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Q&A with Guy Langford, Deloitte

Nowadays, it’s less likely for someone to stay at a company for three years, let alone 20, but when more than a paycheck is offered, it makes committing a lot easier. Guy Langford, vice chairman and U.S. leader of the transportation, hospitality & services industry, and Deloitte risk and financial advisory partner in Deloitte & Touche LLP, has been with Deloitte for more than 22 years—and there’s one thing that’s remained the same at the firm, even though much has changed: its culture and people.

Hotel Business caught up with him to learn more about how Deloitte has evolved over the past 20 years and the current state of the market.

How have you seen the company evolve? Deloitte has been part of my DNA for a long time now. When I originally joined the firm, I picked Deloitte due to the culture and people. Fast-forward to today, the difference is still our culture and our people. We have amazing programs to support our professionals to grow and excel across all our businesses. Personally, I have had four different careers within Deloitte. The firm is much broader and far more complex today with myriad professionals with different skills and capabilities, backgrounds and areas of focus. Our diversity of capabilities and backgrounds provides an amazing ability to serve our clients and their complex needs.

How do you maintain a work/life balance? Work/life balance is a priority for me, and often difficult to achieve all at the same time. With plenty of work travel at times, I need to find time and ways to prioritize my family and my well-being. Sometimes, that involves me tracking and focusing on getting lots of steps with my Fitbit during days of heavy travel and being thoughtful about what I eat. Sometimes, I will make sure I work from home when not traveling, so I can be close by my family.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job? The most challenging part of my job is being able to consistently spend time in the areas that create the most impact and value for our clients and our people. Sometimes, there are challenging people issues to manage, complex client situations to manage, and many stakeholders connected to both. Thoughtful consultation, and transparent and clear communication on these issues and situations, can take a lot of time and pull me from other areas of positive impact.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and I expect it will change even more in the next 10 years. Technology, data, artificial intelligence and robotics will all have a serious impact on how and where work gets done, and the skills/capabilities required. The combination of these elements is also creating new business models that are rapidly scaling today into industry leaders and disruptors.

Today, I work in an industry focused on delivering great transportation and hospitality experiences to customers. In 10 years, I expect to be creating the most positive impact by guiding businesses focused on harnessing tech, data, AI, robotics and people to deliver exceptional, personalized and seamless experiences in the transportation and hospitality ecosystems.

What is the top challenge the market is facing? Talent will be top of mind among hospitality leaders for years to come, simply because the challenge is multifaceted and deeply rooted in broader change. Our workforce is evolving. Cognitive and robotic technologies are maturing. Geopolitical issues are shifting access to labor. And then there’s the factor many in the industry don’t necessarily think about—and that’s rebranding the perceptions around careers in hospitality. How does the industry inspire young people to think twice about it? Our sector offers a lot of choice and opportunity. Hospitality can appeal to a broad range of interests and passions, yet I think some of the numbers are showing that younger generations don’t think about hospitality that way. That needs to change.

Talent is an industry-wide challenge. But the forward-thinkers will ultimately see it as an opportunity to differentiate from their competitors. In the long run, brands that prioritize talent as a critical business asset will be best positioned to succeed.

How would you describe the current M&A market? 2018 was a relatively strong year for M&A activity in hospitality with almost 20 major deals globally. I think the industry can expect activity to continue going forward as brands look to both expand globally and differentiate themselves in the market. We’re heading into an exciting time in hospitality where brands are rethinking the possible. They’re aiming to be more relevant to consumers in their daily lives, and not just those few times a year they take a vacation or travel for business. Whether that’s innovative live/work/play concepts, or new offerings around health and wellness, brands are looking to challenge the traditional hotel concept. M&A can often be a big part of making that happen. 

What are your thoughts on China, and how can an unclear outcome between it and the U.S. impact hospitality? China outbound tourism remains among the biggest growth opportunities sitting in front of the global travel industry. Most are familiar with the trends—rising middle class formation, a growing appetite to see the world, and the expanding airports, air carriers and infrastructure to facilitate long-haul travel. Going forward, attracting Chinese tourists is vital for all international markets, not just the U.S., so it’s important for the U.S. to remain competitive. That being said, unknowns around trade agreements and other forms of global geopolitical risk remain ever-present and inevitable challenges within the industry. Risk mitigation is critical to long-term growth strategies, particularly because little is guaranteed when it comes to inbound demand. Destinations and brands must remain agile. HB

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