Day one of this year's Americas Lodging Investment Summit underway in Los Angeles produced no surprises: no big announcements, no rhetorical gaffes, very few laughs and only a couple of spontaneous applause lines. It's the beginning of the year, following a pretty good year for the industry, so the mood among the 2,400 delegates at the JW Marriott at LA Live is one of optimism on what the rest of 2012 will bring.
At yesterday's opening general session in the spacious (7,000 seats vs. 2,400 attendees at ALIS) Nokia Theater, conference chairman Jim Burba unveiled results of a delegate survey that demonstrated the giddy optimism that probably resonates throughout the industry. More than nine out of 10 of those surveyed believe RevPAR will grow again in 2012 and their individual companies will also show positive growth this year. Perhaps more surprisingly, 53% of the group believes they'll be more hotel development this year than in 2011. Of course, STR says just 373 new hotels opened last year, so it won't take much to post an increase in lodging construction.
The data gurus from STR, PKF-Hospitality Research and HVS also fueled the general upbeat outlook. Using the catchphrase “see the green in 2013,” Jan Freitag of STR forecast a year that will beat 2011, a year in which the industry sold a record one billion-plus roomnights. Mark Woodworth of PKF-HR described the future as “headwinds diminish, tailwinds develop.” And Suzanne Mellen of HVS sees hotel transactions increasing this year and spreading to more diverse markets than the top 10, which saw 73% of the action last year.
With all the good vibes floating around the JW Marriott, it's hard not to jump on board the future is bright train. That attitude, of course, can lead to excess, not this year certainly and probably not soon, but eventually.
The only wave of dissent that seems to fill the conference hallways centers on the conference's new anti-lounge lizard policy. In order to keep non-payer gatecrashers from cruising the hotel bars and restaurants during the conference, the organizers have barricaded entrance to the hotel beyond the front desk to anyone not wearing a valid badge. The tactic led one pundit (me) from paraphrasing President Ronald Reagan's famous speech in Berlin as a possible slogan for the dissenters: “Mr. Burba, tear down this wall.”