Hotel CEOs Say Group Business Will Bounce Back

It's not all doom and gloom for meetings these days. In fact, though group business is down, hotel CEOs are confident that they will not see any long-term shifts in group, transient and leisure travel balance.

"Because group business is so far down, there will be tremendous pent-up demand," said Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, during a press briefing at the recent 2009 New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. "The conventions, product launches and training sessions are such an important part of the business that it will come roaring back."

Despite the fact that many organizations are implementing new practices to handle meeting cancellations, such as the use of webinars or teleconferencing, most of the CEOs believe these are not long-term solutions.

"Technology is wonderful—webcasts, webinars and the partridge in a pear tree," said Eric Danziger, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group. "But there is no replacement for people getting together to work, feed off each other and create a culture that ultimately drives businesses and companies."

Planners who get back to planning in-person meetings and events now have the opportunity to take advantage of the existing low average daily rates at hotels. Noble Investment Group Senior Managing Principal and CEO Mitesh Shah said that as buyers get more aggressive and push the rates lower, it will take longer for them to rise again.

"[Corporate buyers] understand that if they are traveling, they're one of the very few traveling, so they've gotten very aggressive," Shah said. "That's not going to change until demand starts increasing."
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