Business travel will focus on sustainability in 2022 – Business Traveler


Raoul Thomas is CEO and Founder of Miami-based CGI Merchant Group, which has partnered with Hilton to open three new “conscious” hotel brands.

“Consumers are keen to see significant changes, so our decision was to have a unique operating model tied to brands and values, and for us, it was brands focused on an ESG strategy. We believe that E and G (In ESG) standards are there for us – we have green buildings, we will be energy efficient and we will ensure recycling, but we want to focus on the social part.

“What we are saying is that we will give one percent of the highest income to the communities around our properties, and over time that will add up to millions of dollars over the year. We believe the communities around us must thrive for our investment to be valuable over time. It doesn’t make sense to have a beautiful high-rise building in an urban center where everything around it is impoverished. The more we can influence and stimulate development and make progress in the human needs around us, the more the value of our asset increases. “

“We would like to try to encourage clients to experience investments outside of the hotel. So, for example, if we give microcredits to a nearby restaurant, we would encourage them through the concierge to go to the farmer’s market and have dinner in the neighborhood at that restaurant, and we believe from our studies that they want this kind of experience beyond the hotel walls, and we believe that awareness and engagement will bring a lot of brand loyalty.

“On the business side, our studies have found that people will pay a five percent premium on the Average Daily Rate (ADR) and also stay longer. We also believe that as you go through cycles in the hospitality market, customer loyalty will be stronger where they see strong brand values. So we’re saying it increases over time, but to be clear, that percent of the revenue comes from us, not consumers. It is not a levy on the hotel room. And we want to make sure that we can measure the good that has been done, and we have contracted with a third party group to measure it, so if you are staying at one of the hotels, you can see the difference that the money has been earned.

“So far we have two hotels in Miami: one of them will be the Gabriel Miami Downtown and we just acquired another hotel on Ocean Drive which will become the Gabriel South Beach. In total, we have three brands: the Selina brand which will be under the Hilton LXR brand, the Gabriel which will be under the Curio and the Kelsey which will be under the Tapestry by Hilton brand.

“We have also signed up for another hotel in Atlanta that will open in 2023 under the name Kelsey. It sits next to the Atlanta Morris Brown College, a historically black university (HBCU) built in 1881, with a campus a stone’s throw from Mercedes Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons NFL. The university is launching a hospitality program, so we were able to ask Hilton to help develop the program, expand their staff as visiting professors in the program, and we can also recruit talent from this program for our hotels. You can do good while making money.

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