ALIS Day One: An uncertain start to 2017
ALIS Day One: An uncertain start to 2017
24 JANUARY 2017 9:47 AM

Editors recap the opening day of the Americas Lodging Investment Summit with takeaways, quotables and more highlights from the event, all pointing to uncertainty amid still-strong performance numbers. 

LOS ANGELES—The word around the first day of the Americas Lodging Investment Summit was “uncertainty,” largely because hoteliers aren’t in universal agreement about what the short- and long-term effects of a Donald Trump presidency and administration will be for the industry.

However, despite the rainy skies over Los Angeles, hoteliers found plenty to be optimistic about, whether it was the 82nd consecutive month of revenue-per-available-room growth, the brand launches announced at the conference or the impressive growth numbers posted by industry giants.

Editors’ recap video

Photo of the day

Elie Maalouf (right), CEO of the Americas for IHG, and HNN Editorial Director Jeff Higley give thumbs up prior to a hard hat tour at IHG’s Hotel Indigo property being built in downtown Los Angeles. The 350-room hotel is expected to open during the next few months. (Photo courtesy of IHG)

Quotes of the day
“I’ve tried to create a culture where people want to work and give back to the community. And always remember that family is first.”
—Tom Corcoran, Chairman, FelCor Lodging Trust, on some of his lifelong goals. Corcoran received the ALIS Lifetime Achievement Award.

“We’re always toeing the line between helpful and creepy. … You need to keep that trust, and to do that you need to talk (to guests) about what you’re doing and the value (guests will) receive.”
—Bill Ramsey, senior director of mobile and emerging channels for Choice Hotels International, talking about how sometimes guests are willing to share more personal information if they understand how it translates into convenience for them.

Ask yourself, ‘What can I be doing every day to make myself better, that will in turn make my team better?’”
—Joe Montana, former NFL player, four-time Super Bowl champion and ALIS keynote speaker.

“There’s no real catalyst for transactions. … I don’t see a lot of reason to sell in this market unless you’re forced to. I see stagnation.”
—Steve Kisielica, principal & chief investment officer, Lodging Capital Partners, in a discussion about the hotel real-estate market during the Lodging Industry Investment Council’s meeting.

Tweet of the day

Slide of the day

2016 was “incredibly average,” according to STR’s SVP Jan Freitag, sharing 2016 year-end data during the first day of ALIS.

Editors’ takeaways

Much like it is with the general U.S. population, getting a consensus among U.S. hotel industry executives is next to impossible. Regardless of the discussion at Monday’s opening day of the Americas Lodging Investment Summit, there was some level of disagreement.

I heard everything from polite disagreements to vehement arguments on topics ranging from how long the current streak of 82 consecutive months of RevPAR growth will last to the number of hotels on the market to what effect President Trump’s administration will have on the hotel industry.

One thing is clear: the hotel industry is in a time of transition like much of the rest of the world.

What did appear to be universal during the first day of the conference was that despite all of the uncertainty surrounding global politics, financial markets and general moods, a quiet confidence remains within the hotel industry. There’s a good reason for that—the industry’s fundamental metrics presented on Monday verified that things remain stable and there’s no reason for panic.

Regardless of anyone’s personal political leanings, there seems to be a sense that Trump’s impact on the hotel industry will be positive. As one executive who wished to remain anonymous put it: “I believe he will enact legislation that will benefit himself.” Right, wrong or indifferent, that’s a sign of the times that can’t be ignored and is a major contributor to the uncertainty surrounding the hotel industry.

—Jeff Higley, editorial director

While uncertainty was surely a common theme, I saw and heard a lot of buzz about innovation on Monday as well. It’s almost as if the hotel industry realizes a cycle shift is coming, and “innovate or die” is the new mantra, especially when people see what the scale companies, such as Marriott International have achieved with its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. To keep themselves relevant to developers and customers, brands continue to invent new and different products and use ALIS as their launching pads. (Hilton Worldwide Holdings’ Tapestry launch, Marriott’s on-site Innovation Lab and Best Western’s SureStay growth plans are just a few examples.) 

Still, the “what if” scenarios under the Trump administration are being discussed constantly here in the lobby of the JW Marriott this week. It’s clear that perhaps more than ever before in recent history, things like employment numbers, labor issues and economic restrictions will have a very real and measurable impact on hotel industry growth and performance.

—Stephanie Ricca, editor in chief

While the first day of ALIS in 2016 seemed to be dominated by prognostications on just when the hotel industry will hit the end of its cycle, that conversation for the most part seems to have been shelved for the first day of ALIS 2017. In its place is a more aspirational conversation about where the industry needs to go in order to meet the needs and wants of guests for the next five or 10 years. Not surprisingly, that conversation revolved largely around technology.

The program started with a series of three tech-related panels, focused on robotics, virtual and augmented reality, and mobile, respectively. There were a lot of really useful specific lessons on what hoteliers should be mindful of going forward, and I’ll be writing about those specific lessons in the not-too-distant future. But the overarching lesson seemed to be that the hotel industry has some serious and meaningful work to do to more effectively use technology to better meet guests’ needs.

Jonathan Wilson, VP of product innovation and brand services for Hilton, tellingly noted what his company is and isn’t looking to accomplish with expanding use of robotics, and indeed other emerging technologies, and it isn’t finding ways to cut down on staffing costs. It all comes down to finding ways to give staff more chances to have meaningful interactions with guests.

—Sean McCracken, news editor

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