As we get ready for another ALIS conference, here are some interesting trends to watch for in the hallways and on the panels:
- Attendance: The number of people sitting in the opening session is always a good indicator of how the industry feels about itself. Conference organizer Jim Burba is optimistic, and I always find it interesting to estimate the ratio of people in breakout session versus doing deals in the hallways.
- Operators’ mood: While transient demand numbers seem to have stabilized, group demand is still wanting. It will be interesting to hear about the level of group demand on the books compared to advance booing trends in 2008 and 2009. More importantly, what are the rates that group organizers are asking for, and are group hotels offering discounts off 2009 average daily rates? Initial indications are there will be substantial discounting, and that would not bode well for a rate recovery until 2011.
- Lender bias: Lenders and investors have been beaten up pretty badly during the past 15 months, and it will be interesting to see if and where they see a silver lining. What markets, hotel types and cap rates are en vogue, if any? Top 25 markets with high barrier to entries were always the safe haven during uncertain times; is that still the bias of the lending community this year?
- Special servicers’ point of view: More than ever before, special servicers of under-performing loans will roam the halls (disguised, of course) to learn and listen. It will be interesting to try to figure out what they perceive as the main issues that haunt hotel real estate loans and how they think 2010 will unfold.
- The big splash: ALIS is a perfect time to launch a new product, chain, division (yes—we too are launching something: STR Analytics; check out www.stranalytics.com). I am curious about which press release can cut through the clutter and will be the buzz of the opening reception.
- Lounge lizards: Even though most folks will be wearing a badge, the number of dealmakers, advisors, etc., who are just meeting in the lobby to talk may be a good indicator of two things. First, that they still can’t afford to attend, and second, that they think there may be hope (why else would they come?).
- Global hot spots: Which markets and countries are most frequently mentioned when developers and operators talk about their non-U.S. pipeline? Are the BRICs countries still hot, or are smaller developing (or developed) countries the focus?
Lastly, I am proud and honored to work for the man who will receive the ALIS Lifetime Achievement Award this year—our CEO and founder Randy Smith. I not only consider him a visionary like no other in our industry, but also a great friend and confidant. If not for him and his wife Carolyn, I would not have had the unbelievable opportunity they provided me nor would I be the man I am today. And for that, I can never thank them enough. For those of us in the Smith Travel Research family, they have both been lifetime achievement winners, both personally and professionally during the past 20 years!
I hope you will attend the Tuesday luncheon to help me show our appreciation for this remarkable entrepreneur. In addition, HotelNewsNow.com is hosting a small get together on Tuesday night to toast this industry pioneer; please reach out to one of the STR folks if you would like to attend. We’d love to have you celebrate with us.
See you in San Diego!