CBRE Hotels: National Occupancy Reaches New High

ATLANTA—The U.S. lodging industry is forecast to achieve another all-time record occupancy level in 2016, but an increasing number of local markets are starting to show the effects of growing competition. According to the March to May 2016 edition of Hotel Horizons, CBRE Hotels’ Americas Research is projecting a year-end 2016 occupancy level of 65.7%, 20 basis points greater than the record level of occupancy achieved in 2015.

“We always caution our clients to pay closest attention to local market conditions, as opposed to broad national trends,” said R. Mark Woodworth, senior managing director of CBRE Hotels’ Americas Research.  “While the outlook for the overall U.S. lodging industry is solid for the next few years, we acknowledge that a growing number of local markets will begin to experience a decline in occupancy levels.  This is the result of the emergence of new competition that heretofore has been kept under wraps.”

In 2015, only seven of the 59 markets in the Hotel Horizons universe suffered a decline in occupancy.  This number is forecast to increase to 29 in 2016 and 38 in 2017.

“Declining levels of occupancy may cause some industry participants to sound the panic alarm. However, it is important to note that the underlying strength of the U.S. economy continues to generate the desire and need to travel. The demand for lodging accommodations is projected to expand in all 59 Hotel Horizons markets in both 2016 and 2017. Any hint of a slowdown can be attributed to the influence of the new supply, which is to be expected given where we are at in the lodging cycle,” Woodworth added.

Despite the occupancy declines, most U.S. markets will continue to achieve occupancy levels well above their long-run averages in both 2016 and 2017. Accordingly, CBRE Hotels is forecasting that average daily room rates (ADRs) will increase on a national level in excess of 5% both this year and next. Locally, 24 of the 59 Hotel Horizons markets will enjoy ADR growth in excess of 5% in both 2016 and 2017.

“Given the lofty occupancy levels, the pendulum of pricing power remains tiled towards producers,” stated John B. (Jack) Corgel, Ph.D., professor of real estate at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and senior advisor to CBRE Hotels’ Americas Research. “Further providing a boost to room rates is an anticipated rise in the pace of inflation. In 2016, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is expected to grow at three percent, and the core CPI at 1.9%.”

“There is a double-edge to the rising levels of employment and inflation,” Woodworth noted.  “An increase in both of these metrics benefits lodging demand and pricing, but they also will put pressure on the amount hotels will have to pay for labor, goods, and services.