Editors recap the opening day of the 2020 Americas Lodging Investment Summit with takeaways, quotables and more highlights from the event.
LOS ANGELES—On the first day of the 2020 Americas Lodging Investment Summit, hoteliers said they are approaching the new year aware of the challenges facing the industry but still opportunities ahead.
Overcoming the challenges will require flexibility and innovation, and industry experts shared what they are doing to adapt, noting solutions might come from within the industry or as changes inspired by disruptors themselves.
Also during the conference, Choice Hotels International announced the launch of its newest brand, the midscale extended-stay EverHome Suites.
Day 1 recap video
Quote of the day
“Be nice to your employees. … Make sure you do the simple things to take care of your people, motivate them and compensate them fairly. It works.”
—Steve Van, president and CEO of Prism Hotels & Resorts, on why investing in employees can result in health insurance savings, fewer sick days and other mutual benefits.
—Sébastien Bazin, chairman and CEO, Accor, pointing at OYO Hotels and Homes Group CEO and Founder Ritesh Agarwal after being asked what business concerns keep him up at night.
“Today, there are probably 15 African-Americans who are heading up publicly traded companies. Three of those 15 started at RLJ.”
—Robert Johnson, co-founder and executive chairman of RLJ Lodging Trust, in a video interview accepting his ALIS lifetime achievement award.
Tweet of the day
Mary Pat Sullivan kicking off @ALISconference's Women's Leadership Forum with the fact that while there are 33 female CEOs on the 2019 Fortune 500 List, there are also 23 CEOs named "James". #alisconference #ALIS2020 pic.twitter.com/u7UT96esS5— cjtravelweekly (@cjtravelweekly) January 27, 2020
Slide of the day
Data points of the day
70%: Select-service hotels in the economy through upscale segments make up the majority of rooms in construction in the U.S., according to STR data as of December 2019.
85%: Percentage of hoteliers surveyed by AHLA who said they have jobs they have been unable to fill due to the tight labor market.
Hotel News Now hosts a roundtable on the first day of ALIS every year, and that group—the Lodging Industry Investment Council—is an excellent barometer that I use to gauge conversation throughout not only the conference but the whole year. Hot topics at the LIIC meeting were supply, operations and profitability, and food and beverage, believe it or not. Everyone seems to have an opinion on F&B as a profitability generator, and it’s exciting to hear how companies are investing. Along those lines, we’re also hearing about the current third-party management climate. Now several months past the Aimbridge/Interstate deal from 2019, we see the smaller third-party companies really stepping up to the plate, differentiating their services, investing in technology and going all-out in the race for good employees. Supply is surely a concern, but the general consensus from the group at large was that as long as we collectively can hold on to some modicum of demand (even if it’s on pace with supply), the landing will be soft.
Concerns were raised about the possible travel impact from the recent coronavirus outbreak originating in China, as outbound Chinese travel is curtailed and fear rises among the U.S. traveling cohort.
And no, you can’t be at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles this week and not feel the city’s sadness at the loss of Kobe Bryant. I first saw him play here at Staples Center during a Marriott International event at ALIS years ago, before LA Live was even built. I respect a player who spends his entire career with one team; more even than the world, this city feels his loss this week.
—Stephanie Ricca, editorial director
One of the most interesting things I heard today was while sitting down with executives from Choice Hotels International for a roundtable discussion on the launch of their new brand, Everhome Suites. Along with Hilton’s new Tempo by Hilton brand, Everhome marks the second brand to launch just this month, getting 2020 off to a quick start for the hotel industry.
What’s so interesting to me is that in most discernible ways, these brands are very much different. They seek different price points, different kinds of investors, have different footprints and clearly operate in different segments, with Everhome Suites targeting business travelers staying about seven days in suburban markets while Tempo hotels are more unique lifestyle properties targeting city-center locations.
The thinking behind developing a guest experience around the mentality of the guests they seek, as described by executives, is eerily similar. Both discussed specifically how they designed their new brands to target a certain type of consumer who wants to maintain their home routines while on the road. If you’re looking for the theme of hotel brands in 2020, building a hotel that lets guests maintain their routines or rhythms while traveling might be the first.
—Sean McCracken, news editor
During the Lodging Industry Investment Council meeting, I heard a couple of things that really point out the resiliency of the hotel industry but also highlight a weakness. Looking back maybe a decade or so ago, if something terrible happened, the markets would take a dive (if only temporarily), corporations would pull back on travel, consumers would be afraid to spend and the hotel industry would suffer as a result. Now, if you look back at the last year (or even the first month of this year), the industry has chugged along through wildfires, hurricanes, armed conflicts, etc., without taking much of a hit.
One thing that has worked in the industry’s favor is the ongoing demand for travel. Consumers have to some degree reassessed their priorities and decided that experiences and memories gained from travel are worth the cost and are spending their disposable income there. One cause of consternation within the industry is that this desire to travel might ultimately hurt hoteliers’ ability to drive rate as occupancy stays relatively flat.
While such high demand is a boon for the industry, having supply match it shows a potential weakness. We’ve all heard time and again that supply itself has never caused the industry to go into a downturn, but if anything outside of the industry happened to cause demand to fall, we’d still be left with all that supply. That’s not to say anything will happen, but owners and developers should keep that in mind before they move forward with any new construction.
—Bryan Wroten, senior reporter