Six Experts Weigh in on Hotel Industry Recovery

After nearly three months of lockdowns and sheltering in place, restrictions are starting to lift and people are considering traveling once more. The hotel industry, which was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, has turned its focus to the recovery period. The BHN Group, which specializes in developing and organizing conferences for the hotel industry—including the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) every January—recently hosted a virtual panel where six industry leaders discussed what’s top of mind during this recovery period. Hosted by Jeff Higley, president of the BHN Group, ALIS 6×8 gave Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, Dave Johnson, chairman and CEO of Aimbridge Hospitality, Chip Rogers, CEO of AHLA, Mark Woodworth, CEO of RM Woodworth & Associations, Mark Elliott, president of Hodges Ward Elliott, and Mit Shah, CEO of Noble Investment Group, an opportunity to offer their two cents. Here’s what they had to say when asked, “Has the recovery actually started yet?”

1Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International

“People are getting back out because (A) they can and (B) they’re dying to get back out, see the family, get to the beach, do something. And of course, the places that have got the most space, which are drive to, which are personal, those are the ones that are coming back first. And that recovery will continue as long as states continue to ease restrictions. It will continue as long as the virus does not reverse and come back in bigger numbers as opposed to continue to climb. And both of those things we’ve obviously got to watch carefully.”

2David Johnson, Chairman and CEO of Aimbridge Hospitality

“People want to get back to their plans. They want to travel, but they just don’t feel safe and they’re scared. I think that’s the wildcard that we got—this wildcard is science that I think will really accelerate our recovery.”

3Chip Rogers, CEO of AHLA

“We are going to win, whether it takes overtime or not. Yeah, things are looking better, but we’re still in a very rough place and I don’t want lawmakers, policymakers, to misunderstand where we are. Help is needed today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future.”

4Mark Woodworth, CEO of RM Woodworth & Associates

“Being a consultant at heart… I have to say it depends. I would say that overall, the fact that we’re selling more rooms this week than we did last week, the pricing in a number of markets is getting better. Those are clear signals that we bounced off the bottom… [But] how long is the path to recovery? Is it 12 months? Is it 18? Is it 36? I think the most likely scenario [puts] 2023 as the point in time where we at least [get] the RevPAR level back to where we were in 2019.”

5Mark Elliott, CEO of Hodges Ward Elliott

“I think we started recovery—just by definition—[because] occupancies are higher now than they were months ago. More hotels are open today than a month ago. However, we may not be at the beginning of the fourth quarter. We may be in the first minute of the first quarter. I think it’s going to be slow until there’s a vaccine or an immunity. But the one thing that the country has decided is that [people are] not going to stay in their homes any longer. They’re going to get out…You really see the American spirit on display: Creative, smart, doing things intelligently.”

6Mit Shah, CEO of Noble Investment Group 

“Well, of course, the weekly stats will tell us that things are getting less bad. I think as everyone has remarked and certainly what everyone on Zoom today can acknowledge is that it is going to take some time. Remember all the baseball analogies we used to get tired of, sitting around and [asking] what inning are we in? We really do not know. We just know that it’s going to be long, and I do believe [in] the combined benefit of having an industry [that] is more together than it ever has been to fight this together. We’re going to have a therapeutic. We’re going to have a vaccine. We leave our homes. We are going to travel again, and this industry is going to be back. It is just going to take some time for us to get there.”

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Kate Hughes, Editor, LODGING Magazine