The NYU International Investment Conference is finally living up to its name as an international meeting. This year, more so than any of the 33 previous editions of the conference, the dominant discussion among most speakers is the vast global growth opportunities available for U.S. hotel companies.
At yesterday morning's CEOs Check In panel at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, all five brand company chief executives stressed their plans for international growth, especially in emerging markets and China in particular. For each brand represented on the panel—Carlson, Hilton, IHG, Four Seasons and Starwood—most development is focused outside of North America. Hilton's Chris Nassetta said 75% of the company's rooms under construction are outside of the U.S. One fourth of IHG's pipeline is in China, said new CEO Richard Solomons, and, according to CEO Katie Taylor, only two of 60 new Four Seasons in the works are in North America.
In a later presentation, Mark Lomanno gave STR's imprimatur on the topic: 182,000 hotel rooms are under construction in Asia Pacific versus 67,000 rooms being built in North America. And Starwood chief Frits van Paasschen showed the greatest commitment to China. He's leaving this week for a month-long visit to the country. He'll visit Starwood properties, talked to the company's partners in the region and generally get to understand the Asian culture. As he said, “You never really know a country until you buy groceries there. I plan to buy groceries in China.”