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State of the State

Sitting by the pool at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables it seems as though there could be no better place to reflect on the very nature and state of hospitality. Incidentally, it is also a good place to find inspiration for a column. Having just wrapped up the inaugural Restaurant Executive Summit and while pouring through the data for the Lodging Industry Technology Study, it is hard to miss the fact that 2005 has been a good year for hospitality.

In many respects, that's a remarkable thing to say. This year started on an ominous note. As New Year's Eve struck, reports were still coming in about the tragic Tsunami that decimated portions of Asia and Southeast Asia. Many hotels were completely wiped out and countless thousands of employees killed. Eight months later, Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, wreaking havoc on world-famous restaurants, casinos and hotels and emptying a once vibrant city. And, as if that were not enough, Hurricane Wilma took direct aim at another tourist destination--Cancun--leaving in its wake untold damage and destruction.

Somehow, despite this seemingly perfect storm of events, hospitality has emerged stronger and more healthy than ever. In session after session at the Restaurant Executive Summit I listened to CEOs and CFOs of leading restaurant companies focused on growth. In follow up conversations throughout the Summit, all were upbeat and energized. The single-minded focus of all the attendees was on strategies to continue their growth and there was little doubt that the growth curve would continue uninterrupted.

Even more impressive is the data I am seeing in the Lodging Industry Technology Study, "Profiting from Lodging IT." It is clear, that hotels are not just banking on continued growth, but investing in technology solutions to take them there. Expectations of major technology roll outs cut across the entire industry for solutions as diverse as business intelligence software and flatscreen TVs.

Of course, the effects of the Tsunami, Katrina, Wilma, and such storms were not evenly distributed and many people and companies face years of rebuilding. Still the overall effect of the storms will have nowhere near the influence of September 11th. We've all come a long way since then. We're more efficient, more intelligent and able to take a punch, or two or three. It bodes well for the future.

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