What a time it’s been

Two weeks to flatten the curve. Does anyone remember that? Now we are two years in with the mask mandate reinstated here in New York, new variants, vaccine mandates for businesses and plenty of uncertainty. It has been a long two years for everyone and, especially, for all of us in the hospitality industry. The bright light in all of this is something we’ve witnessed time and time again: the resiliency of our industry.

This past year, we all gathered in person once again as conferences resumed. One of my favorite memories of my 20 years in this industry is now the 2021 Hunter conference. For many of us, it was the first time we saw each other in more than a year. We all joked that we should walk around with Zoom-like frames around our faces so we would recognize each other. It was a celebration, a family reunion—and proof that the “new normal” will not be very different than the old normal. Further proof of that was September’s Lodging Conference. In many ways, it was like stepping back in time to 2019, which was a very welcome feeling. I’d like to commend all the trade show and conference organizers who courageously moved forward with their events in 2021. It was not easy, but I believe it was the right thing to do for our industry—and I thank you.

Leisure travel was another bright spot this year, especially in the spring and summer months. My wife and I had to research several locations before we could actually find hotel availability for one family trip we made over the summer. While we didn’t get to travel to our first-choice destination, I was happy to see the hotels in these areas doing well. People are traveling again. At least on the leisure side. But business and conference travel is a work-in-progress. And, for our industry, it’s a much-needed work-in-progress.

Another bright spot born out of the pandemic and our ongoing labor challenge is the focus on talent appreciation—a true understanding that the boots on the ground are the ones who keep our businesses running. General managers and other on-property staff were on the frontlines through the worst of 2020, and there is now renewed energy being put into understanding how to create better work experiences, opportunities and diversity into the hospitality workforce. I’ve had several operators come to me to ask if they could publicly thank their employees using an advertisement in Hotel Business. I’ve seen social media campaigns highlighting staff. It’s a positive and necessary move if we are going to attract and retain top talent moving forward.

One of my favorite bright spots has been hearing how people have reevaluated how they live their lives and balance work and family. Most of the country was working from home in 2020 and even into 2021. This experience made many of us stop and realize just how out of balance our lives have been. Some got out of the “rat race” to start their own businesses. Others moved to a state they always wanted to live in but couldn’t before working from home became commonplace. I know, personally, I got to witness my daughter say her first words and take her first steps. Things I would have missed if I was in the office every day.

Please don’t misunderstand me: The last two years have been more difficult on every level than any of us could have imagined. And we’ve covered every challenge on all of HB’s platforms. Here, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on just a few of the positives among the uncertainty. And speaking of uncertainty, what will 2022 look like? That’s the multimillion-dollar question—and one we will tackle in the January issue of Hotel Business with our annual Industry Outlook. So, don’t miss that. One thing I am certain about is how excited all of us here at Hotel Business are for 2022 and the celebration of our 30th anniversary. We have been working hard on insuring HB will remain your industry media go-to for the next 30 years and beyond.

Christina will talk more about that (and some surprises we have in store) in her column on page 6.

For now, let me just take a moment to thank every individual and company that has been a supporter, partner and, most importantly, a friend of Hotel Business for the last 30 years—and especially during the last two. We appreciate and value our relationships. It’s what keeps us working so hard and always reaching for new heights, so thank you again! Happy holidays, happy New Year and I’ll see you at ALIS in January.