CHICAGO—The US hospitality industry has entered a period of transition, and Steve Belmonte, the chief executive officer of Vimana Franchise Systems, led off the wide-ranging opening session of the THINConference, the hotel investment networking conference, held yesterday and today at the Chicago Hilton, by asking some tough questions. He pointed out to a panel of industry leaders that “all across America, we have these giant full-service boxes,” and many are struggling. He asked them what advice they had for these operators.

These properties need new investments, said Murray Dow, the president and chief executive officer of the Dow Hotel Co., but the key to making those investments productive is decentralized decision-making, so locals who understand their markets can direct the dollars. “I agree with Murray,” said Michael Conway, the president of Winegardner & Hammons, Inc., the solutions are “local, local, local.”

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