In the following Q&A interview, Deen reflects on those trends:
To begin with, what is the overview you gained from attending this event?
Deen: In general, travel industry professionals, both agents and hotel managers, have seen real growth in the number of foreign international travelers coming to the U.S. As a point of reference, while many of the attendees were geared toward domestic travel, there was a high volume of attendees from Europe, from the Asian markets and from South America.
What were the reasons cited for this increase in international travelers?
Deen: To begin with, travel has increased overall in the view of many, simply because the industry is effectively rebounding from the slowdown caused by the economic recession in 2008-2009. In terms of the influx of international travelers to the U.S. in particular, with the Euro being stronger than the U.S. dollar in recent times, many travelers have been visiting the U.S. to take advantage of the exchange rate. Also, travelers from the Asian markets have been very aggressive and are traveling more as the economy has improved, with the U.S. increasingly a destination.
What has been your own experience as general manager of the Best Western Robert Treat Hotel? What trends are you seeing?
Deen: One of the key factors is that New York City is still "the place to go" for foreign international travelers. Because of the hotel's location, it offers a great alternative for visitors from an economic standpoint. We are in Newark, N.J.-which has its own great attractions such as the Prudential Center, NJPAC and Newark Museum, to name a few. But we are just 15 minutes away from Manhattan by rail, and we've found that visitors from Europe, Asia, South America and elsewhere really like the nice balance of having the opportunity to be here, but still not paying prime New York rates for their accommodations.
What was the general mood, then, at the meeting in San Francisco? Are travel professionals optimistic about the year ahead and beyond?
Deen: Generally speaking, the hoteliers that attended the meeting were very optimistic after seeing the trends that have carried over from last year going into the first quarter of 2012. Specifically, the industry as a whole is experiencing growth in hotel occupancy. It was a good sign to see hoteliers from around the world really believe that we will be seeing a continued upswing this year.
What are hoteliers doing to insure the continued upswing?
Deen: For one thing, we all are being very aggressive in working with groups and tour operators from all over the world to generate business. One key purpose of the program, from hoteliers' standpoint, was to get into agents' databases. For the Best Western Robert Treat, that means positioning ourselves as a hotel in the New York area, explaining our prime location vis-à-vis New York City, and carefully outlining what we have to offer.
Are you optimistic for this year and beyond?
Deen: Yes, we are. And, compared to three years ago, people in this industry on the whole are more optimistic. People have a sense that there is a lot of room for growth, over and above simply recovering from the economic downturn. In the hotel business, it is definitely getting better.