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Event Highlights – Session Five – The Changing Consumer

Event Highlights


Lockdown life forced people to go online for practically everything. Businesses responded by enhancing digital offerings, drawing more customers to the web. Now, it’s hard to see people returning to pre-virus behavior; yet some consumers are doing just that. We look to what the future holds for commerce.

Speakers included:

  • H.E. Dr. Hanan al-Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, The State of Qatar; Managing Director, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC)
  • Eng. Mohamed al-Sadah, Chief Executive Officer, Hassad Food
  • H.E. Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairman, Qatari Diar 
  • Thomas J. Barrack, Founder, Colony Capital
  • Anthony Capuano, CEO, Marriott International 
  • Dr. Jeffrey Cheah, Founder and Chairman, Sunway Group
  • Adrian Cheng, CEO and Executive Vice-Chairman, New World Development
  • Bruce Flatt, CEO, Brookfield Asset Management 
  • H.E. Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia
  • Rita Marques, Secretary of State for Tourism, The Republic of Portugal
  • Roberto Marques, Executive Chairman and Group CEO, Natura &Co
  • Prof. Benedict Oramah, President, African Export-Import Bank
  • Sylvestre Radegonde, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, The Republic of Seychelles
  • H.E. Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal
  • Rob Speyer, President and CEO, Tishman Speyer
  • Barry Sternlicht, Chairman & CEO, Starwood Capital Group
  • Jane Sun, CEO, Group
  • Jacopo Venturini, Chief Executive Officer, Valentino

Bloomberg Moderators included:

  • Haslinda Amin, Television Anchor, Bloomberg
  • Romaine Bostick, Host, Bloomberg Television
  • Simone Foxman, Middle East Correspondent, Bloomberg Television
  • Mallika Kapur, Deputy Global Editor, Bloomberg Live
  • Yvonne Man, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
  • Carol Massar, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
  • Taylor Riggs, Correspondent, Bloomberg Television
  • Haidi Stroud-Watts, Anchor, ‘Daybreak Australia’ and ‘Daybreak Asia’, Bloomberg Television
  • Zain Verjee, Host and Executive Producer, Qatar Economic Forum

Below are some highlights from the session. Click here to register and access the full interviews.

Thomas J. Barrack, Founder, Colony Capital, believes there’s massive amounts of stimulus going to everybody instead of the right people and sees inflationary consequences as a result. However, he said that real estate always ebbs and flows with interest rates and inflation, and the bigger challenge is catching up with other asset classes being driven by technology’s warp speed. Barry Sternlicht, Chairman & CEO, Starwood Capital, agreed with Barrack that stimulus had been damagingly overdone. “We have over 9 million empty jobs in the U.S. and we can’t find workers. The incentive not to work, resulting from the over stimulation from the Fed, and then trying to cure things wholesale with giant cheques when really the private markets would do a better job of distributing private capital is a noble effort but a poorly designed program.”

“Sustainability is like a second nature to young generations,” according to Adrian Cheng, CEO and Executive Vice-Chairman, New World Development. It’s a trend that explains the success of the company’s most recent residential project, Pavilia Farm – the first sustainability infused residential project with an onsite farm – which has broken a 20 year sales record in Hong Kong. 

H.E. Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairman, Qatari Diar; Bruce Flatt, CEO, Brookfield Asset Management; and Rob Speyer, President and CEO, Tishman Speyer, hit an upbeat note in their discussion on today’s outlook for global commercial property. Flatt said: “Life is about phases, people have to adjust, and they’re all coming back to the office. It’s just inevitable. We’re seeing it in the cities that are opening up around the world, it’s just happening at a slower pace in some places.” H.E. Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani echoed Flatt’s sentiment: “at a macro level, office space demand will continue for big corporations, technology firms, and professional services that rely on large talent pools and look for the best locations and spaces.” Speyer agreed with both sentiments. He used the example of Tishman Speyer’s purchase of a building in Sunnyvale, California a couple of months ago which had a 50% discount to its pre-Covid value.  Within 30 days of closing the deal, Speyer said that the entire campus was already leased to two tech companies, thus demonstrating the returning appetite for office space.

Dr. Jeffrey Cheah, Founder and Chairman, Sunway Group, assessed the development of smart sustainable cities post-Covid. “We are integrating technology more deeply into our operations in Malaysia to help reduce the townships’ carbon footprint. Sustainability and profitability can go hand in hand and we can all do well by doing good. I hope what we are doing at Sunway will inspire other companies in the region to adopt sustainability as the default choice,” he said. 

Despite fashion being one of the most polluting industries in the world, Valentino has developed a reputation for being a “green” brand. Speaking about the company’s commitment to the environment and to sustainability, Jacopo Venturini, CEO, Valentino, said, “Our mantra is very much to preserve and to give back.” Valentino recently announced it is going fur free. In response to a question about whether Valentino can truly be a green brand while it still uses leather, Venturini said “I think you cannot decide to be a green brand one day from the other. It’s a process and we are committing to be as sustainable as possible because we truly believe this is the only direction we can grow but at the same time, you are not becoming fully sustainable in one leap. We are going to do it step by step.”

Roberto Marques, Executive Chairman and Group CEO, Natura &Co, said that the company’s vision 2030 Commitment to Life has three key pillars: to achieve Net Zero by 2030, tackle social inclusion and diversity, and to drive circular and regenerative ways of operating the business. “Our commitment is to achieve 100% of our packaging to be either reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2030,” he said. Marques added that Natura &Co is also committed to achieving at least a 50% gender balance at the company and to having 30% of their workforce from underrepresented parts of the population as part of their 2030 Commitment to Life. 

In response to the question of whether there has been any evidence to suggest that the source of Covid-19 was a lab leak, H.E. Dr. Hanan al-Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, The State of Qatar; Managing Director, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), said, “there has been a thorough investigation done by the WHO and that investigation does not indicate it was a lab leak, there is another phase of investigation so we will see more as we proceed.” Moving on to the topic of the standing of women in Qatar, a country that has a largely patriarchal system, H.E. Dr. Hanan al-Kuwari said, “Qatar has one of the largest number of educated women, there are more women that graduate from universities than men, there are women working across very important sectors across the country.” She added that empowering women and furthering the rights of children and the rights of children with special needs are topics discussed regularly by cabinet ministers in Qatar. 

In a panel on the future of travel and tourism, Anthony Capuano, CEO, Marriott International, described the recovery at Marriott as steady. “While it varies fairly significantly from city to city and country to country, right now, we stand on a global basis, just a shade under 50 percent – and rising, which is encouraging,” Capuano said. He said the recovery is being led by leisure travel in the United States, however, in China, which is Marriott’s second largest market, business travel in March this year was ahead of business travel in March, 2019.

Jane Sun, CEO, Group, noted that domestic travel within China has recovered significantly. International travel is still lagging as travel between countries depends on specific quarantine rules and restrictions in the destination country. “When we look at our search results, the pent up demand is very strong so I think people have the money to travel, have the eagerness to travel, now we are just waiting for the right time for the borders to open when they can travel freely and safely around the world,” Sun said.

Rita Marques, Secretary of State for Tourism, The Republic of Portugal, said the trend in inbound travel is positive and pointed out that the travel is mostly from countries in Europe. Though she hopes to see travel pick up later in the summer, it will take a while to see a significant rebound. “Most international authorities that work in the tourism sector believe we will only have the 2019 numbers in 2023, so we will take a while till we get the numbers we had two years ago, pre-pandemic,” she said.

Sylvestre Radegonde, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, The Republic of Seychelles, talked about the importance of the Indian Ocean to the Seychelles. Radegonde identified three key pillars of the blue economy as: economic, social equity, and ocean health. “I think countries need to look at the sectors that they currently have in place, see how it is impacting the ocean – is it negative? How can they resolve that?” How are they impacting climate, because the ocean and climate are so interlinked?” she added.   

Eng. Mohamed al-Sadah, Chief Executive Officer, Hassad Food, said that technology and R&D is helping to close the gap on the environmental challenges that affect local food production in Qatar. Green houses, vertical farming and the adaptation of climate to increase yields were some of the creative solutions that al-Sadah noted as successful solutions. 

H.E. Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, said if we have truly learned lessons from this crisis, then we should reimagine the world. “First of all we must give meaning to the real economy, that brings progress and well being to humanity, by investing in sustainable agriculture, livestock and fisheries, water, sustainable energies, infrastructure, health and training. Reimagining the world means access to vaccines for all, to promote collective immunity. In the face of a global challenge we need a global solution, instead of vaccine nationalism,” he stated.

H.E. Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia talked about the global changes we’re witnessing and emphasized the importance of sustainability. “The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly transformed the world in which we live in. As we’re regrouping our thoughts, economies are opening and new foundations are laid in order to adapt to the modern challenges. We should concentrate on finding solutions that will stand the test of time.” Garibashvili continued, “We have a very heavy burden on our shoulders in these times, and only those who invest in sustainability, inclusivity and in human capital will be the ones who will be truly able to embrace the future.”


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