It may not be, as ALIS organizer Jim Burba suggests, “finally heaven in 2011,” but the lodging industry’s operational performance and financial health are finally back on track. That was the consensus of a panel of economists and industry analysts at yesterday morning’s opening session of the 10th annual Americas Lodging Investment Summit in sunny San Diego.

The panelists moved from the macro level of U.S. and world economies to a specific review and forecast for the U.S. lodging industry. All the speakers were bullish, but each tempered their optimism by pointing out factors that could inhibit a swift and unfettered upturn.

First the good news: Both Jan Freitag of STR and Mark Woodworth of Colliers PKF Hospitality Research see significant improvements in industry fundamentals this year. Freitag, an STR vice president, says a muted increase in new supply (less than one percent), combined with a fairly healthy rise in demand (up 2.5 percent), will generate significant hotel pricing power and a 6.1-percent jump in RevPAR.

Colliers PKF President Woodworth was even more aggressive in his forecast, calling for a 5.3-percent increase in demand, a 4.6-percent rise in rates and a 9.0-percent boost in RevPAR. His summary of 2011: “Things seem to be getting better quicker.”

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