NYU notebook: 9 bullets from the brass

In between the deluge of one-on-one interviews I conducted during the NYU hotel investment conference early this week, I did get to listen to a few sessions, and I made a special effort to block time for the CEO panels. Here is what I gleaned:

1. One of the big operational issues of the day will continue to revolve around how to give autonomy to the next generation of leaders when the older generation (a.k.a. Baby Boomers) still holds the power. That is a tricky question to answer, and I would love some feedback and response in the comments field here.

2. Interstate Hotels’ Jim Abrahamson says another challenge is balancing rising costs (especially labor) with increased consumer expectations in a much more transparent and demanding marketplace.

3. Hyatt’s Mark Hoplamazian, after agreeing with Hilton’s Chris Nassetta that the next few years in the United States look really solid, added that group business is just recovering and provides further durability to the positive swing in the business cycle. “It will propel healthy results for the next several years,” he said.

4. One of my new favorite quotes and rabble-rousers, AccorHotels’ Sébastien Bazin, stated that hoteliers are sharing “the buy” too much with OTAs. “We need to wake up,” he said. Bazin this week also announced how AccorHotels is going to allow certain independents to use their booking engines at a discounted price to what the OTAs charge. The man has interesting ideas and is changing the model. Who will follow?

5. We are in the 57th month of the up cycle in the United States, according to Wyndham CEO Geoff Ballotti, who believes it has a long way to go, citing a previous up cycle that lasted 112 months.

6. When asked about their favorite international development destinations, two mentioned China, two said Brazil and Bazin, ever the contrarian, said he likes Colombia.

7. Megatrend of the moment: the pervasiveness of limited-service concepts, according to Nassetta, who also cited the doubling of the global middle class creating amazing growth opportunities in the space.

8. Advice: Hoplamazian commented how brands need to extend their identities beyond the guest stay and not be so transactional. Develop deeper relations with guests both before and after the stay.

9. The gospel (from an owner, of course): Watermark Capital Partners’ Mike Medzigian imploring operators to push rates harder — now! He said we are in the sweetest spot in the cycle, and it is an exceptional time to make money. Can I get an “amen”?