From the desks of the Hotel News Now editorial staff:
- Irma’s toll of death, destruction rises in Florida
- A look at Harvey’s impact on Gulf Coast hotel performance
- RLJ responds to prodding that it should sell company
- Airbnb reports 81% increase in visitors to UK
- Marriott workers among ‘travel heroes’ remembered on 9/11
Irma’s toll of death, destruction rises in Florida: Hurricane Irma was downgraded this morning to a post-tropical cyclone as it moved north, about 65 miles southwest of Atlanta, ABC News reports. So far, the storm is responsible for at least 11 deaths in the U.S. and has left 6.7 million people without power in five states, according to ABC.
A London couple vacationing in the British Virgin Islands told the BBC a harrowing story about how they hunkered down in the storm on the south of Tortola on 5 September, when the roof blew off the hotel they were staying in.
Meanwhile, hotel companies with properties in the path of the storm continue to assess the damages. Forbes contributor Jim Dobson has compiled a list, with help from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, of hotel properties affected in the Caribbean Islands.
Stay tuned to Hotel News Now, which is gathering statements from hotel companies with properties in the affected regions for a story coming later today.
A look at Harvey’s impact on Gulf Coast hotel performance: Daily performance data from STR, parent company of Hotel News Now, shows that the already-hurting Houston hotel market took another hit during the nine days that Hurricane Harvey was active in the region, writes Ali Hoyt and Claudia Alvarado for Hotel News Now. Their analysis also looked at how the storm affected hotel performance in other markets along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“Galveston, a submarket of just under 7,000 rooms, has faced the largest performance drop, a 42.1% decline in revenue per available room over the nine-day period,” Hoyt and Alvarado wrote. “Double-ddigit occupancy growth in the other submarkets has outweighed rate gains.”
HNN reporter Bryan Wroten also shares some insights from experts on what Houston’s hotel market might look like following Harvey.
For a look at how Harvey might affect the total U.S. hotel industry long-term, see this analysis by Jan Freitag, SVP of lodging insights at STR.
RLJ responds to prodding that it should sell company: RLJ Lodging Trust has issued a statement in response to an open letter last week from activist investor Land & Buildings that prodded shareholders to seek a sale of the real estate investment trust. Land & Buildings owns a 2% stake in the REIT, and in its letter casts “doubt on (RLJ’s) ability to unlock shareholder value,” Reuters reported.
“RLJ remains committed to acting in the best interest of all our shareholders,” the company said in its statement. “We have and will continue to cultivate strong relationships with our shareholders and welcome their input and constructive dialogue. Our board of trustees and management team are fully committed to maximizing shareholder value. With the recent closing of the merger with FelCor Lodging Trust Incorporated … (on 31 August) we are working diligently to integrate both platforms. We continue to focus on unlocking the strategic benefits from the merger such as the realization of synergies, balance sheet optimization, strategic dispositions, and repositioning projects, which we believe will drive long-term shareholder value.”
In its letter, Land & Buildings criticized RLJ management for its failure “to communicate a comprehensive strategy for the combined company, which we believe has left many members of the investment community skeptical of the transaction.”
Airbnb reports 81% increase in visitors to U.K.: Alternative-accommodation company Airbnb said it saw an 81% increase in inbound travel to the United Kingdom from July 2016 to July 2017, which accounts for 5.9 million visitors and an estimated £3.5 billion ($4.6 billion), reports Reuters.
Airbnb claims that the U.K. is its fifth-largest market in number of listings, with 64,000 active listings in London alone.
Preliminary August data from STR shows a 1.2% increase in London hotel demand, despite a 4% increase in supply, and a rise in average daily rate for the 10th-consecutive month (+3%).
Marriott workers among ‘travel heroes’ remembered on 9/11: On the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S., Forbes contributor Michael Goldstein called attention to “travel industry heroes on 9/11,” a list that included the staff of the Marriott World Trade Center, a 22-story hotel directly connected to the Twin Towers.
Goldstein quoted New York Times coverage of the attacks, which stated “a cadre of unsung Marriott workers, from managers to porters, stayed behind to make sure their guests got out.”
As Goldstein wrote, “the hotel employees worked closely with the NY Fire Department, which used the hotel as a staging area. Richard Fetter, the resident manager who led the evacuation, survived with nicks and scrapes. Joseph Keller, the executive housekeeper who evacuated dozens of people, and Abdu Malahi, an AV technician, who went room to room searching for guests, did not. Keller stood at a bellhop station pointing guests towards the exits. His wife called him and begged him to get out. Keller told her, ‘I’ll leave here when I can.’ When the Towers collapsed, the Marriott was done for, but not before employees and firemen evacuated all but 11 of the 940 guests.”
Compiled by Robert McCune.