The mood at the 32nd annual New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference is much better than it was last year. That’s no surprise as the industry was at the bottom of a steep down cycle when the gathering took place at the Waldorf=Astoria in June 2009. But what is mildly surprising as the conference opened at the Marriott Marquis Sunday night with a networking reception was there remains a number of skeptics when it comes to a recovery.
An unofficial poll (that means I asked everyone that I talked to during the two-hour reception the same question) showed about 65 percent of the 120 respondents said the hotel industry is in a recovery, 30 percent said it isn’t, and 5 percent said they simply didn’t know. Clearly it wasn’t a scientific research project, but the results were interesting.
The fact that almost a third of the attendees polled don’t believe there is a recovery yet exemplifies the harsh reality that things are still bad for hotel owners and operators. Not enough people are traveling, there’s still a freeze in the credit market and outside influences continue to batter the hotel industry: oil on beaches, ash clouds in the air, governments and entire monetary units teetering on the edge of disaster. It seems as if Murphy’s Law is in full swing.
Here are some of the interesting comments made during the polling:
- A number of people said the hotel industry abroad was in recovery mode, but not in the U.S.
- “Slow and steady wins the race” was repeated a few times, with the respondents noting that it’s going to be a long recovery process.
- “Fragile” and “cautious” were most often heard by people who took a moment before answering the question.
- The current situation was also described as a “slow, uphill roller coaster.”
- A number of the respondents who said “Yes, the industry is in recovery mode,” also said they based their response on the fact that demand is growing stronger every day.
- Hotel companies are beginning to spend more money on ancillary programs such as marketing and training, and that’s a sign that a recovery has started, according to a number of respondents.
- The most direct answer of the night? “Things are starting to get done, but it is slow. Anything that is getting done these days, whether it’s operations financing or whatever … it’s just so (freaking) difficult.”
And judging from everything that is going on, we shouldn’t expect it to get easier quickly. It will take some time and patience, but it will get done.