The Americas Lodging Investment Summit 2011 was a whirlwind of meetings and receptions and comments about an ongoing recovery. Our data has been clear for a while—demand is back—and it was nice to hear Marriott International president and COO Arne Sorenson support a bullish view from the main stage. And we are not the only company forecasting a better 2011. If you look closely, you see that our 2011 revenue-per-available-room forecast of around 6% is actually quite a bit below the 9% that Mark Woodworth from PKF presented. Interesting to note that our average daily rate forecast is pretty much spot on (STR: 4.2%, PKF: 4.6%) but the difference is in the demand growth (STR: 2.5%, PKF: 5.3%). I never wish for our forecasts to be wrong, but for this year I do hope that PKF’s crystal ball shows the truer future. Maybe at NYU we can clear up which prediction is trending better.
Anecdotally, ALIS 2011 seems to have brought back the frothy days of too much money and not enough inventory on the market, so there is not really a good “deal” out there. As everyone tries to ride the predicted upturn, distressed and foreclosed assets on the market are being overrun with offers, so no bargains are to be had. Of course, I also talked to a banker who was afraid that we are back to the irrational exuberance of expecting too much, too fast, and that maybe “just OK” results in the next few years will put a damper on the industry, forgetting that “OK” is comparably so much better that what we just experienced. Time will tell.
On a personal note, ALIS 2011 was my first presentation in the “major league” of industry conferences. (View the slides.) Mark Lomanno gave me 48-hour notice that he would not be able to get to San Diego in time for the opening presentation, so I spent my weekend preparing an hour for each minute of the 12-minute talk. Richard Branson in his interview talked about facing fears and pushing the envelope and getting the preparations right, and then still being rescued by a helicopter out of the ocean. Not once. Not twice. But six times in his lifetime. But he always shook off that negative experience and got right back into whatever he was trying to accomplish and often with remarkable success. I guess he and I share the philosophy that you can prep and test and rehearse, but ultimately you have to face your fears and step up. And stepping up on Monday morning in front of 1,500 peers, colleagues, and friends was certainly scary—and a rush. And an affirmation that “luck favors the prepared”—because, trust me, prepared I was.
Thanks to all of you for your kind feedback and comments about my presentation—and my tie, which apparently was a hit with some attendees (you know who you are). I am glad we did not need an over-water rescue team to lift me off the stage and judging by some of your comments, the positive outlook I was trying to convey with our data is shared by many attendees and operators across the U.S.
The question of rate growth still looms large and I hope Mark Woodworth’s and my analysis makes operators and brands comfortable to face their own fear about raising rates. I so hope they do; facing your fears can be so rewarding.