This week, the 44th Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference was held at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. As always, the Conference provided a deep dive into the current state of the industry and what is to be expected in the months to come.
The first panel was “The CEOs Check-In: A View from the Top” panel, which featured hospitality executives who discussed the evolving investment landscape, and how the hospitality industry is growing once again.
Sara Eisen, anchor, “Closing Bell,” CNBC, moderated this discussion with Keith Barr, CEO of IHG Hotels & Resorts; Sébastien M. Bazin, chairman and CEO of Accor; Anthony Capuano, CEO of Marriott International; Mark S. Hoplamazian, president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation; and Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton.
All of the CEOs were optimistic regarding the resiliency of the industry and the pent-up demand for travel caused by the pandemic. They also however acknowledged the continuing problem of the labor shortage and the fact that they must make hospitality jobs more attractive by offering flexible schedules and pay. The CEOs also discussed the critical need for sustainability and for offering travelers choices and greater services for the higher prices they are paying. They addressed the increasingly blurry line between business and leisure travel and the new opportunities it provides hotels and travel destinations to satisfy increasing demands for combined experiences.
Amanda Hite, president of STR, and Stephen Rushmore, Jr., president and chief executive officer, HVS, provided deep data on trends in the hotel and travel industry that indicate things are looking up. There have been regular gains in occupancy since President’s Day weekend, business travel has started to pick up, and because household income and employment is strong, increases in travel are expected to continue, but growth may be less pronounced in 2023. While things continue to look up and current construction projects are being finished, new hotel development projects are not where they were pre-pandemic. Inflation, volatility, and supply chain issues have had a real impact on hotel development.
During “Beyond the Boardroom,” Conference Chair Jonathan M. Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, interviewed New York City Mayor Eric Adams. The two discussed the importance of travel and tourism for the City and the ways to increase it to pre-pandemic levels. The Mayor focused on continuing to reduce crime, on making the City more business friendly, and encouraging workers to return to their offices. He also touted the City’s tremendous diversity in being a major selling point for attracting visitors, industries, and businesses.
During the “Leaders Check In Part Two: Consolidation, Scale, and the Structure of the Hospitality Industry,” the panel discussed the concept of the “phigital”—a combination of the physical world and the digital world. All agreed the hospitality industry is people-oriented and will never become fully automated. Yet, there was a consensus that technology can provide efficiency, and data and analytics can ultimately help create a highly personalized and seamless experience for guests.
Across the industry, technology is one of the largest investments from a time and money perspective. This challenges industry leaders to make strategic decisions to ensure return on investment. Diversity and inclusion were also prominent themes, along with sustainability, with executives agreeing that both are critical for industry success and are important to guests and investors. The conversation ended in excitement about the industry's future, with all the panelists agreeing that while they are cautiously optimistic, they believe increased consumer savings, higher wages, and pent-up demand will contribute to a successful 2022 despite concerns about the larger economy.