The conversations at most industry conferences in the past couple of years have centered on bad news: lower occupancies, declining rates, falling values, distressed hotels. That seems to be changing, at least that's what I've seen during the first day of the Midwest Lodging Investors Summit, which is underway at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago. Lodging Hospitality is sponsor and producer of the 4th annual event.
At the opening night reception on Sunday, I participated in or overheard multiple conversations among owners, operators and lenders looking to do deals. They weren't wringing their hands or crying in their beer over the sad state of the industry. Rather, they were looking forward to new opportunities in selling, buying and repositioning hotels or even building new hotels.
In one instance, I met the owner of a midscale property looking to refinance. I introduced him to one of the lenders in attendance, and the two of them proceeded on a 30-minute conversation I hope leads to a deal. Another attendee said he's looking to invest in some limited-service, exterior-corridor hotels. Some say that segment is dead, but he believes there's still a market for these kinds of properties. Who can bet against him?
No one at this year's MLIS believes the hotel industry is completely out of the woods, or that a lot of owners still don't feel a lot of pain, but the prevailing mood is one of optimism. I can't wait until next year's conference, when I fully expect this year's optimism to be even more of a reality.