Select Page

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

by | 09 Feb 2020 | Experts

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. 


[tweetshareinline tweet=”#Chengdu will be the next big Chinese city in which to build, develop and operate hotels, says F. Lee, Senior Principal Consultant. ” username=”tophotelnews”]



Expert’s Voice: Different hospitality marketing during the virus
Growing Choice Hotels International in the UK an interesting challenge: Tiago Venancio
Expert’s Voice: Can hotels cash in some of the loyalty points we have earned?
ONYX retains the best of Thailand but more than just Thai hotels: Gina Wo
Expert’s Voice: Amid the turmoil, UK hotel industry bands together to fight coronavirus
Easy access to amazing global design really intensifies competition: Laura Chico Arias
Expert’s Voice: When hotels invest in local art, everybody wins
Guests travel the world just to stay at Hard Rock hotels: Sandy Yang
Expert’s Voice: How coronavirus is impacting hospitality across Asia
Guest experience, not design alone, is what people pay for: Markus Engel
TOPHOTELNEWS Influencer: Top hotel venues for LGBTQ+ destination weddings
Expert’s Voice: How AI is improving operations, customer experiences at UAE hotels
Opening hotel properties in United States a huge milestone: Selina CEO Rafael Museri
IHG steadily building impressive luxury hotels collection: Benjamin Hu
Expert’s Voice: Your free guide on what guests purchased in hotels last year
Expert’s Voice: Dying high-street retail should transform into hospitality spaces
Lighting has become the key element of architecture: Boris Duhamel
Expert’s Voice: How real-time guest service impacts the hotel industry
Many first-time hotel developers are clueless about managing operators: Francis Lee
Expert’s Voice: Spain’s main hospitality challenges for 2020


With the online database TOPHOTELCONSTUCTION you will have access to +6,000 hotel projects and all relevant decision-maker contacts.


Pin It on Pinterest