Every year at this time, you can count on several things: Memorial Day Weekend, the Fourth of July and somewhere in the middle of those holidays, if you're in the hotel industry, the annual New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. Held in New York, this conference has a reputation of being the premier hospitality conference for investors. This year's conference, held June 4-6 at the New York Marriott Marquis, will marry the traditional, favorite topics with some new and exciting ones.
"Our first goal will be to offer a snapshot of how the industry is doing in terms of the first six months of the year," says Jonathan Tisch, conference chair and president and CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels. Tisch who has been involved in the conference since its early days, says the event continues to evolve with each year. "We continue to evolve from a conference that was based on investing to covering issues that deal with running hotels," says Tisch. "[The conference] is based on the premise of: You own the hotel, now what are you going to do to make it profitable?" In order to do that, this year's conference will "step out of the box" covering non-investment related topics such as technology, design, labor and branding.
This year's event promises to address every segment of the industry, including hoteliers with less than mammoth-sized portfolios. "This year, we are going to be addressing the little guy," says Dorothy Jennings, conference coordinator and executive vice president of New York-based HVS International. "We have a lot of attendees who don't own a huge portfolio. [The workshop] 'Developing on a Shoe String' will focus on that. We're also going to address the wheelers and dealers as well."
Speaking of "deals," at-tendees of the conference can expect the same secrecy behind this year's "Deal of the Year." Only in its fifth year, this acknowledgement is given to the transaction that has made a significant impact on the industry by establishing a new benchmark, direction or trend. No hints from us, though. The final vote on the Deal of the Year is made only a month prior to the event.
Another anticipated event will be the CEO's Check-in, where top CEOs make assessments and predictions for the industry. Lalia Rach, associate dean of The Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Travel Adminis-tration, NYU, will moderate this year's panel which includes: Mike Leven, president and CEO, Atlanta-based U.S. Franchise Systems; Ian Schrager, founder, chairman and CEO of New York-based Ian Schrager Hotels; Kathleen Taylor, president and chief corporate officer of New York-based Four Seasons Hotels; and William R. Tiefel, chairman of Atlanta-based The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.
In addition to covering the most current issues facing hoteliers, the conference is also designed to be a networking opportunity for students studying the hospitality industry at NYU. According to NYU's Rach, the attendance numbers are proof positive of the conference's attraction. "Last year was again our most successful conference ever in terms of attendance," she says. "More than 40% were presidents, CEOs and owners."
Not only was last year's attendance impressive, it also marked the first year the Marriott Marquis hosted the event. Held for years at the Waldorf+Astoria, the conference simply outgrew its presence at the historic hotel.
"[Last year] was our first conference at the Marriott Marquis," says Rach. "I have to tell you, I myself come from the hotel industry, and the staff [at the Marriott Marquis] was superb. Their service was outstanding, and I think our attendees felt that. I know my conference staff did."
While the event will be held again at the Marquis, it is hoped that one day the conference will be able to float among several hotels in New York.