HSMAI Perspective: Fast Forward

The past few weeks, I have been lucky enough to hit the road, traveling to the NYU Investment Conference in New York, IMEX in Las Vegas, and Phocuswright in Hollywood, Florida. At all three conferences, the energy and excitement for meeting in person again was palpable, as many of the attendees were going to their first networking events of this size since the pandemic began. Going to all of these events following our own successful commercial strategy events in September and October only reinforced in my mind the need for folks to gather, and made me feel more encouraged about the upcoming year.

While the events were slightly smaller than pre-pandemic days, the number of people that were able to come was still a tremendous testament to the power of gathering in person. While there were fewer attendees, there were still roughly the same number of companies represented, showing that organizations too recognize the importance of in-person collaboration and networking.

At the NYU conference, many hotel CEOs were almost giddy about the pace of recovery that they are seeing. They are finally not just seeing more leisure travel, but are seeing business travel, and meetings/conventions bookings pick up for 2022. Even more exciting was the announcement from STR’s forecasters that they are now predicting a full demand recovery in the third quarter of 2022 – an entire year sooner than previously expected.

The only caveat to this is in the context of the major talent challenges facing all levels of most organizations. However, I have no doubt that we as an industry will overcome this challenge, just as we have all previous challenges.

At IMEX, there were a record number of meeting planners, all anxious to book business. The feedback from hotel salespeople was all very positive. It was especially wonderful to be at this conference, because IMEX was unfortunately cancelled last year, while the NYU and Phocuswright conferences were virtual.

At my final stop, Phocuswright, there were a huge number of tech startups vying for the abundant amount of capital available to invest in the travel and hospitality market. It was clear that all the attendees were highly optimistic about the future of travel, which reinforces the positive, long-term outlook for the industry.

After Phocuswright ended, I was also able to meet up with Mike Levin, a great supporter and friend of HSMAI, while I was in Florida. He observed that during the pandemic, it was great to see true leaders emerge to bring their companies through the pandemic. What Mike said truly stuck with me. He said that the hard times are when leadership is truly needed. When things are going well, leadership is easy, but when things aren’t going so well, that’s when the best leadership emerges. He and I are both encouraged by the strong generational leadership across the industry that emerged and truly stuck out.

Now that I am back in the office, I’m able to reflect on what I’ve learned over the past few weeks. I’m encouraged by the direction things are headed for our industry, inspired by what companies and individuals have accomplished, and grateful to be able to gather with people in person again.

To paraphrase Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics from an HSMAI presentation last year, we all need to replenish our relational equity, because it has been used up. Well, I and many of the attendees were able to replenish our relational equity these past few weeks at these conferences. There is truly nothing like being face-to-face, and I look forward to many more in-person meetings in the future.

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles