LOS ANGELES — The 2015 theme at this week’s Americas Lodging
Investment Summit here was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” And while
the reference was to the mellow Bobby McFerrin hit from 1988, the mood was
quite a bit more raucous.
“Looking at last night’s parties, it sounds a little like
2006,” convention panelist moderator Adam Weissenberg, global leader of the
travel, hospitality and leisure practice at Deloitte & Touche, said on
Tuesday. “Last year, there was nothing like that going on.”
The mood among the approximately 2,900 hospitality and real
estate executives and analysts was decidedly optimistic. Some analysts called
2014 a record year for hotel room demand while many panelists said there was at
least another three years left in the current upswing.
STR's Jan Freitag forecasted that all hotel sectors, save midscale, would have 2015 revenue per available room (RevPAR) increases of more than 6%.
Matching the boldness of hoteliers who announced new brands and
acquisitions at the event was conference presenter Jan Freitag, senior vice
president of hotel research firm STR. He started the proceedings on Monday by saying that the all-time U.S. occupancy record of 64.9%, set in the
mid-1990s, was within reach this year.
Largely fueling the rosy outlook were reports of resurgent
group demand and a development pipeline that will keep room growth at less than
2%, at least for this year.
And while urban lifestyle properties catering to younger
travelers were the flavor of the day, Freitag forecasted that all sectors, save
midscale, would have 2015 revenue per available room (RevPAR) increases of more
“There’s tremendous strength in the luxury segment,” said
Alan Fuerstman, CEO of luxury hotelier Montage Hotels & Resorts. “Luxury’s
not a bad word.”
Naysaying was kept to a minimum. Per usual, some panelists
pointed out the pitfalls of more aggressive supply growth within a few years as
well as a European economy that continues to struggle.
Still, most believed that with stricter lending practices in
place and the memory of the development surge that preceded the 2008-09 recession,
the U.S. lodging industry would remain a smart place to invest for at least the
next few years.
“The view from the outside is that the U.S. economy has
sorted itself out,” said panelist Simon Turner, president of global development
at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “The industry still appears to be quite disciplined.”
“We had a headwind for quite a while, and now we have a
tailwind,” added fellow panelist Michael George, CEO of Crescent Hotels. “I’ll
take all the help I can get.”