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CEOs of 5 Leading Hotel Brands on Their Hopes and Fears in 2016

Christopher Nassetta, CEO of Hilton Worldwide, repeatedly attempted to put the overall state of the hotel business in a rosy perspective to provide greater context around some of the more troubling trends impacting travel in 2016.

“Forget the next quarter or two,” he said. “The next five, 10, 15 years, frankly, I think the rest of our lives for everybody in this room, all things being equal, are going to be fantastic in terms of what’s going to happen in travel and tourism, what’s going to happen in the hotel business, and what’s going to happen in terms of our growth.”
Nassetta and some of the other CEOs based their healthy hotel business predictions on World Tourism Organization statistics that show international tourist arrivals billowing from 1 billion to 1.8 billion by 2030.

Equally important, they said, the growth of the global middle class, Millennial preferences for experiences over things, and Boomers’ pent-up demand for travel are spurring the best possible scenario for hotel development, well, of all time.
“We are one of the largest employers and biggest businesses in the world, one of the fast growing businesses in the world, with tremendous opportunity,” Nassetta continued. “Why? It’s because over the last 20 years, the middle class has doubled. Over the next 20 years, every expectation is that the middle class will double again.”

This is based on a global perspective, which was continually emphasized by all of the hotel CEOs, who promoted unprecedented opportunities for new hotel development in emerging markets.
“If you look at lodging opportunities around the world, there are markets that are more mature like the United States and to some degree Europe,” Nassetta said. “But it’s a big world, and if you look at it on average, hotel rooms are significantly underpenetrated around the world almost in every market, particularly in the emerging markets, relative to what you’re going to see in population growth and demand as tourist arrivals grow.”

Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, added, “This extraordinary growth is from the demand side, because of the growing middle class around the world, people reaching retirement, and Millennials are more interested in experiences than collecting cars and houses.”
Summing up the oft-quoted “Golden Age of Hospitality” theme at the NYU Hospitality show, Stephen Joyce, CEO of Choice Hotels, said, “With Boomers, as they get more time on their hands, our argument is that they’re just going to travel all the time.”
Trump, Zika, ISIS, and interminable TSA lines, they agreed, are the big things standing in the way of that positive outlook, however.

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