NYU Day Two: Hoteliers highlight evolving industry
NYU Day Two: Hoteliers highlight evolving industry
06 JUNE 2018 7:39 AM

Editors recap the second day of the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference with takeaways, quotables and more highlights from the event.

NEW YORK—Much of the conversation on the second day of the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference centered on much awaited and much needed change in the hotel industry, including the need for more women in C-suite and CEO roles.

While multiple women were featured in general sessions through the day, the industry’s need for greater inclusivity and more evolution in general was a recurring theme.

Day Two recap video

Photo of the day

Thomas Baltimore (right), of Park Hotels & Resorts, receives the UJA-Federation of New York’s award for professional and philanthropic achievements from Hilton’s Chris Nassetta. Also honored was Dorothy Jennings, of HVS and conference coordinator for the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award. (Photo: Jeff Higley)

Quotes of the day
“People love to have silver bullets and big macro strategies, but real estate is a micro business, and real estate development is a super micro business. There’s good ones and bad ones out there, but that’s what makes the world go around.”
—Tyler Morse, CEO and managing partner of MCR, during the “Treading water, leaping into the deep end, or staying out of the sun altogether?” general session.

“One thing I wish (the United States) did better is this: If you go to airports in China and most other cities around the world, they are stunning airports that are beautiful and welcoming and the cart for your luggage is free. In the U.S., airports are old, antiquated and ugly, and by the way, you better have $5 for a luggage cart. There’s a lot of work we need to do to make people feel more welcome.”
—Eric Danziger, CEO, Trump Hotels, on “The leaders’ forum” panel, talking about challenges for inbound U.S. travelers.

Tweet of the day

Editors’ takeaways

It’s fantastic to see the makeup of general session panels at hotel investment conferences, such as the 40th annual NYU International Hospitality Investment Conference, changing.

At this year’s event at the Marriott Marquis, there were five women speakers and two female moderators placed on eight general sessions. Last year, there were five women on the same number of panels—so conference organizers are moving the agenda forward.

It’s good to see that trend, but adding more might be a problem because there’s a lack of female CEOs and presidents at major hotel-related companies, which is where conferences look for general session speakers. While women are rising in the ranks at these companies, it will be a great day when multiple companies are headed by women CEOs. Not since Kathleen Taylor was unceremoniously dumped in 2013 as the CEO of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts has a woman held that position with a global hotel company. Taylor now chairs the board of the Royal Bank of Canada.

The lack of women CEOs was openly talked about on panels at times during the conference, so it’s definitely on the radar. Hopefully, succession plans at these major companies include qualified female candidates to assume the mantle.

Presumably common sense prevails during the next few years and this topic won’t need addressed because it will be common practice. In the meantime, we’ve seen a budding start to involving a diverse set of voices in the conversation.
—Jeff Higley, Editorial Director

All year, labor has been the main stage headlining topic at U.S. hotel investment conferences, with everyone from operators to owners to bankers talking about recruitment and retention issues at all levels of the hotel workforce. As the conversation evolves, it naturally is turning to leadership roles for women in hotel companies. While it’s nice to see a few more women on the general session stages and to hear the conversations happening, we must be careful as an industry to keep these conversations professional and positive, not gratuitous.

Another big-picture trend creeping into several panels was, of course, disruption. But unlike the conversation of years past, when the disruptors were online travel agencies and Airbnb, today the disruptors are AI technology and the next generations of distribution. David Kong, CEO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts, shared a great anecdote on “The leaders’ forum” panel. He talked about reading a list of the top 50 disruptors of 2017, and said he was embarrassed to realize he didn’t recognize a handful of the companies named. That reinforced his realization, he said, that welcoming change must be a top priority for the industry.

“We can’t be status quo; we have to welcome change and adopt a new way of thinking of things,” he said. “I say to my team, ‘how can we think like disruptors?’ We have to act on it and give ourselves motivation. When you’re in a startup company, you have so much enthusiasm and excitement because the sky’s the limit, but you also know it’s do or die, so there’s a sense of urgency. That’s important.”
—Stephanie Ricca, Editor-in-Chief

No one can deny that the hotel industry needs to change and adapt to the broader world, and comments during various sessions and breakouts alluded to the fact that the hotel industry has historically been too slow to make positive, consumer-oriented changes. But what’s most interesting to me about this year’s conference is that much of the changes hoteliers acknowledge they need are ones that, while new and innovative, renew their focus on the old-school fundamentals of the industry, i.e. taking care of guests and customers to the best of their abilities.

Hoteliers now have more tools and information at their fingertips than ever in their quest to deliver truly personalized experiences to travelers, but they also must balance the need and desire to amass information about guests with the increasing importance of data security and privacy.
—Sean McCracken, News Editor

1 Comment

  • Peter McAlpine June 6, 2018 10:53 PM Reply

    A revolution in hospitality will happen, I believe, when there are many more female CEOs in hotel group Boardrooms, and the Boards are 50%+ female. For a woman it is much easier to see that hospitality has become disconnected from its timeless essence of love, kindness, compassion, and heartwarming care. The male-dominated Boards cannot see this, and they persist with the obsolete concept of SOP-Customer Satisfaction. I have written individually to the Board members of 70+ hotel groups 3 years in a row, and none seems to understand this. (Two people nearly did, to be fair.) If women ran the hotel industry, I doubt that we would have seen a proliferation of brands because when you are aware of the astonishing impact that hospitality can have when it is connected to its timeless essence, the differentiator between hotels becomes the energy and spirit of the hospitality and not the physical aspects. The spirit of loving kindness and compassion, and the energy staff exude and which guests feel, can be increased limitlessly when you know how. Maybe in 20 or so years hotel Boards will discover this. When they do, hospitality will evolve in ways, which we can scarcely imagine now.

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