Random thoughts from the meeting rooms and hallways of this week's America Lodging Investment Summit in San Diego:
• Despite new forecasts of a 10-percent dip in RevPAR for the year, few speakers spoke of the hard-to-swallow numbers. Rather, the talk was when the industry turnaround will begin, not if or even how. This isn't a crowd given to hand wringing or quiet sobbing. The prevailing sentiment is that as a group of smart, creative and experienced entrepreneurs, the hotel industry will find a way out of its current problems, that tomorrow will be better than today, that the cycle will turn and that prosperity will reign again. Is this all healthy optimism or one of the stages of grief? Time will tell.
• Hotel brand and operator companies alike are moving swiftly and decisively to mitigate the effects of the downturn. A number of operators, including Robert Habeeb of First Hospitality and Doug Dreher of The Hotel Group, told me they're aggressively increasing their sales and marketing efforts and resources, including requiring general managers to take a more-prominent role in sales. On the brand level, Andy Cosslett, InterContinental Hotel Group's Chairman Andy Cosslett said the company increased its worldwide sales staff by 30 percent “as a quick and effective way to shift business into our hotels.”
• Even executives immersed in the transactions market see opportunity in an environment that doesn't appear to have much. Steven Mckenzie of Eastdil Secured told an audience that when it comes, the rebound in the transactions market will be “even more dramatic than the period following the recession of the early 1990s. Unlike then, we have no supply issues and there are billions of dollars waiting on the sidelines for the right opportunities.” Still Rob Koger of Molinaro Koger made what may be the best argument to acquire hotels: “If you think we're heading into a depression, you should sell everything; if you think we're in a recession, buy everything.”