Hotel Online  Special Report

“It’s Soup”
Hotel Industry Endures the
Worst Period in Decades
By Michael G. Frenkel, April 2004

Working as a communicator, strategist – and sometimes, cheerleader – for some of the most respected brands in our industry, today’s environment reminds me of that old commercial, where a cute but hungry little tyke sits down for lunch, grabs his spoon and quite impatiently asks demands of his mother:  “Is it soup yet?” 

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please:  It’s soup!

Collectively, the hotel industry should stand up and take a bow. We made it. We endured the worst period for our industry in decades – launched by a recession few foresaw, accelerated by a terrorist attack no one could have predicted, and magnified by the fear and hesitation that gripped the nation in the aftermath of both.

Can you remember hanging on each news report to try to figure out where the stock market would open after the 9-11 attacks . . . if it opened at all? Recall those chilling nights after the attacks when the (still mysterious) spread of anthrax was all over the evening news, and it seemed as though terrorism had arrived in a way that could impact not just our economy and national outlook – but our every interaction with our neighbors? 

Can you still feel the stomach-churn that accompanied not knowing how deep the recession would cut, how long it would be before people started traveling again, if they traveled at all, how many hotels would fall into default . . .  and whether, as an industry, we would ever again see numbers like we saw in the late 1990s?

How different things look today, just thirty-one months after the planes struck the Towers: Leisure travelers returned long ago, and it looks like a “hot” summer ahead. Business spending has come back, by every measure, and that means the business traveler is not far behind. The economy is back. And the stock market – at least, the reasonably rational Dow Jones average – is approaching its old highs.

Please don’t misunderstand. Everything is not rosy. The fighting in Iraq rages. Gas prices are high. A seemingly permanent shift away from a manufacturing economy continues to cause economic stress for many. And in our industry, the threat of over-leverage, and the potential for another terrorist incident, cause continued concern.

But that should not prevent us from recognizing how far we have come, and how bright the future looks. 

Nor should it obscure how we got here: By persistent, unrelenting belief in our business; by consistently communicating the value we provide our customers and vendors, and the critical service we provide the national and world economy.

As an industry, and as individual companies, brands and properties within the industry, today we need to communicate this message, even more loudly and clearly: 

We are providing travelers with better service, higher-quality products and more interesting lodging experiences than ever before. We are leveraging technology, regaining the ownership of our customers in cyberspace, and continuing to invest in our people and products. We are doing better deals and building strong brands. And we are making money doing it.

Do you think this is an aberration? Is another disaster right around the corner?

Maybe. But if there is, we will confront it and defeat it, like the last time. And here’s a bet I would take: Our kids and their kids, and maybe generations beyond them, will be staying in Hiltons and Marriotts and La Quintas, doing business in mid-town Manhattan and investing in 401ks long after the stain of Osama bin Laden and his band of thugs have been wiped from the earth. Count on it.

It’s soup, all right. And it’s been simmering for a while. Now is the time to step forward and tell everyone how great it tastes – and when the next pot will be ready.

Michael G. Frenkel is president of MFC PR, a Manhattan-based public relations firm specializing in the hotel, real estate and financial industries. He can be reached at

Michael G. Frenkel
230 Park Avenue, Suite 1000
New York, NY 10169

Also See Kemmons / By Michael G. Frenkel / Feb 2003
How PR Sells / Michael G. Frenkel / February 2002

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