Next week's Americas Lodging Investment Summit will provide the hotel industry with a good early barometer to the outlook for the business in 2012. And, as it is at most industry conferences, it won't necessarily be what is said on the podium of various general sessions and breakout discussions that will be important. The real mood of the conference (and the industry) will be divined in the thousands of conversations held in three days in the hallways, hospitality suites, bars, restaurants and coffee shops of the host hotel, the JW Marriott at LA Live.
Everyone going to next week's ALIS wants to be optimistic, but nearly everyone will approach the meeting with at least a few nagging doubts in their minds: Where is the economy headed? What will be the end game in the European financial crisis and how will that affect the U.S. and our tourism industry? Who will win the presidential election in November, and how will that change the economic outlook? Obviously, ALIS won't produce any clear-cut answers to these questions and others, but most attendees will walk away from the meeting feeling either good or bad about what's ahead.
ALIS conference chairman Jim Burba and his crew seem to have an optimistic outlook. Last summer, the ALIS planning committee met in Dallas to design the 2012 program. At that meeting, Burba said the conference theme was “Rebound.” However, he wasn't sure whether Rebound should be followed by a question mark or an exclamation mark. Apparently, optimism won over, as the official conference collateral material boldly shouts the theme as “Rebound!”. That may be an unscientific indicator, but it shows some in the industry believe 2012 will be even a better year than was 2011, which was pretty good.
Naturally, this year's ALIS has its share of star-power speakers (Bill Marriott, Sam Zell, Donald Trump), but there are a few less star-studded sessions that should provide a good sense of where the business is headed. A pair of panel discussions on Tuesday—one with private equity fund executives and the other with leaders from hotel REITs—will be a good barometer of who's buying what in the coming year. And the final session of the conference, the annual scrum among members of IREFAC, will probably produce a lively, often-humorous, but only occasionally definitive outlook for the hotel investment climate.
Given last week's announcement of Room Key, the six-brand online booking consortium, distribution, revenue management and social media will be another hot topic at ALIS.
This year's ALIS is on track to have the second-largest number of attendees since 2007, which set the attendance record for the 11-year run of the event. For more information or to register, go to the ALIS website.