New breed of CEOs: Yea or nay?

Will the hotel industry’s giants ever again be run by hoteliers?

This month, Four Seasons hired the CEO of Prudential Real Estate Investors, and earlier this week Accor named an exec from Colony Capital. If you look at the CEO of the other giants, Hilton is run by a former Host Marriott man, a real estate company; Marriott’s and IHG’s CEOs came up through the financial, development and legal ranks; and Starwood hired a consumer brand guy. And I could go on.

I am not saying for a moment these leaders are not capable of being successful, and most of them have been by most accounts, but have any of them really worked in hotels? I guess the bigger question is what trend this signals for the hotel world.

Will the hotel industry now and forever move forward with a different set of agendas? Will service suffer at the hands of more financially focused and trained leaders? Will the consumer ever notice the difference, especially if these leaders surround themselves with seasoned hoteliers? Does it really matter as long as these executives have good business and leadership sense, no matter what road they traveled to get to their hotel company leadership roles?

While I can romance the idea of traditional hoteliers working their way up the ranks to the C-suite — and it still happens at smaller companies — at the end of the day if I did not stop to think about it I would say the industry continues to move in the right direction with its product offerings. And service will forever be the bane of the industry’s existence as long as line-level staffers are not paid a better wage, and with very few exceptions, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

So what do you think? What does this spate of non-hoteliers leading the industry bode for the business long term? And remember, Barry Sternlicht — a real estate guy by trade — was more or less responsible for creating the W brand, which some would say has been the biggest trend-setting brand of the past 20 years.

I am anxious to read what you think.