Lodging Conference Day One: Hoteliers ‘enjoy the ride’
Lodging Conference Day One: Hoteliers ‘enjoy the ride’
28 SEPTEMBER 2016 8:44 AM

HNN editors recap the opening day of The Lodging Conference with takeaways, quotables and more highlights from the event.

PHOENIX—During Day One of The Lodging Conference on Tuesday hoteliers discussed the future of the industry, accepting slow but steady growth in months to come.

Uncertainty in the industry and talk of a downturn coming at some point in the future was discussed during the morning’s general session, which matched the theme of this year’s conference, “Enjoy the ride.”

Hoteliers in sessions throughout the day also talked about loyalty programs, developing new hotels, what owners are doing at this stage in the cycle and more.

Here’s a recap of Day One of The Lodging Conference, compiled by the HNN editorial staff.

Quote of the day

“I don’t think you should replace human beings in hospitality with something because it’s cheaper.”
--Eric Danziger, CEO at Trump Hotels, responding to a question regarding the role of technology in the economics of hotel operations.

Tweet of the day

Slide of the day

CBRE’s Mark Woodworth presented this slide during the Day One general session showing the success of Airbnb. (Photo: CBRE)

Editors’ takeaways

The current state of the hotel industry has a lot in common with Tuesday’s weather in the desert: There were patchy dark clouds that periodically threatened rain, but by the end of the day, only a few stray sprinkles had fallen and the near-term outlook is relatively good.

Attendees of The Lodging Conference are casting wary glances toward the future of their businesses hoping to avoid an unforeseen storm that could sidetrack their endeavors. That vibe translates into more uncertainty than the industry has seen since those stormy days of 2010 and 2011.

On Tuesday, the crowd heard about a potential decline in overall revenue per available room by 2018, stagnating—and at times falling—hotel values, and potentially more industry consolidation fueled by a drive to combat online travel agencies.

From the numerous hospitality suites at the Arizona Biltmore to the hip and funky reception to celebrate the launch of Two Roads Hospitality, there is a feel of nervous optimism that won’t go away. The general sense is that, yes, the party will end at some point, but as long as one keeps the horizon in sight and prepares for unexpected downpours, there’s no reason to panic.

--Jeff Higley, editorial director

Speakers during the morning’s “Lodging lenders panel: A view from the top” had some interesting thoughts about the future of brand loyalty programs. Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group, said points are critical, but guests want them as a way to earn free nights at a hotel. Complicated programs that require them to earn hundreds of thousands of points and achieve different statuses take away the rewarding aspect of a rewards program, he said.

Bruce Patel, chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, pointed out that instant gratification is another demand from guests who want an extra amenity or service that recognizes their loyalty to the brand. On a similar note, Eric Danziger, CEO of Trump Hotels, said acknowledging guests’ loyalty can go a long way. Giving them special treatment is a way of thanking them for choosing to remain loyal when they could have easily gone to a number of other hotels.

We’ve written quite a bit about loyalty programs in the past few months, including the latest direct-booking incentives brands have offered to their loyalty membership. It appears there’s a push to return some human touch to the hospitality aspect of loyalty programs.
--Bryan Wroten, reporter

From the opening general session to breakout sessions later in the day, there was a lot of talk of keeping a human connection, and human beings themselves, in the industry. Panelists during the general session talked about the importance of that human communication between hotel employees and guests, which is an interesting thing to think about given the push for technologies like robots, mobile check-in and keyless entry to make the guest stay easier, and to possibly serve as a way for hotels to cut labor costs. As more technology is implemented in the industry, it will be interesting to see how hoteliers keep the human connection alive, and if they still think it’s important once things like mobile check-in and keyless entry become mainstream.

There was also a lot of talk about how travelers, especially millennials, expect to have new, great experiences when they stay at hotels. Hoteliers are trying to cater to that with things like rooftop bars; and on Monday Trump Hotels announced its lifestyle brand name, Scion, which aims to provide something unique to guests. Figuring out what is unique and what really does create a unique experience for guests will be interesting to follow going forward. 
--Danielle Hess, reporter

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