The first day of New York University's Investment Conference at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan began with Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels, reflecting on the current strength of the hospitality industry. Looking at the industry's high occupancy and increased construction pipeline, Tisch said the industry now has a moment to be pleased and optimistic about the future, but some concerns still remain.
"We see the risk of a stronger dollar as having an effect on hotel stays in the U.S.," Tisch said. "A stronger dollar will make overseas travel more affordable for U.S. citizens, and may lead to less foreign travel to the U.S."
Though a strong U.S. dollar could potentially scare away some international travelers, Tisch said this cannot happen because the key to decade-long industry growth belongs to these international travelers. Guests from overseas spent $222 billion in the U.S. in 2014, and the industry is preparing for an influx of visitors from China, India and Brazil, as well as multiple countries in Africa and other countries with emerging middle classes, which have the resources and drive to travel.
Additionally, Tisch said the U.S. travel industry is taking strides to ease international travel to the U.S. though organizations such as Brand USA, which is urging the U.S. to offer more travel visas with shorter wait times. The benefit to introducing these travelers to the U.S. market is clear, with international travel in 2014 supporting 8 million U.S. jobs.
"Brand USA brought 1 million new international travelers to the U.S. hotel market, and we have established a strategy to attract 100 million visitors by 2021," Tisch said. "We united behind workable solutions and worked with political leaders to win support and passage. We can't sit back and wait, we need to drive the U.S. economy and create good middle-class jobs."