A Hot Time in Times Square

Given the long-lasting prosperity of the lodging industry, it's likely that a record crowd will turn out for next month's New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. As the oldest (this is its 29th year) such event in the hotel business, the NYU conference is often a bellwether of trends in the industry. It's a certainty that many of the 2,000-or-so attendees will be there to get a reading from industry experts on whether industry performance is headed for a downturn and, if so, when and where it will begin.

This year's conference will be held June 3-5 at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square. Proceeds from the conference support the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Loews Hotels Chairman & CEO Jonathan Tisch is conference chairman.

One of the key events of the conference will be presentation of the Stephen W. Brener Lodging Hospitality Silver Plate Award to Stephen Rudnitksy, president & CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group. Lodging Hospitality has been honoring industry luminaries with the Silver Plate Award since 1959, and in 1994, we renamed it to honor the late Stephen W. Brener, founder of the NYU Conference and the real estate editor of Lodging Hospitality for 25 years.

Publisher Gary Dietz will present the award to Rudnitsky to honor his excellence in guiding the Wyndham Hotel Group through several years of change and growth. Under his leadership, Wyndham has evolved from a pure-franchise, mostly U.S.-oriented hotel company to one of the world's largest integrated franchise and management companies. In addition, in the past three years, he oversaw the integration of three major brands — Baymont Inns & Suites, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Ramada International — into the then-Cendant and now Wyndham structure. Also under Rudnitsky's watch, the company launched the TripRewards loyalty program, now the largest of its type in the hotel industry.

Rudnitsky will receive his award during lunch on Monday, June 4. Following the presentation, keynoter Martha Stewart will address the attendees. The Silver Plate Award presentation and Stewart's appearance are two in a long list of conference highlights:

  • On Tuesday, June 5 at lunch, Jonathan Gray of The Blackstone Group's Real Estate operation will receive the IREFAC C. Everett Johnson Award. Tom Corcoran of FelCor and Steve Rushmore of HVS International will make the presentation.

  • Immediately after the presentation, eight members of IREFAC will discuss the state of hotel financing. The presence of Hilton's Matt Hart and Laurence Geller of Strategic Hotels ensures that the session will be lively.

  • Following a kickoff reception on Sunday evening (June 3), the Monday morning program begins with the traditional CEOs Check-In Panel. Tisch Center Associate Dean Lalia Rach will moderate an eclectic group that includes Tom Baltimore of RLJ Development, Andy Cosslett of InterContinental Hotels, Gray of Blackstone, Gerald Lawless of Jumeirah International and Kathleen Taylor of Four Seasons Hotels.

  • Following that panel, Mark Lomanno of Smith Travel Research and HVS' Rushmore will give their annual overviews of industry performance with a look to future trends.

  • A general session panel of industry dealmakers — Majid Mangalji of Westmont Hospitality, Mit Shah of Noble Investment, Gary Mendell of HEI Hospitality and John Williams of DiamondRock Hospitality — will discuss how they're able to consummate transactions in an environment in which the number of interested buyers outstrips the good deals available.

  • Several tracks of breakout sessions will focus on topics such as finance, development, design, operations and industry segments.

For more information on the conference, go to www.nyu.edu/hospitalityconference. For more information and related articles, go to www.LHonline.com

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