The Biggest Hotel Stories in 2014
If we asked for the top three stories in hotels for 2014, we'd probably go with Genesis, Exodus, and Deuteronomy. (Thanks, Gideons.) Of course, this is why nobody asks us, and it's why we did ask leaders in the hotel industry for the top three trends they'll be looking at this year.
Kevin Mallory, Americas Practice Leader, CBRE Hotels
1) Increasing interest from foreign capital—There was strong growth in foreign investment in 2013, although it was a small percentage of total investment and mostly focused on larger markets and assets. "We’re now seeing growing interest from individuals as opposed to investment and sovereign wealth funds, and they're also looking at a broader range of markets."
2) Continued acceleration of non-traded REIT investment activity—Inland, Carey Watermark, ARC, and others continue to attract capital that needs to be placed, Kevin says. For one, Carey Watermark closed 2013 by snapping up the 553-room Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel for $139M.
3) Bigger sales—Expect an increase in those $100M-plus transactions this year, Kevin says.
Gerry Chase, President & COO, New Castle Hotels & Resorts
1) The transformation of lobbies—Forget a few armchairs scattered about and perhaps a bowl of apples. Lobbies are turning into activity hubs with TV screens, gaming, social media connectivity, community tables, and electronic concierge boards. (Your move, pool.)
2) Rethinking how hotel areas are used—New Castle is revamping the Westin Nova Scotian, where the gift shop isn't doing as well. It's now transforming the space into an area where small groups can meet, host a webinar, or rent by the hour for events, turning little-used space into a revenue-generating amenity. (And hopefully a return to handmade gifts. It's the thought that counts.)
3) Social media—"It’s here to stay, and we’re making sure we're in the game," Gerry says. For one, customers are rating its hotels online, and New Castle is using it to make sure it's delivering the best service it can. Bonus: Gerry foresees more hotels offering free Wi-Fi, which is something guests really, really like.
Larry Korman, President, AKA & co-CEO, Korman Communities
1) A return to innovation—During the recession, everyone got away from innovation, and investors pushed to reduce expenses. But a new wave is coming, Larry says, and there's financing available to help enhance a hotel's lifestyle, services, and amenities.
2) Going back to basics—Presentation is everything and a basic element to a guest’s experience. "It differentiates you, and people come back and refer you," Larry says. Every AKA suite goes through four checks to make sure it's impeccable before the next guest arrives.
3) All facets of technology—With newspapers and magazines going digital, the web brings in more money, Larry says. So his firm has been investing in upgrades to its site and focusing more on SEO and SEA. On the property level, AKA discovered that more folks are streaming web content, so it's upgrading its TVs to allow device connectivity and increasing broadband.