"Demand is back, trust the numbers." That was the message of Smith Travel Research's Jan Freitag to more than 300 attendees at the opening session of the third Hotel Data Conference in Nashville. Demand, up 5.8 % through June year-over-year comparisons, and occupancy (up 5%) are still outpacing average daily rate (up 3.3%) during the industry's recovery.
On the transient side, the industry is selling more rooms than ever before, but group business continues to lag slightly. So why has rate been so slow to follow? "It turns out we didn't learn our lesson from (the) 2001 (downturn)," Freitag told the audience about the industry's quick turn to discounting in 2008. "A lot of people are traveling, we just have to take their money."
On the group side, Freitag said there was little that could be done to improve rate this year, but hoteliers now negotiating rates for next year and beyond needed to be far more aggressive. He said shorter booking windows make it harder, but demand has and will continue to come. "Hold out and trust Randy (Smith)," he said.
The event from STR was held at Gaylord Opryland, where it was scheduled to be last year before major flooding closed the massive resort.