The NYU Hospitality Investment Conference got off to a running start today with a CEO "Check-In" that allowed a panel of industry experts to discuss plans for their brands and weigh in on the forecast for the industry.

Laila Rach, associate dean, Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, New York University moderated a panel comprised of Jack S. Adler, president/COO Loews Hotels; Raymond N. Bickson, managing director/CEO Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces; Mark Harmon, principal/CEO Auberge Resorts; Matthew J. Hart, president/COO Hilton Hotels Corp.; and Charles A. Ledsinger, Jr., president/CEO Choice Hotels International.

Adler discussed what's behind his company's new branding initiatives and its plans for expansion. "Our core is to have distinct hotels in great destinations...we've studied what our customers love and what customers who choose our competitors like about them." Adler noted the refined brand is focused on being "supremely comfortable," going beyond the upgraded bed and bathrooms to offer a total experience that is strongly focused on interaction with the hotels' staffs. "We find individuals that like to serve others and focus on training, retaining and promoting our employees," he said.

As far as growth is concerned, Adler reported the company is planning to open two to four properties per year and to take advantage of the pent-up demand in gateway cities."We're going to add value as we grow...and each hotel will be 'uniquely local.'"

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