trends in hospitality

The hospitality industry has seen a massive wave of change over the last 10 years, from the founding of Airbnb in 2008 to the acquisition of Belmond by LVMH in 2018. Change will continue to shape the industry as hotels and home-sharing platforms look to attract millennials and the younger generations. The Hospitality panel will explore how personalization, technology, new hotel formats, and new entrants will impact the travel experience.



Zahara Kassam (Moderator)

consultant, moka hospitality partners

Zahara has developed extensive experience over the course of her career as a hotel real estate investor, asset manager and brand operator. Most recently, she was a Senior Vice President at Marathon Asset Management, where she launched, scaled and asset managed a 4,000-bedroom hotel real estate platform on behalf of the firm's European real estate funds. In this role, Zahara led all hotel acquisition, financing, asset management and disposition activity. Prior to Marathon Asset Management, Zahara was a Director at InterContinental Hotels Group, where she was responsible for increasing the distribution of IHG's brands by structuring and negotiating over 100 franchise, management, joint venture and M&A transactions across Europe. Zahara launched her career as an M&A Analyst at Citigroup, and grew up as an instrumental contributor to the family hotel business in Florida. Zahara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Development Studies from Brown University, as well as an MBA from Harvard Business School (where she was a Robert Toigo Foundation Fellow). She is also a Founding Board Member of the Harvard Alumni Real Estate Board, a Board Member of CIANA (Center for the Integration & Advancement of New Americans) and a member of the Urban Land Institute.

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Kathy Burns

partner, sea pine partners

Kathryn A. Burns has over 25 years of experience as a business development and corporate strategy executive in the hospitality industry. She is currently developing a business plan to launch a private members club concept in Boston. Additionally, Kathy has been engaged as Senior Advisor for Belmond to assist the London-based luxury hotel company grow their portfolio especially in North America. From 2010 to 2017, Kathy was acting as strategic advisor to Montage International, where she worked closely with the luxury hotel management company’s senior management to grow Montage and launch their Pendry brands. She co-founded Sea Pine Partners in 2010, which targets investment opportunities and strategic advisory relationships in the hospitality sector. Until recent events changed in Cuba, she was engaged by one of the leading real estate opportunity funds to assist them in evaluating their Cuba investment strategy.

Prior to 2013, when Montage became Kathy’s primary client, she was advising Carpenter & Company and New England Development. At New England Development, during her ten year tenure, she was Senior Vice President, Hotel Investments where she was instrumental in determining investment and operational strategies for their Nantucket-based hospitality portfolio. Kathy managed all aspects of the $100 million White Elephant Hotel Residences project. Prior to working with NED, Kathy was VP of Acquisitions and Development at Starwood Hotels and Resorts and spent 9 years with ITT Sheraton in New York and Boston.

Before joining ITT Sheraton as a member of the Masters Program in 1989, Kathy earned a Masters of Business Administration degree at Harvard Business School. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University with a Bachelors of Arts degree. 


Raj Chandnani

vice president, watg

Raj Chandnani is Vice President, Strategy for WATG and Wimberly Interiors. He is responsible for guiding the company’s global outreach activities, implementing strategic initiatives, and positioning the firm as a leader in innovation. He has a wide range of industry expertise focusing on consumer trends, travel and to rism, branding strategies and hospitality real estate. Mr. Chandnani has specialized in commercial real estate since 194. Prior to joining WATG in 2001, he was associate director with CBRE Hotels. He was previously with PKF Consulting in Los Angeles, and has also taught classes on strategic planning, real estate finance, hotel development, tourism and design at UCLA, USC, Cornell University and Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne. Mr. Chandnani was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the employee-owned firm. He is vice chair of the Urban Land Institute’s Hotel Development Council and has spoken at several industry conferences around the globe. He is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

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Daniel Lesser

President & CEO, LW Hospitality Advisors

Daniel H. Lesser brings more than 30 years of expertise in a wide range of hospitality operational, investment counseling, valuation, advisory, and transactional services. He provides services to corporate, institutional, and individual clients as well as public agencies on all facets of hospitality real estate including: litigation support and expert testimony, site evaluation, highest and best use analysis, appraisals for mortgage, acquisition, and portfolio management, workout strategies, operational analysis, property tax assessment appeal evaluations, economic impact studies, deal structuring, and fairness opinions.

Mr. Lesser is a leading authority on hotel feasibility and valuation, and is highly sought after to speak at lodging and real estate events, as well as lectures at prestigious institutions of higher education, including Cornell University, Columbia University and New York University. He is widely published and quoted, and serves as a quarterly columnist for and Most recently, Mr. Lesser created and served as the Senior Managing Director – Industry Leader of the Hospitality & Gaming Valuation Advisory Services Group at CB Richard Ellis Hotels (CBRE). Prior to joining CBRE, Mr. Lesser founded and led the Hospitality & Gaming Group at Cushman & Wakefield and was a founding member of the team at HVS International.

Mr. Lesser has also held operational and administrative positions with Hilton Hotels Corporation and Eurotels – Switzerland. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel Administration from Cornell University, and also attended the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland and Baruch College – City University of New York.