A discussion on the future of the hospitality industry was held at Southern Methodist University (SMU) Wednesday afternoon, during which panelists spoke about some of the issues facing the industry and offered critical insights into where it is heading.
The event was part of the university’s SMU+GSV Mission Summit, a series of panels and seminars bringing together “global leaders from across investment, government, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy communities to shape the future of business.”
Speaking at the event was Monty Bennett, publisher of The Dallas Express and CEO and Chairman of Ashford Inc. He sat alongside fellow panelists Dave Johnson, co-founder and managing director at Horizon Capital Partners, and Steve DeShazo, senior director at Dallas College. The fourth panelist was Nafees Alam, CEO of DRG Concepts, sitting in for Mike Hoque, CEO of DRG’s parent company Hoque Global, who was unable to make it.
During the hour-long panel discussion, the four speakers shared their in-depth knowledge with the audience, driving home a key theme of the importance of perseverance and resilience in being successful in the industry.
Bennett spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound effect on hospitality-related businesses. During that time, the industry saw huge swings in consumer demand that resulted in some sectors experiencing a roughly 90% drop-off in business, Bennett said.
These sharp oscillations in demand ultimately drove industry leaders like himself to explore new avenues that offered them better business protection and insulation against unexpected market downturns, Bennett explained.
However, the industry is still reeling from the shockwaves caused by the pandemic. Bennett highlighted how individual business travel is currently down around 20%, despite consumers generally having more leisure time and disposable income.
Although the industry continues to move forward and is adopting new technologies and ways of doing business, Bennett said that, at present, “everything is just kind of topsy-turvy.”
In terms of the most significant issues facing the hospitality industry today, the four panelists were mostly in sync with their perspectives.
The main challenges identified included workforce development (hiring and retaining employees), leveraging technology effectively, navigating the current regulatory environment, and the crime sprees overwhelming certain cities in the United States.
When it comes to regulation, “almost every major regulation I’ve seen started out well intended, but many just aren’t thought through very much,” Bennett said. He cited the difficulty industry professionals face obtaining a loan to refinance a hotel, let alone build one.
Another obstacle Bennett believes is affecting the hospitality industry is the rampant crime in some of the country’s biggest cities.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, many cities have been seeing a rise in property and violent crime over the last few years. In Dallas, for example, where City officials have not been able to get crime under control because of a significant shortage of police officers, murders have shot up by more than 20% as of May 1, year to date.
“Some of these just beautiful cities have so much crime that in many cases people don’t go [visit], and hotels close down, or they certainly don’t get built,” Bennett said.
He explained that the hospitality industry will continue to underperform in heavily crime-ridden areas unless city governments get a handle on the issue.
Still, despite the challenges, the four panelists expressed optimism about the industry’s future and how different it could look from a business perspective just 10 years from now.