The Quick Six with Rob Sykes

By Eleanor Cardwell
June 15, 2023

Bath, UK

Rob is a seasoned real estate economist with a wealth of advisory expertise. Having worked on a diverse range of projects spanning hotels and resorts, residential real estate, golf clubs, spas, and visitor attractions, he boasts an impressive portfolio.

One of Rob’s key strengths lies in his knowledge of global markets, having recently consulted in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. We sat down with Rob to chat about his passion for the tourism industry, his insights into hospitality trends, and his top recommendations for travel destinations.

Listen to Rob’s episode of The Drawing Board, WATG’s podcast – ‘So, you Bought a Private Island; What Next?’ – by searching ‘The Drawing Board’ on your preferred podcast app.

Portrait of Rob Sykes

What was the first advisory project you ever worked on?

My very first consulting assignment, in 2008, took me to a beautiful development site in Elounda, Crete. That particular client aspired to develop a golf resort on a rocky headland with stunning views over Mirabello Bay. Since this very moment, I’ve been acutely conscious of the impact that tourism development can have on our most environmentally valuable locations. Finding the balance between optimising development economics and working with, rather than against, the landscape poses an ongoing challenge. Thankfully, I should add, this particular project never materialised and the headland remains untouched.

How have the places you’ve visited shaped who you are and the way you think?

I’ve been in tourism and hospitality advisory for fifteen years, approaching 10 years at WATG. I arrived at this place in my career through a combination of luck, fate, relationships, and, debatably, an ounce of hard work. I’ve had the good fortune to meet some inspirational characters along the way, and I’ll be forever grateful for the faith they showed me and the doors that they opened.

I always loved travel. I was drawn to the hotel sector from a young age. As a child, I had a curious excitement when visiting hotels with my family. One of my first jobs was as a barman, waiter & porter within a country house hotel near Bath. I’m often lacking decisiveness, but when it came to selecting higher education in Economics & Tourism, my mind was set.

Mirabello Bay, Elounda, Crete

If you had to pick one design trend to make a comeback or could predict a future trend, what would it be?

We, within the industry, are obsessive about emerging hospitality trends. But it is often forgotten that the typical guest is totally oblivious to these highly nuanced themes. As such, the fundamentals should never be forsaken. That said, I think we will continue to see hotel concepts emerge that are defined by their wellness offering or their food & beverage offering. The rooms component of such hospitality concepts is almost secondary, with their reputations crafted by unique and well-defined amenity offerings.

I’ve managed to discuss trends without using the words ‘lifestyle’ or ‘experiential’… a rare thing. I think we are at a point where it is simply implied that these aspects are reflected within a hotel concept, especially within the premium resort sector.

What three things do you always take on a business trip?

I travel VERY light these days, so no quirky items that would surprise. A travel adaptor is essential, a fully loaded portable charger for my iPhone and AirPods. Two things that travel the world with me, but unfortunately rarely escape my case, are my running shoes and a book… my intentions are good, but time tends to escape me.

La Digue, Seychelles

A large part of your role is to advise on urban and leisure destinations. what is your favorite place to visit?

I have been fortunate enough to visit many beautiful places. While I don’t have one specific favorite, I do always find something exciting about the intimate atmosphere and unique cultural experiences of island destinations. The smaller the better. La Digue in Seychelles, Scilly Isles in Cornwall, Vieques in Puerto Rico, and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Each of these islands has its own unique character and charm, from the stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters of La Digue to the rugged coastline and wildflowers of the Scilly Isles.


One piece of advice to aspiring Advisors?

I’m motivated by working side-by-side with an eclectic mix of clients on unique sites far and wide. The reason that I’ve stayed in the consultant sector so long is the diversity of projects that we gain exposure to. And after fifteen years, the more ‘out there’ the project, the better. It is fun to learn about markets that you have no prior knowledge of and to understand the dynamics that might drive a future hospitality project within that context. Every project, particularly in the resort space, requires a unique response in terms of market positioning, development concept, and business case. I’m motivated by guiding our clients toward the optimal solution for their development site.

Rob recently spoke with Robb Report to discuss the global surge of branded residential properties – read the article here.

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