BOULDER, Colorado—Geographic information systems (GIS) are powerful tools when married to data. Simply put, a GIS system allows the end user to see patterns and trends that might not reveal themselves when looking at raw data.
For example, I've geo coded the STR census database of more than 50,000 hotels, and we now have a visual representation of virtually every property in the country. With a few command lines I can highlight properties by chain scale, age and even performance.
Recently I wanted to find what areas of the country are rebounding from the downturn in 2009 and what areas are still struggling. STR has over 600 "tracts" defined for the country, and each tract is comprised of a number of zip codes. After layering the tracts into GIS software and then uploading tract performance data, I was able to geospatially discern what areas of the country are headed in which direction.
The map below shows the results of this search, detailing year-to-date (April) RevPAR change from 2009 to 2010. Due to space limitations, I'm only showing the continental U.S. here.
Click image to enlarge.
Dark green shows the strongest RevPAR growth and dark red represents the greatest decline. Immediately you can see that North Dakota, Northern California and pockets of Florida, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the Northeast are experiencing RevPAR growth in excess of 10 percent. Most of the country is experiencing positive growth (shades of green). The oranges and reds highlight areas of continued decline, with the hardest hit areas along the Gulf Coast of Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, as well as Northwestern Colorado.
It would be a worthwhile exercise to continue to track performance on a GIS system over time. In doing this, the end user could literally watch a time-elapsed series whereby the color shades sweep over the country, and, like a weather radar map, you could see which direction the storms are headed.
Carter Wilson is director of Boulder, Colorado-based STR Analytics. He can be reached at 303-396-1644 or cwilson@STRanalytics.com.