I spend a lot of time studying hotel regulatory filings and poring over the guidance issued by public hotel companies to get a sense of the direction the sector is headed.
While a lot of information can be gleaned from those sources, there is another resource that I believe is just as valuable: the view from those in the trenches.
At the Residence Inn conference last weekend, I had the opportunity to chat with Melissagale Lechelt, GM of the 151-room Residence Inn by Marriott Dulles Airport at Dulles 28 Centre in Virginia and David Murphy, GM of the 231-room Residence Inn by Marriott Sunnyvale Silicon Valley 1 in California.
Certainly, you cannot put together a complete picture of where the industry is standing from the comments of two GMs, but nonetheless there is value in taking a peek at what people out on the front lines are witnessing.
- Lechelt said her property had a “great” 2010, with occupancy higher than 86%. By comparison, the United States extended-stay segment notched 2010 occupancy of 70.2%, which was up 9.2% year-over year, according to STR data.
- She is noticing an increase in the number of tour groups from China and Japan visiting her region. Murphy is seeing more travel from India as well.
- Murphy believes the industry and overall economy are in the midst of a rebound. The research-and-development businesses near his hotel are going strong, which he sees as a good sign for other industries, too.
- Companies have loosened travel budgets and the corporate traveler has returned, both GMs said. Employees, Lechelt said, are being told, “Your job is not at your desk. Get out and travel.”
- Families are also traveling more, leading to higher occupancy per room at Lechelt’s hotel.
- Channel lineup and high-speed Internet are two things guests value most, Murphy said.
- “We’re on the road to recovery,” Murphy said. “It’s going to be a good year. Demand is back for us.”