Confident optimism

Hotel Business reports on the industry. We attend conferences, interview executives, receive data and chat with associations. But, sometimes, firsthand experience and anecdotal information help to confirm for us exactly what it is we’re reporting on.

For roughly the last year—and, surely, since the start of this year—we’ve written about the return of travel, predominantly in the leisure sector. Our panelists for various Hotel Business Hot Topics sessions and our subjects of various Q&As have all been quite bullish about the uptick in travel and tourism post-pandemic. And we just returned from the Hunter Conference where I personally felt “something special” in the air—a palpable energy and enthusiasm that perhaps had waned over the past couple of challenging years but was now back in standing-room-only sessions and spirited discussions. I heard the same sentiment from a few of my industry colleagues, too, as we all were pumped by the positive atmosphere.

In this issue, we chat with Nikheel Advani, COO/cofounder, Grace Bay Resorts and chairman, Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, about the thriving destination and how it’s attracting new development to the territories (see page 36). Furthermore, in this issue, which is our annual management company edition with a ranked list and executive interviews, industry leaders discuss their optimism for 2023 and the ensuing momentum. And then there’s the return of Meet the Money (see page 8). We talk with event founder and hotel industry veteran Jim Butler about its hiatus and the much-anticipated upcoming event, underscoring the continued rebound of our beloved industry.

According to a study by Expedia, and VRBO, 2023 is slated to be a year of travel “like no other.” And, according to forecasting by Economist Intelligence, global tourism will rise by 30% this year. A survey by Hyatt showed that more than half of respondents said they’d change their travel plans to earn or redeem points, proving points and miles are valuable currency in the current climate. A huge stash of points can get you those free hotel nights or airfare, allowing you to take that 2023 dream trip you wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.

But you all know the forecasts and stats—it’s what you do, what you consume. So that brings me back to my second sentence.
As I write this, it’s my first day back in the office after taking a vacation in Spain. (By the way, if you haven’t been to Madrid and Valencia, I highly recommend it.) I tapped into my stash of points—which helped to offset rising costs—and off we went, exploring what seemed like every nook of these cities (and Toledo and Segovia in between) in the glorious springtime weather of central Spain. And as we traversed the urban landscapes (yes, my Fitbit tells me I walked 76.32 miles while away—though there was a lot of great food and beverage to counterbalance that), it was evident to me that tourism was booming. Streets were full, restaurants booked, every seat occupied on flights and trains, and the lines through border control—I’ve never seen anything like them in all the years I’ve traveled. And, yes, the posts were fully staffed.

As I settle back in, dig myself out and get this issue off to the printer, I feel a bit stressed and refreshed at the same time. And hopeful that the year ahead is going to be a great one. While we may be feeling squeezed by inflation and shocked by ticket prices—and the challenges that seem to be part and parcel to traveling these days—there is a renewed enthusiasm for travel. I can feel it.  I can see it. Actually, I believe the enthusiasm never left; it was just displaced by caution. But I’d like to think now we can start to move from the often-overused phrase “cautious optimism” to “confident optimism.”