NYU LIVE: Willing Our Way to Prosperity

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Leave it to hotel executives to find good in a bad situation. Most of those who spoke during the opening day of the New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference now under way in Manhattan put a positive spin on the industry's prospects for a recovery as early as the third quarter of the year.

Of course, while the outlooks ranged from nearly polyannish (Chris Nassetta of Hilton) to downright depressing (Mit Shah of Noble Investment), the consensus was that, barring the additional economic shoe-drop, the credit markets and hotel performance have bottomed out and no further declines are expected. Sounds promising, doesn't it? Or is it a case of spontaneous wishful thinking which people take as gospel simply because so many authority figures say so?

No question some chains and hotel companies are beginning to see incremental increases in business, but it may be premature to think a full-blown and speedy recovery is imminent. I'm not being negative, just realistic. The current hotel downturn is the worst in anyone's memory and was caused by a myriad of factors, few of which were due to actions by the hotel industry collectively or individually.

Everyone seems to agree, however, that given the pent-up consumer demand for travel and the thirst for transactions, when the turnaround comes it will be swift and dramatic. People want to travel, and hotel owners and developers want to do deals. Let's hope it happens soon.

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