Downturn Flattening: Starwood Chief

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“Flattening” was the operative word for Starwood chief Frits van Paasschen in a generally lackluster interview this morning on CNBC. While he admitted that group cancellations for the brand company are up by 50 percent, he believes that trend is "flattening out." He thinks the "sense of panic" among U.S. companies over the wisdom of meeting in hotels is going away.

Without being specific, he says the declines in RevPAR the company has seen in the past six months is also, you guessed it, "flattening out but not yet bouncing back."

Finally, not surprisingly, van Paasschen is bullish on the long-term prospects for the hotel business, particularly at the upper end. "Over time, luxury will come back. It's a basic element of human nature to take care of yourself," he told the generally ineffective team of interviewers lobbing him softball questions.

He admitted--and here's the rub for the industry--that hotels generally lag the recession, both going in and out, by six months or so. Given that the economy probably hasn't reached its low point yet, it's still a long time before hotel results are anything to crow about.

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