ALIS in Wonderland?

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OK, so maybe the headline is a reach, but I've got lots of questions and thoughts as we near the first major investment conference of 2009—The Americas Lodging Investment Summit in San Diego from Jan. 26-28.

• I just saw a press release announcing the ALIS Awards finalists and there are some huge developments (the $1-billion Fontainbleau Miami Beach and the $1-billion Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center in D.C., for example), transactions (e.g., purchase of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza for $366.5 million) and mergers & acquisitions (e.g., Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group's $28-billion buy of Harrah's Entertainment) up for consideration...some really impressive numbers in all the categories.

But I'm wondering what the finalists will look like next year if 2009 is as gloomy as predicted. I'm guessing we'll have some big developments again (does the $2.3-billion Encore count for '09?) because most were well on their way before the credit crisis escalated, but what about in the transactions and acquisitions categories? Those seem to be dead in the water right now thanks to the credit crunch, but there will be plenty of hotels for sale for the same reason, and probably some chains as well. There are sure to be some buyers looking for a deal, but will they have the money and how low will the price tag go?

• I just received my official invitation to Hilton's press conference announcing the company's "innovative new development concept" and I can't wait to see what's coming. I've heard plenty of rumors, but nothing concrete. I'm guessing the term "lifestyle" might be mentioned...

• Speaking of Hilton, the host hotel of the event is the newly opened Hilton San Diego Bayfront. I'm looking forward to checking out the 1,190-room hotel, developed for $348 million by Portman Holdings, LLC and Phelps Development, LLC (the project is a finalist for the Development of the Year ALIS Award).

• And I'm really curious if the Hilton Bayfront will be as jammed as the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza was last year, when nearly 3,000 attendees made LA's biggest convention hotel feel small. I'm guessing this wasn't the year the site had to be moved because of growing attendance, with the industry in a tailspin and so many companies scaling back travel.

Either way, sunny San Diego or L.A. is always a pleasant change from snowy Cleveland, OH.

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