Lodging Day Two: Maturing industry brings opportunity
Lodging Day Two: Maturing industry brings opportunity
26 SEPTEMBER 2019 8:25 AM

Editors recap Day Two of The Lodging Conference with takeaways, quotables and more highlights from the event.

PHOENIX—The industry is maturing as more disruption in its path creates more opportunity.

Speakers on the “A view from the C-suite” panel at Day Two of The Lodging Conference said times were simpler 10 years ago, when hoteliers were more worried about the day-to-day operations of running a hotel and having brands in the right location. Today, hoteliers have to think about disruptors and the changing hotel landscape, said Jagruti Panwala, chairwoman of AAHOA and president and CEO of Wealth Protection Strategies.

Jim Merkel, CEO of Rockbridge, said hoteliers should acknowledge disruptors and change, but shouldn’t be distracted by them, which could be a “much bigger challenge in 2020 than it was in 2010” with technology advancements in how information is communicated and distributed in the industry.

Photo of the day

Chip Rogers, president and CEO of American Hotel & Lodging Association, gives his AH&LA update Tuesday morning at The Lodging Conference. (Photo: Dana Miller)

Quotes of the day
“I often use the analogy of a company is a garden. If you’re not pulling the weeds, it will get overgrown, and it won’t bear fruit or whatever you’re growing.”–Merkel during the “A view from the C-suite” session on the importance of company culture.

“There was a lot of stupid money out there. There were a lot of people throwing money at development that shouldn’t have been happening. We don’t see that now.”–Matt Wehling, SVP of development, U.S. and Canada, at Hilton, on the “Let’s talk deals, development, M&A” panel, comparing investors in the last downturn to now.

“I don’t think it’s a downturn. From an industry perspective, we are seeing signs of maturity.”–Thomas Magnuson, CEO of Magnuson Hotels, on the state of the economy during the “A view from the C-suite” session.

Tweet of the day

Data point of the day
During a presentation at the Lodging Industry Investment Council meeting at The Lodging Conference, Hannah Smith, senior consultant of analytics at STR, HNN’s parent company, said 7,349 hotels have opened since January 2010.

Editors’ takeaways
The good mood rolled along into the second day of The Lodging Conference, as many speakers talked about lessons learned since the Great Recession.

The prevailing sentiment is that the industry today is more mature and equipped to handle whatever scenarios come next.

Case in point: As I moderated the “A view from the C-Suite” panel, I reminded panelists that at the end of 2015, a lot of talk centered around 2016 election-year uncertainties, and hoteliers attributed loss in consumer confidence, corporate confidence and transaction slowdowns to that uncertainty. Fast-forward to now, on the cusp of another election year, and we haven’t heard about those uncertainties.

“It’s all business as usual,” said Ken Greene, president of the Americas for Radisson Hotel Group.

Other panelists agreed that the industry really isn’t so volatile that something like an election would throw it too far off-course—no matter what that course may be.

--Stephanie Ricca, Editorial Director

The conversation at recent conferences has focused on prioritizing culture, and Day Two of The Lodging Conference was no exception.

During the morning’s “A view from the C-suite” session, speakers were asked to talk about change they will be responsible for making in 2020, and many company executives said they plan to continue to make their people a priority.

Joel Eisemann, chief development officer of the Americas at InterContinental Hotels Group, said his company’s biggest responsibility is to make sure they have the right talent and the right leaders. Magnuson Hotels CEO Thomas Magnuson shared that sentiment by saying he would be focusing on helping each hotel achieve its “optimum in the market.”

Speakers also showed support for efforts backed by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Justin Knight, president and CEO of Apple Hospitality REIT, said he plans “to act in a greater capacity advocating for the industry” going into 2020.
--Danielle Hess, Senior Reporter

On the second day of The Lodging Conference, I heard more attendees and speakers open up about recent merger-and-acquisition activity, specifically with third-party management companies, and what it means for the industry.

Jim Merkel, CEO of Rockbridge, said the pending merger between Aimbridge Hospitality and Interstate Hotels & Resorts is a good thing as it's “two great leaders coming together.” But some are leaning more towards a to-be-determined mentality of what it will mean for the third-party management environment.

Doug Dreher, president and CEO of The Hotel Group, said those two specific companies were already so much bigger than everyone else. He expects once the merger completes, there could be some fallout.

It will be interesting to see how this pending merger plays out and the bureaucracy needed to maintain that large of an entity. I suspect that smaller management companies will either stick with the status quo and leverage the fact that they are high-touch, or they will need to re-strategize in order to compete.
--Dana Miller, Associate Editor 

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