Hotel Industry Sees Stable Growth in 2012

The hotel sector is in "great shape," according to Mike Barnello, president and CEO of LaSalle Hotel Properties (NYSE: LHO).

After suffering during the downturn of 2008 and 2009, Barnello said demand for the hotel industry started to make a comeback in 2010 and 2011, and it is continuing into 2012.

"Supply was much lower in 2011, and it was really low in 2012," he said in an interview with REIT.com in New York at REITWeek 2012: NAREIT's Investor Forum. "And with the combination of low supply and increased demand, it's a very health story for the lodging industry."

When it comes to corporate and leisure travel, Barnello said those customers began to return to the market in 2010 and 2011. He said the numbers of travelers coming back continue to be stable in 2012. He added that he hopes that stable growth continues for the remainder of the year and beyond.

Additionally, Barnello spoke about coping during the recession. While cutting costs without compromising guest satisfaction presented challenges, he said lessons were learned.

"A lot of the things that we did weren't necessarily easy. But we had a new found appreciation for what was a fixed cost versus what was a variable cost," he said. "It was very helpful in retooling our business to become more efficient."

For instance, as guests continue to become more particular about some of the amenities that they require, the company decide to cut costs by not necessarily offering so many items to travelers in advance.

"Whether it's coffee in the room or newspapers, we have them available for folks if they need them," he said.

Barnello also said hotel guests are savvier today in how they make their buying decisions. He said in addition to expecting a quality room, the internet and online travel agencies have given guests pricing transparency.

"The combination of a more savvy consumer and a more practical consumer means we have to be on top of our game to satisfy them so they come back," he said.