On the one hand, the hotel recovery has definitely gained traction since the dark days of the financial meltdown and the great recession. Occupancy and rate are up pretty much across the board; leisure travel is strong; and even business travel and group bookings have shown improvement. Stocks of some publically-traded hotel companies have rose, and there is a general sense of hopeful optimism in the air.
On the other hand, talk of “double dip” persists—and anyone in the franchising arena can tell you that lending, new building, and willingness to take prudent risks are not yet where they need to be to sustain a long-term uptrend.
Most important, the clock is ticking on debt payments at all levels. Unless cash flow continues to improve and accelerate, many more properties stand in danger of default. A sharp, sudden rise in interest rates could choke off the progress even if cash flow does continue to improve; and it’s pretty clear that interest rates have nowhere to go but up.
So as we head into Lodging Conference next week, the question comes: Where are we in this recovery?
I have always been an optimist, and I am optimistic now more than ever. I suspect that boom days are ahead—though it is difficult to tell if the seeds for that boom have been firmly planted—or if the soil needs some more tilling before we see sustained growth.
I also suspect that the fourth quarter and the year ahead, will be determinative of what follows. If the industry can sustain another strong quarter of growth, I believe the momentum will be too strong to hold back. If on the other hand, there is continued timidity among lenders, buyers, and if the consumer shows signs of weakness, that could signal all signs are off.
What do you think? Is the industry headed for a sustained recovery, or are we going to “bounce along the bottom”—or even worse?
What are some of the key issues that industry leaders should address at this year’s Lodging Conference to convince that the recovery is sustainable—and to reinforce the confidence that will make it self-perpetuating?