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A crystal-ball look at the hotel industry

The word "prediction" has been the buzzword throughout the past year with experts trying to predict how the 21st Century would affect our businesses, our economy and our lives. Therefore, it seemed fitting that this year's 15th Annual Hotel Industry Investment Conference use as its theme: "Foreseeing the Future of theHotel Industry."

Sponsored by the UCLA Extension, the conference promises to be just as exciting as in years past, with a few new features, says Jim Burba, conference chair. "On the second day [of the conference], there will be three new research studies released," says Burba. "Issues don't change very rapidly, but I think there will be some new news in those research studies, and that's going to make for some very great theater.

"We've got 80 or 90 chairmen and presidents of companies speaking at this conference," he adds. "We've never had this many speakers, sponsors, presidents and CEOs addressing the hotel industry. I think there's going to be a lot of firsts here."

This year's conference will be held Jan. 18-20, at the Century Plaza Hotel and Tower in Los Angeles, and Burba expects increased attendance. "We had 1,900 last year," he says. "We're tracking ahead of last year at this point, but I don't know what to think. People are already enrolling and haven't even seen a brochure."

Burba, who created the conference, says this year's program is significant because of its timeliness with Jan. 1, and because the hotel industry is drastically changing. "[The conference] is taking full advantage of the fact that we will be the first conference of the new millen-nium," says Burba. "[The hotel industry] has gone through a huge growth spurt, yet it's still a healthy industry.

"You have an industry that's healthy, and the players are going from public to private," adds Burba. "I think the questions that are being posed are along the lines of 'Where do we go from here?' We're going to be talking about e-commerce, database management, and we're going to have keynote speakers from A significant portion of this conference are going to be things we've never talked about."

Addressing some of those issues will be sessions that include: "Why don't the public markets like hotels anymore - what will it take to make hotels attractive again?" "Technology and customer relationship marketing...the new business imperative," and "The capital markets outlook - who's got the money and who's going to get it."

Although the conference will be thought-provoking, it will also be a chance for attendees to have fun. This year's special entertainment guest will be Bob Newhart, whom Burba refers to as, "America's favorite innkeeper." "This conference is a lot of work," says Burba. "But the part that works best for me is interjecting freshness and things that can be fun. It's much more fun for me to trying and figure out how we can get special guests like Bob Newhart. I think the conference is going to be a great event."

More information can be found on the conference Website at or by calling (310) 206-1409.

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