To start the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) Conference at the JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles this year, a video of well-known industry players lip-syncing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” played to the crowded Nokia Theater. It was also the theme of the conference, and it was meant to highlight how successful the industry has been this year (and will be in the years ahead). No matter your feelings on the song, the concept was right on.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that unadulterated joy was pervasive. When things are good, it’s hard not to be confident about pipeline numbers, occupancy numbers, new brands entering the market, new construction, renovations, deal-making, etc.
But what do happy people have to talk about? It turns out a lot, actually. Here are some key takeaways from this year’s ALIS Conference. (Expect more in the weeks ahead.)
- When it comes to Millennials, brands can’t live with them but can’t live without them. Millennials have fallen into the “they who shall not be named category,” with many panelists acknowledging they were after the Millennial attitude but not the demographic itself. “Baby boomers like to think like Millennials,” said Russell Urban, executive vice president of business development and acquisitions at Destination Hotels. “We shouldn’t forget about baby boomers; they’re an integral part in our [luxury] segment.” The focus now is on creating hotels and brands that attract customers who want meaningful, authentic, and localized experiences.
- Indeed, instead of Millennial, an alternative term flying around the conference was HENRY (High Earner Not Rich Yet). (Side note: I wish I fell into that category.)
- It was standing-room only at the lifestyle/boutique session—yes, even for one near the end of the second day of a conference. That’s because lifestyle brands are having a moment. Hyatt introduced its new Hyatt Centric brand at ALIS, and Marriott announced that its Millennial-focused Moxy brand will be entering the U.S. market with hotels planned for New York, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, and Chicago. Not to mention the lifestyle brands that have come before them (Canopy, Vib, Radisson Red, Tommie, etc.). At the hotel leaders panel, Mike Depatie, CEO of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants said it best: “You can’t swing a dead cat in this conference without hitting someone who is announcing a lifestyle brand.”
- Having ancillary use for luxury products (like residential, retail, and office), helps get properties over the development hump, according to Erin Green, vice president of business development, Americas, for Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. For luxury products to get off the ground, expect to see more mixed-use in the future.
- Buzzwords for the hotel industry include localized, authenticity, Millennial, original experience, experiential, lifestyle, social media. There will be less cookie-cutter hotels in the future and more that rely on one-of-a-kind design elements that highlight the city or town the property is set in.
- Of course, New York, Miami, and San Francisco are definitely top markets, but I heard a lot of chatter about secondary market Charlotte, which is showing strong occupancy rates and seeing a lot of new development.
- Finally and quickly: The U.S. is having a comeback; development is booming in America. China is still growing though it has waned in recent years. Europe is stagnant and Mexico isn’t as hot as people think it is.