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Todd Buchholz Shares His Views on the Economy

Todd-Bucholz Economy IMEX America

Todd Buchholz, with a law degree from Harvard and an economics degree from Cambridge University, makes frequent appearances on TV talk shows and can be found on stage as a keynote speaker for conference groups ranging from hospital administrators to soybean farmers because he is not just an expert, but an insightful trends prognosticator in a field that impacts literally everyone: the economy.

Buchholz, an MPI keynote speaker during IMEX America 2017 in Las Vegas, Oct. 10-12, frequently contributes commentaries on political economy, financial markets, business and culture to The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, as well as PBS, NPR and major television networks. He has also been named “One of the Top 21 Speakers of the 21st Century” by Successful Meetings magazine. Bloomberg Businessweek has reported that Buchholz is on the shortlist for a White House appointment to the Federal Reserve Board. He’s been traveling in a high echelon of the economics analytical community for quite a while—he was a White House economic advisor during President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

And while his lofty academic and experiential credentials make him well qualified for what one might consider “ivory tower” positions in industry and government, what makes him in demand as both a TV commentator and keynote speaker is that he is skilled at cutting to the chase—giving good insights to which the average person can relate.

Buchholz, who recently spoke with The Meeting Professional to preview his presentation at IMEX America, explains his approach this way: “What I do is take the headline issues that are smacking us in the face, online, in the newspapers and on TV, depending on how you get your news, and try to make sense of it. I try to connect the dots between the important economic trends, the financial gyrations and the political machinations.”

Buchholz points out that whether you are a successful hedge fund operator (like Buchholz himself as managing director of the Tiger Fund) or an hourly worker at a drive-through burger joint, macroeconomic trends impact your daily life, and that certainly applies to hoteliers, event planners and suppliers in the travel and meeting industry.

Whether the economy is up or down, no matter if he foresees a long period of stability of an upcoming, significant change, Buchholz always takes the stage of a speaking engagement with a single goal: “By the end of my discussion the audience should have a better idea of what literally in the world is going on, what it means for their business and what it means for their wallets and what it means for their savings.”

Right now, according to Buchholz, the state of the U.S. economy has a lot to do with two factors: interest rates and oil prices.

“An issue I will focus on at IMEX America is how strong is the U.S. economic recovery? The U.S. economic growth has been driven by 0 percent interest rates, which has been good for lots of people and bad for some people. Well, if the economy is becoming more wonderful, can it withstand higher interest rates?” he says. “We’ve had the benefit of strong auto sales, strong home sales, but those have been partly driven by the fact that loans have been very cheap.

“Right now the price of oil is in a very reasonable range,” he continues. “It’s high enough so that U.S. producers can make some money, but it’s low enough so that U.S. consumers are not crying when they are filling up their gas tanks. Will energy prices stay in that range?”

Buchholz’s IMEX America presentation will focus on timely issues going forward. “As we head into the fall, what’s on people’s minds?” he says. “Well, the politics, and specifically international politics is unavoidable. And now there are issues involving North Korea, and Vladimir Putin and trade tensions with Canada, Mexico and China. To what extent will they rattle the world economy? Or will the world economy and the stock market shake them off? That’s one huge question to contemplate.”

Buchholz’s ability to forecast what the economy will do going forward is supported by an impressive track record with past predictions.

In April 2014, with the price of oil at approximately US$100 per barrel, Buchholz appeared on Fox Business Channel with Maria Bartiromo and forecast (correctly) that the price of oil would plunge to $50 per barrel.

In February 2009, Buchholz was among the first well-known U.S. economists to forecast an economic recovery from the “Great Recession.” In a speech to the America’s Lodging Investment Summit, he forecast that “we’re going to have an economic recovery just in time for back-to-school sales in September” and that “lodging and hospitality is going to benefit from this upswing as well.” In fact, GDP did turn positive in the third quarter of 2009.

Right now, Buchholz is predicting that the economy in general, and the hospitality sector in particular, will continue to do well, because the price of oil will continue to stay in the “not too expensive, not too cheap” range. This, of course, could be disrupted by some volatile world event that is impossible to predict with certainty—like an absolute meltdown of the Venezuelan oil industry or a major blow up in the Middle East that would disrupt the flow of oil from that region.

Barring an event like that, he predicts that the price of oil will stay in the range it’s in now, because, among other things, the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration are in support of the U.S. oil industry’s practice of fracking, which produces a high volume of domestic oil.

So at least for the near term, Buchholz foresees a continuation of the conditions that have allowed hotels and convention centers to upgrade and expand recently.

“The dynamic is that when the economy is going better, businesses are more likely to hold meetings and conventions,” he says. “When the price of oil is low that means airfares are low and that is an atmosphere more conducive to travel. It becomes easier for businesses to consider longer trips and more vacation-oriented destinations for their conventions.”

Buchholz says there are some phenomena that have mixed effects on the meeting and convention industry.

“Airbnb is a factor,” he says. “If you are a convention attendee, that can be a good thing, but if you are running a hotel, you would probably rather not compete with somebody’s brother-in-law who happens to have an apartment across the street from the convention center.”

SIDEBAR

Visit www.mpiweb.org/events to learn more about MPI keynote speakers and other educational opportunities at IMEX America in Las Vegas this October.


IMEX America

About the Author

Rowland Stiteler
Rowland Stiteler

Rowland Stiteler, a veteran meeting industry journalist, is a writer and editor for The Meeting Professional.