The sun may have been shining in San Diego on Sunday afternoon, but attendees at the 2009 Americas Lodging Investment Summit looked like they had all been caught in a deluge when they arrived at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
Lack of liquidity, looming debt maturations, lackluster metrics—the industry’s best and brightest had been carrying this baggage long before they packed up their suitcases for the conference. They saw signs of the downturn in August. They began to feel it in September. And for most of them, they’ve been living with it ever since.
The fourth quarter of 2008 was one of the worst in the industry’s history. Year-over-year quarterly occupancy was down 8 percent, ADR fell 1.9 percent and RevPAR dropped 9.8 percent, according to data just released by STR. Arthur de Haast of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels said the transaction volume was akin to that in the fourth quarter of 2001, when the blow struck on 9/11 left the industry reeling.
Amidst all this clatter, there were a few optimists in the bunch. Economist Todd Buchholz predicted an economic rebound by the third quarter of 2009. Mark W. Elliott, senior managing director of Hodges Ward Elliott forecasted the turn for the fourth quarter of 2009.
The vast majority, however, held off hope until mid to late 2010.
Yet despite so much negativity, despite all the gloom and doom, the mood seemed to lighten by Wednesday, the final day of conference programming. Yes, 2009 would still present challenges. That message rang clear in nearly every panel, presentation and post-programming reception. But by hearing about those challenges surrounded by approximately 2,000 industry peers, they didn’t seem so devastating, overwhelming or unsurpassable.
2009 will indeed be difficult, but it will be difficult for everyone.
“We’re all in this together,” said Jim Burba, the conference’s organizer, during his closing remarks.
And by the time everyone packed up and left that same afternoon, it seemed that we would all be able to solve it together as well.