HB ON THE SCENE: Research Firms Express Optimism During HELP Conference

BOSTON—The 3rd annual HELP Conference kicked off here yesterday with executives from leading research firms noting that there is plenty to be optimistic about and the industry shouldn’t see any significant headwinds for at least a couple of years.

Held at the Boston Seaport Hotel & Conference Center in front of 350 to 400 attendees, a panel entitled “Perspectives from 30,000 Feet” covered a number of factors that figure to impact the industry going forward.

Mark Woodworth, president, PKF Hospitality Research, gave his opinion on where we are in the current economic cycle. “We’re in the sweet spot. Rapid development is still about three years away,” he said, later adding, It’s not until 2017 when we think industry is starting to look over the edge.”

Warren Marr, managing director, PWC, talked about the recovery in terms of the low 2% GDP growth experienced by the U.S. last year. “It’s been kind of an anemic recovery in the economy. We’re looking at 3% [GDP growth] this year, but there were significant barriers last year,” he said, in reference to tax increases and spending cuts with sequestration. “We should be looking at more stable growth.”

Ann Lloyd Jones, managing director, HVS, did sound a note of caution with regards to the addition of new product and its potential impact on performance. “Supply is going to come faster than anyone believes. It’s what happened in the last two cycles,” she said.

David Loeb, managing director & senior research analyst, RW Baird, meanwhile, answered the question of who’s buying hotels. “The simply answer is everyone. There’s a lot of money out there looking for real estate,” he said. Loeb added in terms of overall prospects for the industry, “I’m pretty comfortable with the next two years. In the next five years things will get ugly.”

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