JLL Managing Director Breaks Down Barriers

gildaIt’s not even half over, but 2016 has already been a whirlwind year for Gilda Perez-Alvarado, managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL). As of Jan. 1, she took on the role of head of Global Hotels Desk for JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group, a culmination of 12 years of work for the real estate advisor. Then, only weeks later, she was honored with the Jack A. Shaffer Financial Advisor of the Year Award at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS). Perez-Alvarado is the first woman to receive this award, a detail she became aware of very quickly.

“The outpour of support after the ceremony from female executives and ladies all over the industry was just amazing,” Perez-Alvarado describes. “You know, sometimes you lose a little bit of perspective of what your career means, not just for you, but for other people like yourself, like women and minorities.”

With a strong background in hospitality—she attended the Cornell School of Hotel Administration—and more than a decade of experience in hotel brokerage, Perez-Alvarado has a very unique, global perspective on the lodging industry. “If you’re looking to achieve a certain level of growth, you have to look beyond domestic opportunities. Europeans do business very differently than we do, and Asian and Middle Eastern investors have their own methods as well,” she explains.

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And Perez-Alvarado is encountering foreign investors more and more often, especially those looking to acquire assets in the United States. “Right now our country has a very strong economy, so there is quite a bit of strategic capital coming in,” she says. “Additionally, our currency is getting stronger, and that is a huge financial motivator, especially for Chinese investors.”

Perez-Alvarado notes that China is one of the United States’ biggest hospitality investors at this point in time because China is currently experiencing a very strong outbound tourism boom. Last year, mainland Chinese outbound funds into global hotel real estate grew five-fold to $5.3 billion, and the expectation is that 2016 will see a meaningful year-over-year increase, with the U.S. being the main beneficiary. “Simply put, investors want to invest where their people are going,” she adds.

Additionally, the United States also offers foreign investors a very transparent and liquid investment market. “We might be the most transparent market in the world,” she explains. “So naturally there’s quite the gravitation for people to move money away from their borders and into the States, which is further strengthening our economy.”

Being able to work with investors all over the world is one of Perez-Alvarado’s favorite aspects of her career, especially when it’s done on a more personal level. “Deals made with foreign investors are often brokered with individuals who have their own wealth, rather than with companies,” she says. “These people aren’t pressured to spend their money a certain way, like a domestic institution would be, so doing business with them is very different than doing business in the States. I almost have to take a private banking approach, which makes things more personal and enjoyable.”

Beyond personalized deals with individual private investors, Perez-Alvarado also enjoys brokering high-profile trophy assets in the United States and abroad. These properties are a little different in that the people and organizations investing in them are looking for a long-term commitment. “These are lower-yielding assets with a pretty stable value, but they’re ‘forever acquisitions,’” Perez-
Alvarado explains. “These assets definitely require a different type of buyer.”

Perez-Alvarado has extensive experience with deals having to do with trophy assets, but one deal in particular sticks out in her mind—the sale of the JW Marriott Essex House New York in 2012. Sold to Strategic Hotels & Resorts and KSL Capital Partners for $362 million, this deal won “Single Asset Transaction of the Year” at ALIS in 2013. “It’s my most favorite assignment to date,” she says.

With continued recognition from her peers, Perez-Alvarado has adopted a new outlook on her career. “Things have definitely changed,” she says. “There’s more of a media presence around my work and people are more aware of what I’m doing, rather than just being an anonymous broker. It’s great, and I’m so busy, and as a woman, I’m making a statement. It’s a very exciting time.”

Gilda Perez-Alvarado, managing director of JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group, offers sage advice for
hospitality investors.

Think ahead. “Be mindful of when in the cycle you’re buying and who your main stakeholders are. And if you’re looking at a trophy asset, be sure this is a property you want to hold long term.”

Consider the relationships. “Hotels are a very complex form of real estate. You have to think about your relationship with management, your relationship to the brand, your relationship to the owners, and the dynamics of their relationships with each other.”

Be dynamic. “Each deal is different and each transaction has its own story. Treat each one like the individual that it is. The devil is in the details, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”