Speaking to 250 delegates at the first HOT.E Hotel Investment Conference Europe, Stephen Farrant, director of the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) said that the "the world's prospects for balanced and consistent growth are highly uncertain, and the common assumption that financial growth - as we currently define it - leads automatically to a more prosperous and stable world has been seriously undermined".
Farrant agreed with Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Research, who stated earlier in the conference that "growth is no longer a given". But Farrant went on to outline how our perceptions of growth would have to change in light of economic and political uncertainties.
Smart growth "In my view, it will be companies, not governments, that will engineer the quantum leap we need to see in how to manage the earth's finite physical and financial resources. Getting more for less is going to be critical in the years to come," said Farrant.
An example of 'smart growth', according to Farrant is an initiative aimed at helping hotel businesses to de-carbonise their operations. The joint ITP and WTTC "Carbon Measurement" working group has the active involvement of many leading hotel companies.
In similar vein, Farrant argued that "it will be companies that will redefine their business model to consciously include the world's "have-nots", as employees, suppliers or customers." This, Farrant said is 'inclusive growth'.
He cited the Youth Career Initiative (a six-month education programme that provides disadvantaged young people with life and work skills), as "one of the best examples we have for how this industry can work together to provide entry level opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and, in so doing, to transform their life chances".
In defining 'responsible growth', Farrant gave examples from outside the hotel industry - quoting B&Q CEO Ian Cheshire: "Instead of the goal of maximum linear growth in GDP, we should be thinking of maximum wellbeing for minimal planetary input." In practice, B&Q is rethinking its whole business model and examining a options such as shifting from selling products such as power drills, to leasing them.
Farrant summed up the future growth model for the hotel industry: "We have a unique opportunity to re-think what sort of growth we pursue, to deliver the value that we need. We know that our planet is finite, and business as usual is unlikely to get us to where we want to be."