Sitting in the suddenly quiet lobby at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around what went down at ALIS. I guess it's not a surprise there was very little, if any, news to come out of the event, but the positive vibe and optimistic feel from most of the 2,000 attendees were moderately surprising after the dismal results of 2009.
Traditionally a time for major announcements and new product offerings from the major hotel companies, the only real legitimate news to come from the event was Marriott's announcement that the seven Kessler Collection hotels would be the first to join the new Autograph Collection. Beyond that, there was very little. I guess a year with almost no new development, historically low operating results and only a handful of transactions will do that.
Perhaps that's what made the general sense of optimism so surprising. Even after the not-so-good projections from Smith Travel Research and other research firms to open the event, execs from companies like Hilton and Marriott down to the smaller owners and operators in attendance were upbeat and almost excited about the 2010. Even attendance was up this year, the fourth largest crowd ever, according to show organizer Jim Burba.
Realist and brutally honest Laurence Geller of Strategic Hotels and Resorts was almost giddy with excitement during the final session of the event this morning. He boldly predicted a RevPAR increase by this May, just four months from now. The other major players on stage didn't disagree, almost unanimously agreeing there'd be an uptick sometime this year.
I hope they're right.