1 HM: Looking into your crystal ball, and with everything you’ve seen in 2013, how will the hotel industry fare in 2014 in terms of overall operating metrics and profits?
GC: We anticipate revenue increases in the 5- to 7-percent range that primarily will be derived from rate increases now that occupancy has stabilized. With rate driving the revenue increase, there will also be a stronger flow-through for profits. As long as expenses such as health care, insurance premiums and utilities don’t escalate beyond normal inflation, we are predicting a flow-through of 60 percent or better.
2 HM: Most pundits are predicting healthy growth for the industry over the next three years, but what out there (government or otherwise) has the possibility to upset this optimism?
GC: Many of us are concerned about the impact of the Affordable Care Act and the possibility that it could curtail U.S. economic growth. Any catastrophic event has the possibility of seriously curtailing travel. As long as we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, I’m optimistic about our prospects for the next few years.
3 HM: They say all business is local. What is happening within your region that is affecting your business the most?
GC: Like most businesses, hospitality is largely affected by supply and demand, so there is always a concern when supply exceeds demand. In most markets, we’re seeing a fairly stable balance between the two. Our biggest concerns are if there is a shift in government travel policies or if businesses move out of a particular market, leaving a demand void in their wake.
4 HM: Developing new markets is always top of mind. In 2014, and beyond, where are you concentrating for growth and expansion?
GC: We have projects teed up in underserved areas of both Atlantic Canada and the southern U.S. We’ll open a Westin on Jekyll Island, Ga., that will support the new convention center, and we’ll be expanding into Newfoundland with a Residence Inn project.
5 HM: Technology and social media play major roles in the hospitality industry today. What is your company doing on those fronts to stay ahead of the curve?
GC: Social media is largely uncharted territory, so we’ve found that self-education is key to staying current. Every year, we identify the e-commerce issues facing our hotels and we work on those areas. Mobile is our next initiative, and by the end of next year all of our hotels will be mobile-accessible on a variety of platforms.