that we become detached from the teams, the individuals in our hotels or our owners. We have to give our owners value, and they have to know that we will be focused on their asset at all times which is what we strive to always do.
“Hospitality is about people, and we believe that staying closely connected to the teams, processes, strategies and goals of each hotel is the key to success. We have the in-house expertise to cater for every single aspect of hotel operations while having a small enough team to truly care about the work we do for each property we manage. Each member of our central support team knows our hotel teams’ by name – we speak to them daily, celebrate their achievements, and get to know their lives outside of work too. We want it to stay that way – we don’t want to reach a point where that isn’t the case – and I wholeheartedly believe that this is what sets us apart.”
Why do we believe in what we do?
“In short, because it matters. Hotels aren’t simply accommodation or venues; they embody so much more than that. They are sanctuaries and escapes, places of care and protection, community hubs that bring people together. Whether a guest arrives for a one-night stay, a family break, a conference, a wedding or a meeting, if we do a good job, we create joy in people’s lives. We believe in what we do because we care about people. Guest satisfaction drives revenue generation which drives owner returns, and therefore asset value.”
“In such a people-focused industry, those who actively engage with and support their communities, including guests and staff, will reap the most benefits in the long run.”
What do you see as the most significant trends for hotels in 2024?
“I’d say there are three – one being sustainability, two, data and technology, and three, the impact of exclusive use contracts.
“Sustainability is a given for any hotel. In such a people-focused industry, those who actively engage with and support their communities, including guests and staff, will reap the most benefits in the long run. ESG is also particularly important to young people, who form a vital part of the hospitality workforce and seek employment with companies that take sustainability seriously.
“I truly believe that progress over perfection is what really matters here. Capital spending can be incredibly complicated, but incorporating sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices makes sense at every level. The ESG cycle involves assessing priorities, focusing on profit-generating activities, and using the proceeds to address other sustainability goals and make more significant strides in the long-run, creating a continuous cycle of improvement. The reality is that, while any effort is better than nothing, improvements in ESG practices often coincide with increased profitability; successful businesses excel in ESG practices, and the better a business performs, the more it can afford to invest in ESG initiatives.
“I can’t foresee any year where technological advancement is not a key trend for the hospitality industry – or any industry come to that! For hotels, it’s about harnessing the power of the latest technology to streamline processes, gain insights into guest patterns and preferences, and improve efficiency across the board. Hospitality is human interaction at its core, so technology and artificial intelligence are never going to replace that, but let’s use it to spend our time wisely, evaluate our work and take some of the pressure off our teams. For example, data and technology are telling us that the experience-based travel trends, catalysed largely by the stagnation of the pandemic, are only set to grow. Now, we can tailor our hotel strategies, from revenue and marketing to operations and design, to what guests want and need, creating highly personalised experiences that feel completely unique to each individual.
“Finally, it is essential that we pay close attention to developments in exclusive use contracts this year. This is applicable to every single hotel, whether they are in exclusive use or not. As of the end of September 2023, year-to-date occupancy rates remain consistent with the same period in 2019, bolstered by 400 hotels in exclusive use. Currently, hotels that aren’t in exclusive use will be performing better, but it is imperative that hoteliers take the return of these assets to the market into consideration. It is likely that they will have undergone refurbishment during this period, and many will be in a better state than those that are currently open to the public. Now is the time to invest in capital expenditure, and those that take a proactive and forward-thinking approach to this matter will be better prepared to fight the refurbished stock coming back into the market, whether that be this year, next year or further ahead.”
What are some of your highlights as CEO of Focus Hotels so far?
“There have been too many to name! I’m a very process-driven person, so I’m particularly proud of the work we’ve done to refine and enhance our systems and ways of working. Most notably, we’ve introduced a new scorecard for our hotels and central support team to ensure that everyone is working in alignment with the same goals and measurements of success.
“The growth in our central support team and hotel portfolio is also incredibly exciting. We recently secured management contracts for some truly exceptional hotels, with more to follow in 2024. Getting the full team together at Christmas was a key moment, reinforcing the sense of unity and purpose across our organisation. I think everyone feels that we’re building something really special. Finally, we are welcoming some really great people as we grow: our new HR Director, another Operations Director, and our revenue, marketing and finance teams have all expanded to name just a few. It’s a really great time for Focus Hotels right now.”
“We are committed not only to meeting the challenges of the evolving industry landscape but proactively leading and innovating within it.”
What is to come for Focus Hotels in 2024?
“2024 is set to be a fantastic year for Focus. We certainly anticipate further expansion, fostering growth in both our central support team and hotel portfolio. This growth will be backed by the implementation of a diverse range of strategic initiatives surrounding ESG, operational refinement, investment in our properties and beyond. Above all else, we are committed not only to meeting the challenges of the evolving industry landscape but proactively leading and innovating within it; an approach that will guide every action we take in the coming year.”
What one piece of advice would you give to hotel operators?
“Keep it simple. Let’s remember what we do; we sell sleep, so do it well. We sell experiences, so do them well. There’s no need to overcomplicate it. Look after guests – it’s why we are here. Look after our teams and they will look after our guests. Tired hotels are a false economy, so look after our hotel properties. And finally, look after our owners; we have nothing without them!”
At Focus, we are dedicated to driving your business’ performance and long-term success. If you’re looking for a management partner to guide all aspects of your hotel’s operations, reach out to Devin via email or LinkedIn to find out more about how Focus can support your goals.