The U.S. luxury segment reported double-digit gains in revenue per available room during the month of April, according to the preliminary performance numbers from STR, parent company of HotelNewsNow.com. The segment led all chain scales with an increase of between 10% and 12% for the month. The economy segment posted the smallest increase in RevPAR (2% to 5%)
Occupancy growth was more muted. The luxury segment again led the charge with an increase of between 2% and 4%. The economy segment posted an occupancy change of flat to down 2%.
Overall, the U.S. hotel industry’s RevPAR was up 5% to 7%, and its occupancy was flat to up 2%.
The House of Representatives has begun consideration of the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill, H.R. 5236, which includes an amendment prohibiting for one year the Department of Justice from enforcing the permanent pool-lift requirements under the 2010 ADA.
The AH&LA, which is leading efforts to get the requirements delayed, continues to urge the DOJ to address key industry concerns before the 21 May compliance deadline. The association filed lengthy comments with the DOJ urging them to provide additional time to comply, allow portable lifts that can be quickly made available upon request and allow sharing of lifts for properties with multiple pools and spas.
President Obama has kept his January promise of creating a national strategy to increase travel to and within the United States. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar offered media a brief of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy.
“Today’s announcement of a National Travel and Tourism Strategy is just one more of President Obama’s approach when it comes to doing everything possible to create more economic jobs in the U.S. to help us heal from the recession and help expand and strengthen the middle class,” said Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, on a conference call.
The White House’s plan calls for welcoming 100 million visitors annual to the U.S. by end of 2021. In 2011, 62 million foreign visitors entered the U.S. “We believe we can reach that goal,” Sperling said.
Sperling said, in 2011, the travel and tourism industry generated $1.2 trillion and supported 7.6 million jobs.
“Last January the President asked us to work with industry stakeholders to keep those numbers growing,” Bryson added. “Our mission is to make the U.S. the world’s top travel and tourism destination.”
Some steps that will be taken to realize that goal:
• The U.S. government will broadly support tourism through public-private partnerships, such as Brand USA.
• The entrance process into the U.S. will be streamlined through the use of technology.
• The U.S. will work hard to meet Visa demands more quickly. One million more applications were accepted in 2011 than in 2010.
• The Department of Homeland Security will build on early success of the Trusted Traveler Program, which has 1 million travelers enrolled already.
“We want the world to know there has never been a better time to visit the United States,” Bryson said. “America is truly open for business.”
A letter from the office of the White House Press Secretary offers full details.
Deal opportunities abound outside of gateway markets, so investors would be wise to add the likes of Portland, Oregon; and Bellevue, Washington, to their wish lists, said panelists during the Meet the Money Conference, reports HotelNewsNow.com’s Shawn A. Turner.
Listing secondary markets in California as an example, Samuel Reynolds, senior VP and director of acquisitions and dispositions at Apple REIT, said investors could find success in such cities as Sacramento, Riverside and San Bernardino. “The smaller, tertiary markets are where you get double-digit returns,” he said.
One reason these smaller markets are attractive is because operating costs are lower, said Christopher Pfohl, senior VP at Pyramid Hotel Group. He is seeing the larger markets pushing into the major suburban areas surrounding Washington, D.C., and New York. Pricing also is a positive, he said. “You can buy quite often more cheaply as it relates to a per-pound price,” he said.
That’s not to say acquisition opportunities haven’t presented themselves in the major gateways. That hotel transaction volume in Miami, for example, increased 154% to $557 million during 2011, marking the second highest level since 2005, according to Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels. Investor interest in the market is expected to remain high throughout 2012 and transaction volumes are projected to increase by a total of 17% over 2011 volumes.
“Miami transaction volumes are expected to amount to $650 million in 2012, driven by real-estate owned properties from lenders who have taken ownership of defaulted properties. Additionally, owners with non-performing assets who are unable to invest equity or restructure debt will look to the transaction market as an outlet to shed properties,” said Gregory Rumpel, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels in Miami.
Additionally, equity-rich buyers such as real-estate investment trusts and private-equity funds will pursue acquisitions in the market. “High demand levels and significant rate premiums will enable the city to maintain a strong hotel performance over the medium term, piquing investor interest,” Rumpel said.
Compiled by Patrick Mayock.