For many in the meetings and hospitality industry, 2015 seems like a time when we will see the industry and economy really pick up steam, building on growth from 2014. It may be a gut feeling, but a couple recent openings have made me optimistic for the future.
During recent forays into the wild—okay, it was Las Vegas for IMEX America and a trip to Palm Springs, so some facsimile of civilization was always close at hand—I visited a couple properties that are back on their feet after suffering the brunt of the economic collapse that began in 2008 and delivered a gut-punch to meetings and tourism.
The first of the properties, the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, opened in August on a location with a storied past, a true icon of The Strip.
The site of the former Sahara Hotel and Casino, which featured the top acts of the 1950s and ’60s, shut its doors in 2011 due to a lack of economic viability, and sat in limbo until SLS parent company SBE broke ground in February 2013 on a $415 million conversion that resulted in some 1,600 rooms being added to The Strip. “Bullish” may be inching back in Vegas, at least in this example.
My second economic epiphany was the result of a “full-circle” trip to the Palm Springs, Calif., region, which included a visit to the new Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage. When I write “full circle,” it really was, as I originally saw a model of the five-star resort back in 2008 at a sales office off Route 11, set in a unassuming strip mall.
Little did the titans of commerce know back then that a near-catastrophic collapse of the economy would leave the Lehman Bros.-backed luxury property partially built, overlooking some of the most-desirable real estate in the U.S. An icon of another sort, if you will.
Fortunately, both the Ritz and SLS properties are back and ready for business, dressed in their luxurious-lifestyle best. Let’s hope they are harbingers of good times to come!
Enjoy the 2015 Meetings Focus Trends Survey. And although life in the hospitality industry is still not back to its rip-roaring peak, a slow and steady recovery seems to be in the cards.