HB ON THE SCENE: Ian Schrager Talks Trump, Airbnb at BLLA Conference

NEW YORK—The annual Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association’s (BLLA) Boutique Hotel Investment Conference, held here at Florence Gould Hall, featured an all-day schedule of events including panels, networking and a macaroons and rosé party. One highlight from the event was an hour-long Q&A with hotelier Ian Schrager, CEO of Ian Schrager Company, interviewed by Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN digital correspondent.

Yurkevich asked Schrager a range of questions that delved into his early days in the hotel industry, his personal relationship with Donald Trump, his forecast on Airbnb’s future and the details that are needed to make an outstanding hotel.

When asked what isn’t working in the boutique industry today, Schrager replied, “What isn’t working in the market is that most people don’t understand it isn’t all about design. It’s also about attitude and approach.” 

Attitude and approach were addressed throughout the day with panels on the DNA of boutique brands and what makes them successful. Also discussed was a snapshot of the New York hotel market, a debt market briefing and an update on the status of Commune Hotels by CEO Niki Leondakis, and Destination Hotels by President Jamie Sabatier.

An F&B panel was moderated by Jody Pennette, CEO of cb5 Hospitality, and a panel on investment, led by Guy Maisnik, partner at JMBM Global Hospitality Group, touched on the hotel transaction landscape. A panel moderated by Jonathan Falik, CEO of JF Capital Advisors, discussed the active equity investors in today’s landscape.

A keynote, delivered by Pilar Guzman, editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveler, took the stage where she called hotels “laboratories for culinary innovation.” An all-media panel followed Guzman. Speakers discussed a variety of topics including the reasons why social media is both a news source and a distribution channel. Panelists also gave audience members tips for how to pitch stories to the media and reminded hotel owners and public relations professionals that it is important for them to know their audience.

Mark VanStekelenburg, SVP at PKF Consulting, gave a presentation on the boutique market landscape. He noted that the strong points are high occupancy rates, lower interest rates, profits continuing to grow and increasing wages which, from the consumer standpoint, means people are traveling. He also explained that the wage increase is a reason to be cautious in the market.

More coverage of the event will appear in the 7/15 issue of Hotel Business.

—Katherine Klahn