NYU Day One: Industry leaders hope to spur action
NYU Day One: Industry leaders hope to spur action
06 JUNE 2017 8:37 AM

Talk during the first day at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference underscored the fact that now is not the time for hoteliers to take it easy and sit on the sidelines.

NEW YORK—From the launch of a new brand to calls for legislative outreach, the recurring theme from the first day of the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference was one that underlined the fact that it’s time for members of the hotel industry to be proactive.

The first day kicked off with a call from conference chairman Jonathan Tisch, who is also chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, to actively fight negative perceptions or the lack of understanding of the hotel industry among U.S. policy makers, and news continued throughout the day, including the launch of Wyndham Hotel Group’s new upper-midscale soft brand Trademark.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the first day of the conference.

Day One recap video

Photo of the day

AccorHotels CEO Sébastien Bazin, center, receives the Hotel News Now Stephen W. Brener Silver Plate Award from Hotel News Now Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Ricca, left, and Jeff Higley, VP of digital media and communications at STR and editorial director at Hotel News Now. (Photo: Bryan Wroten)

Quotes of the day
“As Colin Powell has always said … we need to have both secure borders and open doors. Because when it comes to a business as competitive as travel, we need to remember that words matter. Perceptions matter. The way this administration’s policies are portrayed around the world matters. … I’m not raising these concerns as a Democrat or a Republican. … I look forward to working with the Trump administration to promote policies to help America succeed.”
—Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, on the importance of promoting the United States as a tourist destination.

“More and more we’re going from a society of stuff to a society of experiences.”
--Dara Khosrowshahi, president and CEO of Expedia, on the traveling public’s shift from valuing things to experiences.

“As what happens in hostile-type situations, you often push them into someone else’s arms.”
—Rob Hays, CIO, Ashford Investment Management, and chief strategy officer, Ashford, on the “REITality: Own It” panel, talking about Ashford Hospitality Trust’s failed bid for FelCor Lodging Trust.

Tweet of the day

Slide of the day

STR released its revised 2017 forecast down, which now calls for 2.2% revenue-per-available-room growth in 2017, and an increase of 2.5% in 2018. “Average-daily-rate growth has not been as strong this year as we expected,” said Amanda Hite, president and CEO of STR during the “Statistically speaking” panel. (Slide: STR)

Editors’ takeaways

As if they’re schlepping a roller bag crosstown, hoteliers attending the NYU conference appear to be keeping their heads down and plowing ahead on their existing course as they strive to stay out of the path of any potential signs of a downturn. As always, supply growth has been one common theme from the first day of the event. But there’s a certain amount of respect being paid to demand, which seems to be setting new records every month. April was the latest record-breaker as more than 103 million roomnights were sold in the U.S., Amanda Hite, president and CEO of STR—Hotel News Now’s parent company—said during the conference.

Others are taking notice. Leaders point to strong leisure demand as a key reason for the strong demand. Travelers want to experience uniqueness on their trips. “We’re benefiting because people want to be on the road,” said conference chair Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels.

With U.S. year-through-April demand growth at 2.3%, it’s time to start thinking that the good times aren’t going to end any time soon. (Supply growth for the same time period is 1.8%.)

At this point, it doesn’t matter where in the cycle the industry stands. The reality is that the fundamentals remain strong and hoteliers should continue to not think of this a bonus to the end of a cycle, but more of an opportunity to build on the groundwork they’ve laid for continued success while not forgetting they need a plan in place to deal with a downturn when, and if, it arrives.
—Jeff Higley, Editorial Director

Conference chairman Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, set the tone for this year’s conference with a strong call to action for the U.S. hotel industry. On his agenda? Uniting together as a travel industry to promote increased and easy travel to the U.S. from inbound travelers. Citing examples like the Trump administration’s so-called “travel ban” and defunding of Brand USA tourism marketing efforts, Tisch implored attendees to take responsibility for communicating the importance of travel to Washington, D.C. “We cannot be complacent. We cannot sit back and wait,” he said.

His words set the tone for all of the conversations taking place on Day One of the 39th annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, as so many speakers found common ground in the topics of encouraging travel and tourism and giving visitors reasons to choose hotels over alternative accommodations.

With data showing continued strong demand for travel, it’s easy to see how the industry might not want to put any sort of damper on the positive streak it has enjoyed for a record-setting duration. 2016 saw not only record-setting demand, but also record numbers of air passengers, cruise passengers and national park visitors, according to STR President and CEO Amanda Hite. While performance metrics have evened out a bit, with ADR growth not as strong as first imagined, it’s still a good time to be buying, selling and operating in the U.S. hotel industry, according to speakers.
—Stephanie Ricca, Editor-in-Chief

As my colleague Stephanie just pointed out, the first day of the NYU conference kicked off this year with an impassioned plea from Loews’ Chairman and CEO Jonathan Tisch to reach out to policy makers to help them understand the importance of travel on the overall economy. But as inspiring as that message was, it was also a clear message that Tisch, along with many others speaking throughout the day, see the hotel industry as one under assault.

There are plenty of things to worry about at this point: a long-in-the-tooth cycle, recent slow GDP growth, slowing key performance metrics, accelerating supply growth, climbing interest rates, the impact of strong U.S. currency on international travelers and the looming threat of the sharing economy, to name a few. So the idea that the U.S. could be seeing the ill effects of self-inflicted perception issues from recent governmental policies should be concerning for hoteliers on the verge of the summer leisure travel season.
—Sean McCracken, News Editor

In trying to get a read on the mood of the conference, it might sound cliché at this point, but I’m picking up a good deal of cautious optimism from attendees and speakers. No one is under the illusion the cycle will continue forever, but brands are still expanding their global footprints, owners are still making sizeable deals where it makes sense, management companies are trying to drive rate where possible and developers are finding the right conditions for new builds and adaptive reuse work.

Yes, there’s still uncertainty given the volatile political climate in the United States, but domestic hoteliers are aware of the challenges they face and are coming up with plans to work through them. It’s an interesting turnaround from when people were near obsessing over the end of the cycle. Perhaps this is the acceptance phase when people realize that (at least this one) might not be so bad if things continue on as they are.
—Bryan Wroten, Senior Reporter

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