Reunited – and it feels so good

Wow, we’re already heading towards November—and towards the end of 2021. And what a year it’s been. And that’s following a year for the history books. With 2020 in the not-too-distant rearview mirror, everyone in this industry—in this country, world—waited to see just how this year would start, continue and, soon enough, will end. And two of the biggest questions on our minds after a year of being grounded with no events so essential to this industry—and to the overarching face of the travel industry—remained: Will conferences and trade shows return? Will business travel recover? And while leisure travel is now back to business, so to speak, the question that still lingers is: Just when will business travel be back to business?

It has been so encouraging—and such a welcome return—to be attending so many industry conferences this year. Yes, it started out a bit slow with some question marks still hanging over our heads, and all the traditional events that were typically spread out over a year packing into a few months, but the majors were back, starting with the Hunter Conference in May. And as each conference took its turn on deck, we all waited with bated breath to see if they’d still happen due to various travel restrictions, mask mandates and new virus variants. Then, we’d all breathe a collective sigh of relief as we moved forward, hopped on that plane and gathered together again under the roofs of the industry events. There we were, together again, in-person, seeing the friends and colleagues we hadn’t seen in more than a year—or we saw them, but on screen only. Sidenote story: One of my favorite moments during The Lodging Conference—which just wrapped up a few weeks ago—was my interaction with someone who introduced themselves to me and said it was nice meeting me, like it was the first time. I chuckled because this is someone I had multiple meetings with over Zoom during the past year, but for some reason, the familiar connection wasn’t made until it clicked a few minutes into our conversation. It really just does go to show you: Never underestimate the power of the in-person meeting. Nothing can replace it.

But speaking of favorite moments, I’ll share this: Some of my very favorite moments of 2021—so far—happened in Phoenix at The Lodging Conference. Always a highlight of my business travel, this year felt extra-special. In this issue we cover the happenings of the conference in terms of industry news and insight (see page 5), but here, on a more personal note, I’d like to thank the event founder, Harry Javer, and his wife, Liz, for reminding us there isn’t a more positive, vibrant, warm—not to mention fun—group of people who make up this incredible industry.

Harry has said that he has no shortage of notable moments from the conference over the years, but that one memory, in particular, stands out to him: September 11, 2001, the night that year’s conference was scheduled to begin. With the tragic events that took place that day, the conference was rescheduled for January 2002. And when that time came, members of the industry came together, and the event resulted in even higher attendance than they had originally planned. Harry has said that he “still gets chills” thinking about the outpouring of support he and his team felt that year.

This year’s event, not unlike the one 20 years ago, followed a dark period for our country, and with record-setting attendance and palpable optimism, the industry showed up in support—of the conference and each other. And while perhaps not chills, this editor can report, I did feel buoyant and, at the same time, calm. Cheerful that things are looking up, peaceful because I know, together, we got this.