What (I think) we’ll be talking about at ALIS next week
What (I think) we’ll be talking about at ALIS next week
18 JANUARY 2018 9:51 AM

Let’s fuel that rumor mill and discuss what the biggest topics of conversation might be at next week’s Americas Lodging Investment Summit. 

Next week is the Americas Lodging Investment Summit, or ALIS, which kicks off the season of big hotel investment conferences, at least here in the U.S.

It’ll be my 11th time covering ALIS. Let me just tell you, I still long for the days of Beverly Hills and San Diego, though downtown Los Angeles isn’t without its charms. (May I recommend breakfast at Fernando’s Taco Inn?)

I’ll never forget my first ALIS, in 2007, when my colleague Elaine gave me tips about how to set up meetings in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. She told me to look up people’s pictures online before arranging to meet them in the lobby, because otherwise “you’ll look into that lobby and just see a crowd full of white guys in dark suits who all look the same.”

Thank goodness the industry has diversified a bit in 11 years.

As I plan my schedule out for next week, I put together a list of some of the topics I predict we’ll hear about on the main stage, in breakouts and in the lobby:

Hotel C-corps still sitting pretty …
Public hotel brands enjoyed so much good fortune in 2017, with stocks surging and not much of a slowdown in sight.

“It was the year of the hotel brand,” Michael Bellisario, senior hotel research analyst and VP at Baird, told HNN’s Sean McCracken recently for his story on 2017 hotel stock performance. “You look at the subindexes, and it was all the hotel brands. Wyndham, Choice, Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton—all the big-cap names just ripped.”

Related to this, I think we’ll hear lots of praise for U.S. tax reform from the big voices on stage at ALIS.

Mind you, I don’t think that many people in the industry absolutely love the man himself (and yes, I’m referring to President Donald Trump), but getting tax reform done will be something the industry will talk about for years.

… so they’ll be moving things around to get bigger
As always this time of year, rumors abound about companies selling brands, investors selling companies, you name it. Just today, as it happens, we learned Wyndham Worldwide purchased the franchise and management business of La Quinta.

In the past few years, major companies had official brand launches at ALIS, and while that might not happen this year, I have a good feeling we’ll at least hear about some brand movement while we’re in LA.

We’re into the second year of what I call “The Marriott Effect,” which is that phenomenon that, “Hey, Marriott grew its scale so much with the Starwood purchase and demonstrated that bigger really is better on so many fronts, so how can we do it too?”

In 2017 we saw a lot of hotel companies making moves in this direction through acquiring brands or launching them, and 2018 will be the year they go full-out, in my opinion.

Performance success spurs innovative thinking
Since the U.S. hotel industry has enjoyed such a protracted period of high demand for hotel rooms—particularly driven by leisure guests—I think we’ll begin to see a renewed focus on innovation in the hotel space.

I forecast we’ll see this in two ways: We’ll see new faces and companies hanging up their shingle with a niched brand idea (I liken this to small-potatoes lifestyle bloggers who market their great ideas in the hopes that a giant conglomerate will just buy them out). And we’ll see established companies push the envelope a bit with actual new concepts, not just new me-too brands. What do I mean by this? I think we’ll see more things like hotel/hostel hybrids, new ways to look at dual-branding and extended-stay hotels, and even some renewed looks at full-service hotels and F&B concepts.

Yes, we’ll see new brands, both from upstart companies and steady regular players. But I also think we’ll see some significant brand reinvention among some of the old standbys (maybe 2018 finally will be Sheraton’s year).

Consumer news will have a bigger impact
Yes, hotel company executives always talk about changes in consumer demand and travel lifestyles and how that has an impact on brands and operations. But I predict that this year, we’ll see and hear more about how hotel companies are dealing with and reacting to other front-page news topics, like safety and security, women’s issues and even weather.

Hotels played huge roles in some of 2017’s biggest global news headlines, from the Las Vegas shooter to stories related to the #MeToo movement, to natural disasters around the world.

I expect this year we’ll not only see some effects of these bigger news headlines in data and performance comps, but we’ll also hear CEOs talk about them more—and that would be a welcome change.

Agree or disagree? Want to meet me at Fernando’s in LA? Comment below, email me at sricca@hotelnewsnow.com or find me on Twitter @HNN_Steph

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