Vice President, HVS Executive Search
Lacey Hagen, Vice President, HVS Executive Search, will provide insight into her experiences as ...
Young Professional Profile: Katharina Kuehnle, HVS
The “American Dream” can be something that people from all over the globe aspire to obtain at some point, and for others, it can be an opportunity that presents itself when you least expect it. The school and career path of Katharina Kuehnle, who now works as a consulting and valuation analyst for HVS, can give hope to any students who are in their final years of school, and still don’t know what job opportunities they would like to pursue, or even what country they want to live in. Katharina recently co-authored the 2012 US Hotel Valuation Index (HVI) which tracks the hotel values in 66 different US markets, within her first year as a Consulting and Valuation Analyst.
Education: Hoge Hotelschool Maastricht, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Penn State University
Degree: B.S. Business Administration and Hotel Management
Career Progression: Intern, Coverport Catering Consultancy; Intern, HVS Consulting and Valuation, Analyst, HVS Consulting and Valuation
Lacey Hagen: You have studied, interned, worked, and traveled all over world. Why did you pick HVS as the company you wanted to begin your post-graduate career with and why start in the United States?
Katharina Kuehnle: As always in life I was at the right place at the right time. I actually never knew that the job I am doing now existed until my last semester of college. I went to school in the Netherlands and participated in a global program that allowed me to do a semester in Hong Kong and in the United States (at Penn State). I took a hospitality real estate class at Penn State and loved it! Towards the end of the semester Steve Rushmore spoke in our class about HVS and the hotel valuation process and I immediately applied for an internship with HVS New York.
I was never planning on staying in the U.S. after my internship was completed; I always wanted to go back to Asia. HVS has several offices in China and also one in Hong Kong and I really wanted to move there after my internship. However, in order to get a work permit you need two years of work experience, which I did not have. The U.S. never seemed to be an option either, because it’s even harder to get a work permit here. After I knew that China wouldn’t work out, one of the MD’s in the New York office encouraged me to look into U.S. visas, and because the economy was still down in 2011 and most companies stopped sponsoring foreign employees, the contingent of visas wasn’t exhausted. I got really lucky and returned to New York in the beginning of this year with a three year work permit. I am actually really happy that things turned out this way; I love my job, have great colleagues and managers, and life in the city is always exciting.
LH: Do you have any advice for foreign students studying in the United States that would like to stay and work after they graduate?
KK: Based on how the visa process works, it is very important to start early. Most visa categories have caps, and contingencies may fill up quickly. It is also important to be patient and to be prepared for setbacks. I spent months on going back and forth between HVS, an immigration lawyer, and officials in Germany and the Netherlands to organize all the necessary paperwork.
LH: Can you provide some insight into your responsibilities as a Consulting and Valuation Analyst?
KK: We produce several different reports such as market studies, feasibility studies as well as valuations. A lot of our clients are banks, which for example, are looking into financing a hotel, or hotel owners, investors or developers, who want to know what a property is worth for investment purposes. Valuation assignment can basically be divided into four phases: pre-field work, fieldwork, analysis, and report writing. At HVS, associates work on projects individually, hence they work on the report from beginning to end. Once engaged by the client, I review all the information, then travel to the destination to look at the hotel and its competitors to get a deeper understanding of the market dynamics. I also speak to economic development and/or the Convention and Visitors Bureau to learn about the demand generators and to get a sense of the future outlook for that particular market. Once I am back at the office I sit down with my Managing Director to analyze the data I have collected. Once our “opinion of value” has been formed, I write the report with detailed explanations of the subject property, the market, historical performances and our future projections.
LH: You recently co-authored the HVI, which sounds like a very intimidating project for someone that is within their first year of working and not a native to the country or the language. Were you nervous about the project?
KK: It was definitely a challenging task, but I learned a lot about the U.S economy in general and, of course, about the hotel industry in particular. We have a wealth of resources and information available to us at HVS and I did a lot of work as an intern and in my first months as an associate in multiple markets as well. It probably took me longer to complete the project, especially because I am not native to the U.S., but the learning experience outweighs the work load by far.
LH: Finally, what were some of the main points on the state of the US hotel market that you discovered while researching for the HVI?
KK: Increases in occupancy, average rate, and demand, along with limited growth in supply thus far in 2012, are anticipated to result in relatively strong growth in net operating income (NOI). These improving dynamics, coupled with fewer buying opportunities, are expected to yield a positive per-room value change for the U.S. in 2012. According to this year’s HVI, U.S. hotel values peaked in 2006 at $100,000 per room. The low point during the recent downturn occurred in 2009, when values dropped to $56,000 per room. We project that U.S. hotel value growth will persist through 2016, surpassing 2006 values in 2013.
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