Wolff's crystal ball

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Some speculation for Hospitality 2007:

̢ۢ The proliferation of new brands will begin to abate. Now that Hyatt Place, Nylo, aloft, Cambria Suites and Element are in the pipeline, it will be hard to debut yet more "lifestyle" brands.

̢ۢ Old technology could lead to a specialty brand. Some savvy developer may float a boutique flag dedicated to vintage technology. Imagine a boomer hotel with pay phones, eight-track machines, record players, tube radios, even a black-and-white TV. Cable and Internet? Down the street.

̢ۢ HSIA will be ever freer. Upscale hotels on up will be holdouts and still charge for high-speed Internet access. But the move toward making it an amenity included in your room rate will quicken, further marginalizing the pay-for-use model.

̢ۢ More international expansion by domestic brands. Wyndham bought Corinthia and Hilton acquired Hilton International. Expect these giant franchisors and others to focus on development in Asia, China and India even more than the U.S.

̢ۢ More hotel companies will join the anti-smoking bandwagon. Now that Marriott has banned smoking from all its hotels, joining Starwood's Westin, the movement will spread. If Ireland, Italy, Norway, Malta (and Ohio) can ban smoking in public spaces, surely the hospitality industry can.

• More training. Now that hotels are flush with cash—ADR and occupancy are at a peak—they'll spend more money to train personnel. Also, expect technology to facilitate this, with podcast training already in play.

̢ۢ Longer construction timetables. Fluctuations in the cost of materials and the labor pool mean that many projects can take longer from groundbreaking to opening.

• Changing usage patterns. With rates creeping up in upper upscale, business travelers may find themselves trading down—as long as they can access the business services they need.

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