Let the Good Times Roll

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It's not STR's performance results, PKF's forecast or Jones Lang LaSalle's transaction tabulations that tell me the hotel industry has regained its footing. It's my email in-box, which in the last week alone — the last two days in fact — has brought news of two new brands and invitations to rather extravagant press trips.

We're probably not quite to 2006 levels of success, and still have a ways to go with the lending environment obviously, but the fact companies new and old are popping up with plans for new and unique brands is a sure sign the good times are here, or very near. On Tuesday, plans for Hemingway Hotels & Resorts were announced. The luxury brand will celebrate the life of the acclaimed American author and appear in locales with connections to him or his writings. Adventure sports, local foods and bars will reflect his passions at the properties.

Thursday brought news of an extended stay brand launch: Sonesta ES Suites, which will debut this June in Burlington, MA. The converted Staybridge Suites will serve as the model for a new brand from Sonesta International. (Speaking of IHG, it was last month when the company announced plans for a new brand in China, and the fitness-focused Even here.)

More plentiful has been the return of the press trip — invitations to travel journalists and sometimes even the trade press for hosted trips intended to showcase a new property, a tourist destination or even a city or nation. The hosts range from hotel companies or resort owners to city or even country's tourism boards and often a combination of the two. The concept is simple: Bring a journalist in to experience a property and the surrounding areas and hope they write about it to spread the word to consumers. Invitations to Europe, Canada, the Caribbean and across the U.S. have come in recent weeks.

New brands and invitations to far off places weren't a regular occurrence the last few years. The news instead was about the struggles or failures of brands launched just before or after the bottom fell out of the world in 2008, and the story pitches were about how operationally efficient some of the previously free-spending companies had become.

I wouldn't necessarily trust my not so scientific study of the industry over STR, PKF or JLL, but it has to be a good sign that companies are getting more aggressive with their plans and marketing.

I have no idea if Hemingway Resorts will succeed, let alone come to fruition, but I'm hoping for an invitation to experience a grand opening in Cuba or maybe some bullfighting in Spain.

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