Lodging Conference: Raise your hand if you're optimistic

PHOENIX--Raise your hand if you're optimistic about the next 12 months in the lodging industry.

That's the question posed to the group at yesterday's opening general session of the annual Lodging Conference here.

The vast majority of the room--and it's a sold-out conference--raised their hands. That was the first indicator that the hotel industry really means it this time.

Despite the clear fundamental indications of recovery, including positive supply/demand balances, still-strong occupancy and record numbers of rooms sold, many are worried about a potential double-dip recession, particularly given the less-than-stable European economic climate of the past two months.

However for now, the numbers support optimism.

"Welcome to the recovery in the lodging industry," said Bruce Ford, SVP of sales for Lodging Econometrics. Ford cited still-strong overall demand as "a positive sign of recovery," and transaction activity.

Vail Brown, VP of global sales and marketing for STR, pointed out recent months of record-high roomnight sales, but did inject some possible uncertainty.

"The big question today, is this a recovery we can really stand behind, or is it a recovery that's still a little questionable?" she asked.

The key, she said, lies with how quickly the industry can grow average daily rate to keep pace with demand.

PKF Hospitality Research's Mark Woodworth agreed.

'We're clearly on the road to recovery," he said. "The overall question is just how good should we feel?"

Over the past 12 months, Woodworth said the industry has enjoyed "phenomenal increases in demand, which led to phenomenal increases in RevPAR," but he admitted to "lots of concern in the air."

Forward-looking data supports more stable recovery as well, according to Tim Hart, EVP of business intelligence at Travelclick. The company tracks advance bookings.

"From a year-over-year perspective, demand is up about two percent," he said. "All indications are looking positive. We have year-over-year growth across group, transient business and transient leisure."

Hart said the company sees strong demand in the group segment going into 2012.

Stay tuned to HospitalityWorldNetwork.com for more updates from The Lodging Conference over the next few days, and watch for expanded coverage in the Oct. 17 issue of Hotel Management.



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