NYU: Data from Downturn Tempers Leaders' Optimism


The enthusiasm of the CEO panelists at the 32nd NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference was called into question by the numbers. Mark Lomanno, president of Smith Travel Research, and Stephen Rushmore, president of HVS, showed just how deep the industry's recession has been until this point and what those numbers should mean for the future.

"The panel talked about rate coming back, but there's no real evidence of it," Lomanno said.

The main problem with the industry during the downturn, according to Lomanno's charts, is the reaction hoteliers have with rate, which has gotten more severe each time. The current average daily rate dropped the farthest, the fastest and in a closer time frame to the matching occupancy drop.
ADR in the last downturn in 2001 took four years in absolute dollars to gain back.

"Now, it's liable to take longer than that on an inflation-adjusted basis," Lomanno said "In this downturn, the industry is taking longer to respond." Meaning ADR usually follows demand, but STR hasn't seen that happen in the numbers so far.

That's why Lomanno said recovery in demand will be a V, as numbers already show, and ADR will be more of a U. Going forward, he expects all cycles to be sharper going up and going down.
"I guess we need to create a new letter," he said.

And while the luxury segment had the most profound example of demand increase, with a 15.7 percent increase, and demand, a 10.5 percent increase, the segment still has a -5.1 percent ADR decrease, "Historically, you never see a pattern like that," Lomanno said.

The luxury segment's rates present a big problem. At its peak in 2008, the RevPAR differential between luxury and upper-upscale was $47. In April 2010, that difference was only $14.

"What happens is a commoditization, which has conspired to bring the segments together from a rate perspective," Lomanno said. "One challenge [going forward] is a constant clash of communication of how a room is sold and the branding differentiation to increase the price. That's going to be a long-term battle. … It's almost critical the rate increase happen sooner rather than later".

Maybe the most startling numbers of the day came from Rushmore, who presented the real estate dollar values, per room, for U.S. hotels. From 2006 to 2009, the value of a hotel room from a real estate perspective has declined 44 percent, which goes to show why many sellers have been reluctant to move properties thus far—but also shows that now is definitely the time to buy.

"We're going to have a number of years of strong value growth because of a strong economy, but also because we did not overbuild," Rushmore said.

The largest decline in market value per room in 2009 was New York City followed by Las Vegas, Miami and Chicago. In 2010, Rushmore expects the biggest increase to come from New York, but Las Vegas will remain negative. Already, from 2006 to 2009, Las Vegas room value has dropped 84 percent. However, Rushmore's predictions show that by 2015, Las Vegas should have the biggest percent increase from its low point (434 percent).

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