• Outlook brightens

Phew. The recession is over. At least that is the message increasingly being uttered by the markets. Even hotel executives speaking at New York University's annual hospitality investment conference are claiming the worst is over.

This week, the UK saw an index of growth expectations in services the most optimistic since October 2007 and even in the Euro zone a similar index shrank at a slower pace to stand at a seven-month high.

In addition, house prices started growing again in the UK, car sales have begun rebounding across Europe and stock markets have been on a bull run since March.

Of course, there remain clouds ahead. And any responsible commentator will not report that the outlook is entirely sunny.

At the sessions held this week in New York the mood was that the panic has ended but challenges remain.

Steve Joyce, CEO of Choice Hotels International, said: "The people that are employed think there is somewhat of a stabilisation of the decline". In other words, if you have not yet fallen over the cliff, at least the incline is no longer becoming steeper.

Accor's CEO Gilles Pelisson was on the gloomy side of opinion, perhaps because Accor's core markets of Germany and France have slid into recession later than the US and the UK. Pelisson is anticipating a difficult summer.

Perhaps the most interesting comments were made by Hilton's CEO Chris Nassetta. He described the reorganisation of the company through the move to Virginia from Beverley Hills as an opportunity. He also remained committed to adding resources to his development team and to the divestment of real estate and a focus on the management business.

Thus Hilton's future is one of restructuring the management business, selling-off the property and driving the fee income. This is yet another clear rebuttal to those expecting a swing back to ownership by the big players.

Starwood's CEO Frits van Paasschen was similarly committed to continuing his company's disposals "as the cycle turns".

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers' forecasts, based on data supplied by Smith Travel Research, US revpar is set to fall -15.7% this year after a drop of -1.8% last year. To put this in historic perspective, the drop in 2001 was -7.0% followed by a -2.7% drop in 2002.

Revpar growth is predicted to resume in 2010 at 1.6%, driven mainly by occupancy increases thanks to demand once again out-stripping supply.

If the latest positive noises about European economies prove sustainable, the worst fears and forecasts for this continent are likely to prove unfounded.

The CIPS Markit Purchasing Managers' Index for May had, in the UK, its largest ever one-month jump and turned positive for the first time since April 2008.

It led a senior economist at Markit to state that the GDP figures for the second quarter in the UK will show a smaller a fall than is currently feared.

Some economists remained sceptical about the survey, pointing out that the bulk of the positive element came from forecasts of the future rather than existing numbers. In particular, unemployment is expected to continue rising and to negatively impact growth.

But for the most part, it is clear that sentiment has now shifted away from the doom and gloom. Growth is the much awaited next step.

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