Thursday, July 17, 2008

NABHOOD update

Today's sessions at the NABHOOD Summit, being held at the Marriott Atlanta Century Center, have been excellent, with an impressive array of speakers. Here are a few highlights.

Barron H. Harvey, Ph.D., the dean of Howard University's School of Business, introduced the first general sessions, "Industry update—where is the lodging market going?" and "Owning, developing & acquiring hotels in turbulent times."

Jan Freitag, VP of global development for Smith Travel Research, told attendees that the industry has made it through tough times before. He explained that between 1996 and 2001, the U.S. hotel industry saw 46 consecutive months of occupancy declines while rates increased above the level of inflation. "We can do it," he said, "Occupancies will decline, yes, big deal. What happens to rates is the question ... you have to hold rates; you have done it before."

AH&LA's excecutive VP, public policy, Marlene Colucci, gave a detailed overview of the association's lobbying activity, including a description of their fight against the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800, S. 1041), better known as the Card Check Bill.

Tom J. Baltimore, president of RLJ Development LLC, presented his thoughts on the economy and the hotel industry . He noted that Continental Airlines made profits of about $4.50 per share last year, and is now expected to lose about $4.50 per share for 2008. "Dramatic swings like that are going to impact us," he said. He also noted that there are opportunities even in a depressed market. "Brand matters, and it matters even particularly more in today's environment."

Baltimore also noted that "fortunes will be made," in the coming years by those who invest intelligently in the lodging industry. But discipline and structure are critical, he said.

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