HB ON THE SCENE: Hunter Conference Speakers Echo Time is Now Theme

ATLANTA—This week’s 26 annual Hunter Hotel Conference has underscored the sense of optimism felt throughout the industry as many speakers have echoed the theme of the event “the time is now” with regards to both doing deals and increasing rates.

Conference chair Bob Hunter, CEO of Hunter Hotel Group, got things started by noting that 57% of the more than 1,000 attendees at this year’s event stated they intend to develop a hotel in 2014.

Keynote speaker Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide, talked about the favorable economic conditions for the lodging industry. “I call it ‘goldilocks’, not too hot, not too cold. This is as good as I’ve seen it. I’ve been through [a number of]cycles, but this is different, it’s a longer cycle. There’s been a lid on demand,” he said.

Nassetta also addressed the issue of rate. “The time is now to move rates. Demand is back, occupancy levels are high, it’s getting better. We should be smarter about it,” he said.

Meanwhile, economist Dr. Jeffrey Dietrich, ITR speaker, senior analyst Institute of Trends Research, also provided reason for optimism. “Consumer expectations are the highest they’ve been in six years. Consumers are back to spending money,” he said, noting their saving more money as well. He further noted, “this means I think your industry is a little more safe than some of you assume.”

Dietrich also addressed the growing concern about interest rates. “I can tell you interest rates are not going to move in 2014. In 2015, they might not either until the second half. We think if they go up they will go up gradually,” he said.