IHMRS shows resilience with upbeat, well-attended event

Having just returned from the annual IHMRS in New York, I’m happy to say, with apologies to Mark Twain: Reports of the death of the show have been greatly exaggerated.

There were plenty of questions surrounding the continuing viability of the event—which has brought together various facets of the industry for nearly 100 years—stemming from the last several shows; last year’s in particular. Taking place on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, last year’s show featured sparse attendance and, in some cases, makeshift booths, both a direct result of the storm. On top of that, management of the show was changing hands from long-time manager George Little Management to Hospitality Media Group, which managed the show this year. 

But this year’s show was a far different story. The aisles were more crowded than I can recall in recent years and the transition to new management was relatively seamless, or at least it seemed to be. Exhibitors and the nearly 16,000 attendees seemed to be generally upbeat, as most noted that each year, things get a little better—and the expectations for 2014 are lofty indeed.

Meanwhile, the traditional hotel & restaurant portion of the show continues to get a huge lift from BDNY, which joined in 2010 and keeps gaining momentum—and square footage—every year. This year, BDNY was more conveniently located adjacent to IHMRS and attendees definitely took advantage. The simple fact is the pairing works and the design portion supplements the hotel side of the equation perfectly. The reality here is all good trade events need to evolve in order to stay relevant and this one certainly has done that.

Throughout the last several years, many of the booths featured the same product as previous years, perhaps packaged or marketed slightly differently. However, I would argue there was more genuine new product, or at least prototypes, at this year’s event. Manufacturers seem to be investing more heavily in research and development again, which is critical to the future of this industry. In addition, some of the buyers I talked to seemed to be doing more than just browsing. Rather, they had specific needs and objectives they were looking to meet.

Renovation activity, new construction and Cap-Ex projects have all ramped in recent months as the overall economy continues to strengthen and the hotel industry, specifically, achieves solid RevPAR growth month after month. All of this activity is good news for the vendor community. 

However, this show is about more than product. As the last major event of the year, it serves as a bellwether for how the industry is feeling. With few exceptions, most observers are feeling pretty good these days. For an industry that has no shortage of events, from ALIS to the NYU Conference, there needs to be a compelling reason for people to attend other than seeing New York in the fall. The most recent event proved once again that while there is always plenty to see outside of Javits in early November as the holiday season approaches, inside of Javits there is plenty for the industry to be thankful for as well.