NEW YORK — What geographic region will experience the biggest increase in hotel investment over the next five years? The answer is Asia/Pacific, according to a newly released survey of hotel executives conducted by New York University.

More than half of respondents (55%) predict the Asia/Pacific region will experience the greatest percentage increase in lodging investment over the next five years, while only 29% cite North America. Meanwhile, 51% of respondents cite potential terrorist attacks as the single biggest threat to a recovery in the hospitality sector. Thirty-five percent say the economy remains the biggest threat.

"Our survey found this group cautiously optimistic, but still worried about the specter of terrorism and a lagging U.S. economy on the industry’s recovery," said Lalia Rach, associate dean of the NYU Tisch Center and HVS International chair. "[Respondents] point to interesting sector trends, namely that Asia and the Pacific Rim will enjoy increases in investment and that the upper upscale segment will remain a focus of investment growth."

A total of 140 executives responded to the e-mail survey conducted in May in advance of New York University’s 26th annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, which kicked off Sunday night with a reception at the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. Sponsored by the NYU Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, the conference is expected to attract more than 1,500 mid- to senior-level executives representing the investment, development and operations arms of the business.

"Attendees are hospitality executives who make the key business decisions for their organizations, directing where development, investments and growth will happen," says Rach. The conference runs through Tuesday.

The survey touched on a range of issues affecting the industry, which posted dismal numbers for three years but is now breaking out of its slump. Respondents also weighed in on the upcoming presidential election. Among the highlights:

• 62% of respondents believe it will take one to two years before the industry will see a return to the occupancy and average daily rate (ADR) figures recorded in 2000. Some 51% indicate that an increase in the revenue per available room (RevPAR) is the indicator to watch in order to determine if a recovery is under way.

• 63% of executives say the revival of corporate travel is having the greatest effect on the pace of recovery, while 22% cite the rate of job growth.

• 40% indicate that real estate investment trusts (REITs), both public and private, will be the most active buyer groups for hotels during the recovery while another 20% cite opportunity funds.

• 64% indicate that upper upscale and upscale will be the service segments that will experience the most investment activity over the next six months.

• 52% say urban areas will be the most active geographic segments during the same six-month period, compared with 33% who cite suburban areas.

• By a margin of 60% to 40%, hotel executives say Republican presidential incumbent George Bush will have a more positive effect on the hospitality investment community than Democratic challenger John Kerry.

More than half of survey respondents (51%) are directly involved in either real estate, hotel investment or development activities, according to NYU. The remaining respondents are individuals who provide direct services to the investment/development group.