Lodging Conference: Recession Forecast, New Hyatt Brand and More

Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, shares the latest on the company's growth plans.

Our partner publication Hotel Management is at The Lodging Conference this week. The event is celebrating its 25th anniversary and taking place at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix after many years at the Arizona Biltmore, and we’ve rounded up the top hotel news you need to know. 

Economic, Industry Outlook Still Bright

Fears of an economic recession, which have been rumbling in the travel industry for quite some time now, were a major topic of discussion. During a View from the Top” session moderated by Top Ten Hospitality Advisors’ Don Landry, the four panelists – Best Western Hotels & Resorts CEO David Kong, Accor CEO/North and Central America region Heather McCrory, Hospitality Investors Trust CEO Jon Mehlman and MCR CEO/Managing Partner Tyler Morse – remained optimistic about the future of the economy and the hotel industry. 

Kong noted that, while political events such as the ongoing trade war between the United States and China and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit were contributing to these economic fears, the stock market remains “buoyant” and is approaching and all-time high. He pointed to overbuilding as being more of an issue. 

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In a separate presentation, Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at The Economic Outlook Group, echoed these thoughts: “If you look at the fundamentals of the economy, they still look great,” he said, pointing to the lowest unemployment rate in half a century; rising wages and consumer spending; manageable inflation and low borrowing costs; ample investment capital; and continued technological innovation. 

Baumohl said that recessions are actually quite rare, and that they are usually self-inflicted, such as with the over-investment in technology startups prior to the dot-com bust and the financial mismanagement that led to the Great Recession of 2008. Based on the intensity of the U.S.-China trade war and the likelihood of an unexpected geopolitical shock, he put the likelihood of GDP growth of approximately 2 percent this year at 55 percent, although it could dip as low as 1.8 percent or rise as high as 3 percent depending on how events play out. 

Hyatt’s New Caption Brand

The conference also saw the launch of another select-service lifestyle brand, this one called Caption by Hyatt. The brand will aim to draw guests from a broad age range who want to work, eat and socialize in community-inspired spaces that encourage guests and locals to mix and mingle. The brand plans to facilitate this with modular furniture that is easy to move around, as well as a morning, noon and night food and beverage offering that will include a bar, café and market mix and unique experiences. Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group also helped develop a food and beverage concept for the brand. 

Wyndham’s Big Plans

Finally, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts announced a number of new technology initiatives, as well as ambitious goals for international expansion. 

Wyndham President and CEO Geoff Ballotti reported that the company is prioritizing growth via new construction with the launch of both new and refreshed prototypes that draw inspiration from the company’s newest brand, La Quinta by Wyndham, and the recent Moda prototype from Microtel by Wyndham. Plans also call for an update to the Wyndham Grand brand with a new interior and exterior prototype, as well as the first new design scheme for Howard Johnson in 25 years (first announced in August) and a new Dawn interior design package for Days Inn

The company is also looking to use new technology, partnering with businesses like DoorDash to bring meals to its hotels without an onsite or adjacent restaurant. Wyndham is also launching a new bundle of wireless and network services to improve guest Internet access, as well as a new mobile app that will allow for “streamlined” guest bookings, account management, gamification and details of on-property features. 

Several regional leaders also shared insights on the company’s international expansion: Wyndham plans to open 500 hotels in China over the next three years, while Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim have become its fastest-growing region worldwide. In Latin America, the company is looking to open hotels in every main leisure destination across the region, while in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the company has opened 47 hotels since last year’s conference. 

Visit hotelmanagement.net for the latest on location coverage from The Lodging Conference. 

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