HB ON THE SCENE: Recovery and the path to get there the focus at Hunter

Day two of the Hunter Hotel Investment Conference at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis focused on the recovery and the path that got the industry to this point.

After a COVID screening and temperature check at the CLEAR kiosks, attendees entered the ballroom for the first general session featuring Rachel Rothman, head of hotels research & data analytics, CBRE Hotels Research, and Amanda Hite, president, STR. Here are some takeaways:

Rothman

  • GDP in the first quarter of 2021 exceeded GDP prior to the pandemic, while RevPAR is just over 50% of where it was. “For us, this is the reason to be optimistic,” she said. “It’s not a question of if, [but]a question of when RevPAR will recover.”
  • CBRE is forecasting that unemployment will decline to 4.6% by the end of the year.
  • Lodging delinquencies peaked at about 24% early in the pandemic. They’ve been trending down; most recent data suggests 16% of CMBS loans are delinquent by more than 30 days. “We have an update coming out in the next week or two, we would expect that number to turn down even further and as hotels reopen, and we move into the summer season this should improve even more.”
  • “As we come into this turn with the worst now behind us, I am more optimistic than ever that owners and operators will be able to translate the accelerating top-line growth into gross operating profit expansion.”

Hite

  • “Just a few months ago, we still had a third of hotels in the U.S. with below 30% occupancy. So every month, that’s improving and, based on preliminary results, we’re going to have 53% of our hotels above 60% occupancy in April. So, good improvement, but, still, we’ve got half of our hotels that aren’t at that 60% level.”
  • Economy hotels are doing 100% of what they had done for occupancies on the weekdays before the pandemic.
  • Just more than 50% of all markets covered by STR in the U.S. are in the recovery or peak categories.
  • STR had anticipated a 30% decline in demand in the first quarter, and the quarter ended with just under 12% decline.
  • STR expects to end the year with RevPAR of $58 and occupancy just over 53%. “For 2022, we think we’ll hit that 60% occupancy mark.”

The second session of the day, “A View From the Top,” featured panelists Jim Merkel, CEO, Rockbridge; Mark Laport, president/CEO, Concord Hospitality Enterprises Company; Michael J. Deitemeyer, president/CEO, Aimbridge Hospitality; and Rob Palleschi, CEO, G6 Hospitality. Here are some takeaways:

  • All four panelists commended their team members for their resilience and perseverance during the pandemic.
  • Merkel: “When you’re getting excited about 50% occupancy, you know everything has been reset.”
  • After walkthroughs at a few of his company’s hotels, Laport was “delighted to see briefcases and suits and ties and dresses on a number of our guests that I had not seen at all 60 days prior.”
  • Merkel: “I think we’re going to see a big back half of the year sparked by a great summer.”
  • Deitemeyer: “The biggest issue we have as we look across our portfolio is having to in certain markets shut off inventory because we have no ability to clean the rooms.”
  • Laport: “New York City rates are lower than our Columbus, OH, rates by a lot.”
  • Palleschi: “I struggle with the fact that I’m competing not only with everybody else out there but, like everybody else, we’re competing with Airbnb.”

Stay tuned for more conference coverage in the 6/15 issue of Hotel Business.