STR, Tourism Economics update US growth forecast Featured Articles - 17 November 2017
STR and Tourism Economics project a 0.5% occupancy increase in 2017, coupled with a 2.1% ADR increase and a 2.5% RevPAR jump. Supply should overtake demand in 2018, however, according to the U.S. latest forecast. HENDERSONVILLE, Tennessee—The U.S. hotel industry is projected to record stronger-than-expected growth for 2017, according to STR and Tourism Economics’ final forecast of 2017. “Due to stronger demand, occupancy growth has exceeded earlier forecasts. At the same time, ADR growth has been more muted than expected given the record occupancy level,” said Jan Freitag, STR’s senior VP of lodging insights. “The third quarter was difficult to parse because of the disruptions from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, but we know that demand was lifted in a number of major markets as a result. Looking past the shifts in the data, we think hotel performance should remain steady—very much like current economic conditions.”

Life's not just a beach for Margaritaville hotels Featured Articles - 17 November 2017
Forty years after the song “Margaritaville” put music fans in a relaxed state of mind, the top development executive of the hotel/resort chain of the same name is looking to continue spreading the brand’s reach. Rick Cunningham, who spent 19 years with InterContinental Hotels Group prior to joining Margaritaville Hospitality Group as VP of hotel development in February, said the brand’s identity permeates the development and guest communities because it reflects the mindset of Jimmy Buffett, who wrote the song and spearheads all things Margaritaville. “We are truly a lifestyle brand—the lifestyle is what people live,” Cunningham said during a break at the recent Lodging Conference. “I don’t have to explain what this lifestyle brand is. The following we’ve had for years resonates. To be part of a true lifestyle and attach a lifestyle.”

Do we need the further politicization of hotels? Featured Articles - 17 November 2017
A new hotel set to open in Washington, D.C., is being touted as the “first politically-motivated hotel” and called an antithesis to President Donald Trump’s nearby hotel, but I worry this approach will only deepen the divide. The Eaton Workshop is scheduled to open in spring 2018 in Washington, D.C., with a goal of merging “hospitality with progressive social change,” Quartz reports. That doesn’t necessarily sound bad on its face. The hotel will be accompanied by a co-working space, a media company and a wellness center, according to the story, and it “invites activists, artists and entrepreneurs from around the world to instigate meaningful and positive initiatives on both a local and macro scale.” Katherine Lo, president of Eaton Hotels and daughter of Langham Hospitality Group creator and Chairman Lo Ka Shui, is quoted in Bloomberg as saying while she’s in favor of cultural diversity and inclusion, the goal of the Eaton Workshop “isn’t to bring together left and right.” She instead intends the property to act as the “antithesis of the Trump hotel that’s just a few blocks away,” according to the article.

Viceroy's CEO on the value of culture Featured Articles - 17 November 2017
Under the Viceroy Hotel Group umbrella, the company has nine Viceroy-branded hotels open, with projects underway in Algarve, Portugal; Vietnam; Istanbul; Serbia; Panama and Buenos Aires. The company also manages four non-Viceroy-branded hotels in San Francisco. For Walshe, defining a corporate culture that emphasizes the company’s spirit, passion and beliefs helps it relate to guests who want the same things.

Q3: Hoteliers explain changes to Q4, full-year guidance Featured Articles - 16 November 2017
The third quarter of 2017 brought with it substantial challenges to the U.S. hotel industry, but several publicly traded companies have maintained or even raised their Q4 and full-year revenue per available room guidance despite the events of the past quarter. Tougher year-over-year comps created by holiday shifts and natural disasters that caused evacuations and shut down many hotels were two of the most cited causes for performance interruptions during the third quarter. However, executives at some companies explained during their third-quarter earnings calls that their companies still performed well enough to raise their projections for the full year. Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, Marriott International“For the fourth quarter we expect RevPAR will increase 2% to 3% in North America as we benefit from the holiday shift and continued hurricane-related demand in Texas and Florida. North America group pace is up 5% for the quarter. For international markets, we expect RevPAR will grow 3% to 5% and worldwide we expect RevPAR will increase 2% to 3% in the fourth quarter. With the benefit of the third quarter's actual RevPAR and expected fourth-quarter performance, we now expect full-year 2017 worldwide systemwide RevPAR to grow 2% to 3%, up from 1% to 3% a quarter ago.

Unpredictable Q3 causes company RevPAR guidance shifts Featured Articles - 16 November 2017
The future is always hard to predict, but 2017 seems to have been a harder year to forecast than most for the hotel industry. From quarter to quarter, impressions of the industry have swung wildly and macroevents like natural disasters have moved the needle with revenue-per-available-room projections. At least 10 publicly traded hotel companies shifted their RevPAR projections for full-year 2017 at some point during the year, including seven that changed their guidance during the third-quarter earnings season, according to earnings releases and calls with investors.

Carey Watermark targets unique buying opportunities Featured Articles - 16 November 2017
Michael Medzigian admits Carey Watermark Investors is one picky investor. With a limited number of competitors vying to acquire the resorts, unique and/or big-market assets it covets, the company is comfortable sifting through many options to find the best opportunities. Medzigian, Carey Watermark’s president & CEO, said during a break at the recent Lodging Conference that his team’s efforts have paid off in a big way with the two properties it acquired thus far in 2017—the Charlotte (North Carolina) Marriott City Center in June and the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, California, in September. “We’ve got a pretty darn good portfolio—resorts that could never be replicated and high-quality brands,” he said. “We are more focused today on maintaining that type of quality than we were four years ago. We’ve become a little more strategic on things we buy and a little less opportunistic.

What are the effects of TripAdvisor's new policy? Featured Articles - 16 November 2017
I’m sure you’ve heard about the reports surrounding TripAdvisor and all-inclusive resorts in Mexico that have been reported in various media outlets over the past few months, most recently coming up again earlier this month. They’re about two separate but related issues: That sexual assault and alcohol tainting are happening at some all-inclusive resorts—leading to rape, burglary, in some cases death—and that in many cases, reviews site TripAdvisor has refused for various reasons (some given and some not) to publish guest reviews and forum posts that talk about sexual assault, sicknesses due to tainted alcohol and other injuries that allegedly happened to them at all-inclusive hotels and resorts in Mexico. If you’re not familiar with these stories, please take time to check out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has reported on the topic for the last few months. Reporter Raquel Rutledge and others on the Journal Sentinel team have talked to many people who claim to have experienced rape, drugging, blackouts from tainted alcohol, burglary and even death at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico.

Execs: Good employees turn hotels into valuable assets Featured Articles - 16 November 2017
During the “Transform your hotel operations” session at The Lodging Conference, speakers said driving employee satisfaction is one of the first steps to driving guest satisfaction and operating a successful hotel. For Chesapeake Hospitality, “culture is key to a hotel,” according to COO Chris Green. “Culture’s something if it doesn’t run deep in your company, it’s a real risk for you,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to (attract) and retain talent, and that culture has to lead to … people seeing what’s possible for them in a career in hospitality and make it not just another job that they’re passing through.”

IHG expects Avid to fill gap for developers, guests Featured Articles - 15 November 2017
Leaders of InterContinental Hotels Group’s newest brand are looking for a specific kind of owner as they prepare to get it off the ground. The brand, Avid Hotels, was officially launched in September. With construction expected to start in early 2018, and the first property expected to open in early 2019, executives Jennifer Gribble and Chris Drazba said during the recent Lodging Conference they are looking for owner-operators who understand what everyday travelers are looking for in a value-oriented hotel. Drazba, IHG’s VP of core brands and Mexico development for the Americas, said the ideal Avid owner is invested in the vision of select-service assets.

Global hotel pulse: Europe news Featured Articles - 15 November 2017
In this roundup of news from Europe: AccorHotels, IHG and Whitbread announce Q3 numbers; TUI Blue expands across Europe; AccorHotels decides to abandon including independents on its platform; and more. Hotel News Now each week features a news roundup from a different region of the world. This week’s compilation covers Europe. STR: Europe performance well above pre-recession levelsDespite a number of market challenges, Europe’s hotel industry posted an all-time high occupancy level between January and September, according to data from STR, the parent company of Hotel News Now. The continent’s September year-to-date absolute occupancy of 72.6% was 2.6% higher than the same months in 2016 and 9% higher than the same period in 2008.

Accor continues strategy with Orient Express, Mantra Featured Articles - 15 November 2017
AccorHotels CEO Sébastien Bazin has been talking about AccorLocal all year. According to the news release accompanying the launch, the idea is “a local services offer that give shopkeepers the opportunity to offer their products within the group’s hotels; on the other hand, hotels are given the chance to promote their hospitality services to a non-resident clientele.” These moves all are part of Bazin’s strategy to find new ways to differentiate the company beyond its traditional hotel product. “In today’s world, either you change or you will be changed,” he said at the South America Hotel Investment Conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “So either you act and then you make some hard decisions and take some risk … (or) somebody is going to be acting for you—that’s somebody called, Expedia, Airbnb, Google, Amazon, Facebook.”

The case of missing financial leadership Featured Articles - 15 November 2017
Several factors have combined to deemphasize the role of financial leaders on property, such as directors of finance, but hoteliers need to make the roles a priority as they’re key to protecting owners’ investments. I recently read a tale about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson going camping. Asleep in their tent, they both suddenly wake up. Holmes tells Watson to “look up and tell me what you see.” Watson replies, “I see the starry heavens above.” Holmes asks him, “And what do you deduce from that?” Watson thinks for a moment, then says: “I deduce that we are but small and insignificant beings in a vast cosmos.” An exasperated Holmes shouts, “No, you moron! Somebody stole our tent!”

Q3: Hoteliers grapple with impact of natural disasters Featured Articles - 15 November 2017
There were many unique circumstances about the third quarter of 2018 that affected the hotel industry, including shifts in the calendar and macroeconomic trends. Based on comments from hotel executives as a guide, nothing was more impactful than the especially condensed rash of natural disasters that took place during the quarter. Multiple hurricanes wreaked havoc across Southeastern United States and the Caribbean while Mexico was hit by multiple earthquakes, and Northern California was hit by a prolonged period of destructive wildfires. Below is a collection of quotes, culled from publicly traded hotel companies’ Q3 earnings calls with investors, related to the natural phenomenon experienced during the quarter and how executives think they will impact their businesses.

Independents feed Interstate's ardor to launch division Featured Articles - 14 November 2017
Intrigue Hotels & Resorts by Interstate leader Brian Sparacino points to a hunger for more independent hotels to join Interstate Hotels & Resorts’ system as a key reason for launching the new collection of hotels. Cooked up in a SoHo coffee shop over a year ago, Intrigue Hotels & Resorts by Interstate offers a vast menu of properties for consumers and a smorgasbord of services for owners, according to Brian Sparacino, who heads Intrigue as its SVP of operations. Interstate Hotels & Resorts’ aggressive acquisitions of other third-party management companies during the past seven or eight years has given it a collection of unique hotels that clearly needed different approaches to management, Sparacino said during a break at the recent Lodging Conference.

COO: Fairmont success opens door for Accor in Americas Featured Articles - 14 November 2017
AccorHotels completed its acquisition of FRHI Holdings and its Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands in 2016, and the company’s COO for North and Central America knows the region is ripe for growth from this expanded portfolio of brands. It’s been just over a year since AccorHotels completed its acquisition of FRHI Holdings and Kevin Frid was named COO for North and Central America, and the former FRHI president of the Americas region said it’s been “a whole new world.” “Bolting on this huge platform of a global company while keeping (the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel) brands pure” was key, Frid said. “They acquired us because of our three successful brands and are making sure nothing gets blurred.”

The necessities, risks in predicting guest desires Featured Articles - 14 November 2017
Hoteliers can succeed in any of Europe’s established markets if they possess a differentiated product that caters to new travel demand, said sources at Deloitte’s recent European Hotel Investment Conference. Hans Meyer, co-founder and managing director of workspace-accommodations hybrid Zoku, said during the “State of the industry” panel that many brands today are interchangeable, but if a hotel is distinguishable, location becomes less relevant. “The first Mama Shelter (by AccorHotels) in Paris is way off the grid, and I was willing to take a cab for half an hour to get there,” Meyer said. “In Amsterdam, successful hotels are on the fringe as the transport is so good.”

Reap more bookings with better online tactics Featured Articles - 14 November 2017
Today’s hotel guests have many online booking behaviors, such as checking prices, looking at multiple destinations, reading reviews, abandoning carts just before pulling the trigger on a deal, and visiting many sites on their phone, tablet and computer before finally making a decision. They often book their rooms on their desktop or laptop computer—for now. And this trend is changing toward mobile devices rapidly. About 65% of searches begin on a search engine, according to TravelClick. This has given online travel agencies a big advantage as they are dominating the marketing spend here. A lot of conversation today is about converting OTA revenue streams to direct bookings. Yes, while it may take a few months to see a difference, it is well worth the effort. The real key to achieving direct bookings is to target the right customer and convert the sale. Then, it is critical to measure the results. To target, ask questions like, “has this guest stayed with us before? Have they been to our market and competitive set? Use ad words and look at your rates and value proposition vis-à-vis your competitors.

Tech talk with Best Western's chief digital officer Featured Articles - 14 November 2017
Greg Adams, VP and chief digital officer at Best Western Hotels & Resorts, sat down with Hotel News Now at the company’s recent convention to talk about technology trends, cyber security and what’s next in terms of technology in the hotel industry. Best Western Hotels & Resorts continues to innovate and incorporate technology into the business, and Greg Adams, VP and chief digital officer at the company, sat down with Hotel News Now at the brand’s conference to talk about trends and the future of technology in the hotel industry. One topic that was top-of-mind for Adams during the conversation was cyber security and protecting guest information. It’s something the industry has to deal with and will continue to deal with, he said, and from his perspective, it’s the technology-related issue that could have the biggest effect on the industry.

Select-service, soft brands gain ground in Caribbean Featured Articles - 13 November 2017
More developers are changing their approach as they look to improve their returns on investment and add strength to their distribution formulas, according to industry leaders speaking at the Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference & Operations Summit. HAMILTON, Bermuda—Long revered for its posh resorts and high-end beach club hotels, the Caribbean region is making way for select-service and soft-branded hotels as owners search for more lucrative returns on their investments, according to speakers at last week’s Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference & Operations Summit. “Since the recession there hasn’t been a lot of development in the Caribbean,” Bill Stadler, CIO for Aimbridge Hospitality, said during the “Hospitality Leaders Outlook” panel. “We’re starting to see some select service.”

CHICOS Day One: Hurricane recovery on everyone's minds Featured Articles - 13 November 2017
Speakers throughout the first day of the seventh annual Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference & Operations Summit were quick to offer their condolences over the loss of life and property as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria that wreaked havoc in the region in September. But as the disasters grow further in the rearview mirror, there’s a silver lining beginning to emerge, they said. The message throughout the day was clear: In some ways, the insurance payouts and government financial support is like a giant stimulus package. “A lot of CapEx takes place, a lot of properties modernize and take advantage to fix things they haven’t had a chance to fix before,” said George Spence, principal with Leading Property Group, during his “Strategic context and development news” presentation. “It’s a time for rejuvenation in the industry.”

The length of brand affiliations across chain scales Featured Articles - 13 November 2017
Most changes to STR’s U.S. census hotel database come from brands and hotel owners directly, since the information about brand affiliation and ownership structure governs the distribution of the weekly and monthly STAR reports. This then allows us to take a deeper look at the average time a hotel spends affiliated with a brand. (STR is the parent company of Hotel News Now.) It is probably not a surprise that once a hotel opens and chooses a flag, the initial affiliation lasts for a long time. Owners have spent a large amount of time and energy to select the correct brand for their specific property, and of course that first relationship is supposed to last. Maybe it won’t last forever, but at least until the owner realizes their financial returns. It seems a bit surprising that for luxury chains the first affiliation is less stable than for economy properties. Then again, this data does not comment on ownership changes, so it could be that owners change more often on the upper end, and with that come opportunities to reflag.

Accor's venture capital-style goals should be praised Featured Articles - 13 November 2017
An AccorHotels project to distribute select independent hotels on its own sales channels has been judged an error by the French hotel company, but it is this venture capitalist-style of initiative that the hotel industry needs more of and should champion. While this is evidently a setback, such venture capitalist-style thinking about the industry should be praised and must be the way forward for hotel firms in this ever-faster world of online travel agencies, distribution channels and brand-agnostic booking decisions. As both the British Special Air Service branch of the military and Derek Trotter from the BBC comedy program “Only Fools and Horses” would say, although using ever so slightly different words, “Who dares, wins.”

Best Western grows brands, innovates tech to compete Featured Articles - 10 November 2017
At Best Western’s annual North American Convention, executives said the company is launching brands, rolling out new loyalty perks and integrating new technologies to keep up with changing guest expectations and to compete within the industry. NASHVILLE—If Best Western Hotels & Resorts wants to continue on a path of success, complacency isn’t an option, brand President and CEO David Kong said during a general session Thursday at Best Western’s 2017 North American Convention. “Best Western is doing well, but we also need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of complacency and lull ourselves into thinking our future will take care of itself,” he said. “Our future depends on our imagination, and our continued motivation and passion.”

With FelCor merger complete, RLJ focuses strategies Featured Articles - 10 November 2017
BETHESDA, Maryland—With the company’s merger with FelCor Lodging Trust complete, RLJ Lodging Trust executives are setting a course for continued growth in its new form, and part of that will include asset sales, RLJ President and CEO Ross Bierkan said during the company’s Q3 earnings call with analysts on Thursday. “We are truly excited about what lies ahead,” Bierkan said, adding that the FelCor merger is “a continuation of (the company’s) approach” of “investing in high-quality, premium-branded focused-service and compact full-service hotels that have high margins and are located in attractive markets with multiple demand generators.” Moving forward, Bierkan said the company is focused on four strategic initiatives, all with long-term growth in mind:

Pandox, Movenpick CEOs talk Europe's merits, concerns Featured Articles - 10 November 2017
LONDON—Black swan events can always happen unexpectedly, but as travel continues to evolve, Europe’s hoteliers must learn from the past and move forward, sources said. Pandox CEO Anders Nissen, speaking on the Deloitte European Hotel Investment Conference’s “View from the top” panel, said business fundamentals are good, economic growth is there, and people are wealthier. “From that perspective, we should not compare (today) with (pre-recession peak) 2008,” Nissen said. “On the other hand, we know historically things will go down, but I think there will need to be some form of terrible recession—something we do not want to talk about. When I started in the industry 30 years ago, the industry was fragmented; now it is the fourth-largest industry in the world, so looking back is not always so useful.”


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