Many first-time hotel developers are clueless about managing operators: Francis Lee

by | 09 Feb 2020 | People

Francis Lee was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Shanghai in Dec 2019. (Photo by Rahul Venkit)

Owners always want to build a five-star resort with a four-star budget and six-star return, but the only strong brand value can make this possible, says Francis Lee, Senior Principal Consultant, Francis K Lee Hospitality Specialist.

After decades of hospitality experience with the likes of big chains such as Shangri-La, Hilton, Radisson and Gensler, architect-by-training Francis Lee set up his own consultancy in Hong Kong at the end of 2018.

As Senior Principal Consultant of Francis K Lee Hospitality Specialist, Lee provides full-scope services to hotel owners from recruitment of operators to design management.

On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Shanghai 2019, Lee spoke exclusively to TOPHOTELNEWS about the challenges of balancing the tug-of-war between hotel owners and operators, both of whom are savvier than ever.

On the diverging interests of hotel owners and operators

Lee: A lot of hotel first-time hotel developers are clueless when it comes to managing operators. Operators usually have their own interests. Owners and investors pay for operating expenses, which is why operators always ask for more.

My first priority is safeguarding the budget. But at the same time, we have to respect the operators as they are in charge of brand refinement. So it’s always a tug of war between the two. My role to help act as a bridge between the two parties.

Without the brand, hotels couldn’t survive as an enterprise

Lee: I would say when hotel developers and owners become more sophisticated, they probably understand where the operator is coming from because they too have to protect the brand. The brand is the core value. Without the brand, hotels couldn’t survive as an enterprise.

For example, the operator doesn’t spend any money as an investment but at the same time, they enjoy having their name on top of the building after it’s completed. So they have their reputation and trademark to protect. At the same time, owners have their own interests. They always want the lowest budget. They would always like to build a five-star resort with a four-star budget and a six-star return. It’s always the case.

Where will future hotel development opportunities come from in China?

Lee: I would say in tier 2 cities, broadly. For example, we heard today that Chengdu is full of potential. I spent five years in Chengdu and know it’s developing and its people are receptive to international brands. So, I honestly think Chengdu will be the next city in which to build.


Lee: It’s my first time at the TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR conference. I think you have done something very successfully — that is given us an opportunity to mingle with other operators and designers as well as suppliers.

Francis Lee was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Shanghai 2019. To attend, address or sponsor our boutique hospitality networking events around the world in 2020, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.



The TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR is a series of one-day conferences around the world for hospitality leaders.