In an era of nonstop 24-hour news, even the slightest discouraging word can put a damper on the mood of an industry. Thus, nearly 2,000 executives gathered earlier this week in New York for the New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference fresh from a news cycle headlined by a less-than-positive report on jobs growth and downright bad news on housing starts. As a result, the mood at the conference, at least initially, was one of caution: everyone agreed hotel industry fundamentals are gathering significant steam, but the state of the U.S. economy had some speakers and attendees wondering about the future.

At the conference’s opening session, several CEOs used the term “spotty” to describe the economic and hotel landscapes. The signs are mostly good, they said, but external factors—everything from natural disasters to political unrest to the unsteady economy—lead them to some caution.

“Given what happened in Japan and Egypt and the U.S. economy, it’s a choppy environment,” said Hilton Worldwide President & CEO Chris Nassetta. “Yet, I’m optimistic overall. Group pace is improving and shows no signs of weakness. I believe the second half of the year will strengthen, and the supply and demand fundamentals will drive it.”

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