Approximately 1,600 people attended The Lodging Conference this year. Now in its 20th year, the conference has hosted a total of 23,000 people since being founded by Harry Javer and Morris Lasky. The Lodging Conference has a reputation for bringing together the hotel industry’s most influential owners, presidents, CEOs and deal makers to strategize about development, finance, franchising, management and operations and 2014 was no different. 

Held at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa from Oct. 20 to Oct. 23, The Lodging Conference showcased speakers, sponsors and exhibitors all focused on continued success in the hospitality industry. 

With the increased frequency of cyber attacks, headlines of the latest data breach often dominate the news. An overwhelming 43 percent of companies have been the victim of a data breach within the past year, with 60 percent indicating they have been subjected to multiple breaches within that same time period. 

Data breaches are widespread and expensive – costing an organization a great deal in dollars, reputation and consumer goodwill. The hospitality industry is a frequent target for data thieves, largely in part due to the immense amount of customer data – including names, physical addresses, email addresses and credit cards – that hotels and restaurants collect on a daily basis through credit card transactions, rewards programs and reservation systems. This wealth of information makes the hospitality industry so attractive that Trustwave’s 2014 Global Security Report found that 29 percent of all data breaches in 2013 were in food and beverage and hotels combined.

Located in the heart of Orlando’s International Drive – famous for its attractions, eateries and leisure entertainment – Hyatt Regency Orlando hosts more than 1 million visitors annually in the busiest tourist destination in the country. The property boasts 1,641 guest rooms, four award-winning restaurants, resort-style pools, ample recreational facilities and 315,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. But as one might expect in a city that hosts more than 60 million visitors each year, hospitality competition is fierce. For management, it’s essential to distinguish Hyatt Regency Orlando from the rest – and that includes other Hyatt properties located just around the corner. 

It’s a situation that many hotel and resort managers face: How do you best differentiate your brand while remaining true to its larger corporate umbrella? The Hyatt Regency Orlando leadership team has put together a few steadfast rules to answer that very question. 

As of Oct. 14, the current Ebola virus outbreak had taken the lives of 9,216 people, with nearly all of those deaths occurring in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The regional epidemic became even more of an international scare when a few cases touched ground outside of West Africa. Although the scene in the United States is far from an outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have taken proactive measures to prevent others from being infected and make early detections. 

Craft beer has experienced exponential growth in the United States and throughout the world over the past decade as consumers have come to appreciate the variety of styles and phenomenal quality that results from the dedication of smaller, local beer producers. Indeed, according to the Brewers Association, in 2013 while beer figures declined overall, craft beer continued to experience another year of double-digit growth, including a 49 percent growth in the export of American craft beer.  

Craft beer is not the only category of artisanal beverages experiencing rapid growth. Rather, consumers throughout are fueling another wave of craft alcoholic beverages from producers similarly dedicated to the production of high-quality alternatives to the historic mainstays of the industry. In particular, these include hard cider and mead. 

There will always be changes in the leisure and hospitality industry. One change, however, affects the concierge the most. Over the years we have seen a growing dependence on technology and improvements with widely popular apps seemingly taking the place of communication. But what is the future role of the concierge amidst all these changes?

A frequent traveler myself, I began to observe the properties I visited and found that some began utilizing the front desk as a means to provide both reception and concierge services. The properties with a concierge desk appeared to see an older demographic because millennials were more prone to using their smartphone devices to search for restaurants, attractions, maps and even transportation. This phenomenon known as the rise of the “silent traveler” now dominates the decisions made by executives in this industry.

It’s a travel conundrum. People go on vacation looking for a break from work, school and the daily humdrum of life, but once they return from the whirlwind trip, many report feeling more tired than when they left. A recent Spafinder Wellness 365 consumer survey found that 85 percent of people have returned from a vacation less rejuvenated than when they left. Well, “no more,” these travelers say. This issue is driving a new trend called wellness travel, and it has many different levels. Some travelers make it the sole purpose of their trip and seek out dedicated wellness retreats. Others are looking to tie wellness into their overall itinerary – today, the Taj Mahal, tomorrow, extensive sessions in yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. 

In Starwood’s first-quarter 2013 earnings summary, CEO Frits van Paasschen stated that “growth in lodging demand is being fueled by the rising wealth around the world, the creation of new cities in fast-growing economies and the expanding reach of global businesses.”

We see that happening in China and the progress has been well documented. The country’s growing middle class has spurred brands to invest heavily in China as well as neighboring Asia Pacific countries. China, for instance, is home to the largest number of Starwood hotels outside of North America, with its Sheraton brand leading the way. 

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