Another Great Year

It's hard to find the superlatives to describe the kind of year 2007 has been for the hotel industry. Nearly anyway you look at it, it was one of the best — if not the best — years in the history of the business. Yet, there's an uneasy feeling coursing through the industry. Nearly everyone in the business I've talked to in the past few months wants my opinion on whether we're headed for a downturn and, if so, how bad it will be.

I have no inside knowledge, nor do I possess a sophisticated forecasting tool, but I firmly believe that 2008 will be another great year for the U.S. lodging industry. It may not set records, but it will represent a plateauing of where the industry has been the past few years. While one side of the supply-balance equation, i.e, hotel openings, is beginning to escalate and should peak in '09, the business won't see the frantic levels of new development that marked the beginnings of past downturns.

The wild card, of course, is demand. I don't think the overall economy is headed for a full-blown recession, even though there are plenty of troublesome aspects of the economy, primarily the consumer credit crunch. But historically the political party in power during the presidential election year makes sure the economy remains propped up.

The last industry downturn, which began in 2000 and accelerated following 9/11, was mostly a function of reduced business travel. Leisure travelers continued to travel at near-normal levels, reinforcing marketing guru Peter Yesawich's contention that for Americans, travel is a birthright they're very unwilling to relinquish. However, given the realities of the sub-prime mortgage debacle and predicted troubles in consumer credit, we'll see if Joe and Jane Lunchbucket continue to hit the road during a possible dip in the economy.

I wish you, your families and your businesses happiness and prosperity during the coming year.

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