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Real EstateAcquisitionsMoving Forward: Insights From HAMA's Fall 2021 Industry Outlook Survey

Moving Forward: Insights From HAMA’s Fall 2021 Industry Outlook Survey

Following a summer driven by leisure demand, many are curious about the outlook for the fall and winter seasons. On October 5, 2021, the Hotel Asset Managers Association (HAMA) hosted a virtual media roundtable to discuss its Fall 2021 Industry Outlook Survey results compared to those from Spring 2021. The Fall 2021 results yielded over 90 responses. HAMA Board of Directors Members Larry Trabulsi, executive vice president at CHMWarnick, and Sarah Gulla, senior vice president at Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, reviewed the results, which encompassed hotel and budgeting forecasts for 2021 and beyond, what members are most concerned about and how they’re addressing those concerns, and how asset values compare to 2019.

Forecasts

Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents predict that 76-100 percent of their hotels will exceed 2021 budgeted RevPAR. Of the survey results from both Spring and Fall 2021, half forecast a 25-50 percent decline in RevPAR when compared to 2019. Trabulsi said that returning to 2019 RevPAR levels is top-of-mind for many respondents and industry professionals. While he doesn’t want to call the numbers too optimistic, Trabulsi said, “certainly, some said that 2021 may end the year a little bit better than had been expected, and this is just giving up how strong leisure demand was in certain markets.”

Respondents also expect full-service hotels to exceed budgets. Consequently, 31.5 percent of respondents expect 75-100 percent of full-service assets to exceed 2021 budgeted GOP, and 70 percent of respondents predict a less than 30 percent decrease in RevPAR compared with 2019. “It’s worth mentioning that in markets where staffing is…restrained, the full-service hotels have brought back more services than I think they anticipated in the beginning of the year, including scalable housekeeping services, food and beverage, and those options.”

As for select-service and limited-service hotels, Gulla mentioned that “the select-service side is performing a little bit better than the industry and the full-service hotels overall.”

Concerns and Closures

There were three concerning factors that stood out to the respondents: labor sustainability, labor costs, and demand. Trabulsi said, “Labor is the biggest challenge in the spring and fall, where we are right now just being the main topic in almost every market.” He added that as well as the three main concerns, “some of the other concerns over the management company and property taxes and capital stack…diminished a little bit. This really became all about labor and demand being the top two.”

Of the survey’s results, brand and management companies are not as concerning, but 15 percent of respondents are still contemplating switches. Trabulsi said “That’s probably some acknowledgment of where the market is now and waiting for things to recover a little bit. But still, some potential activity out there in terms of brand management or both, but it depends on how you want to look at it.”

Eleven percent of respondents handed back the keys to their lender or experienced a forced sale. In response, Trabulsi said that the number was down from the spring. “This is all taking a lot longer to recover than…originally expected. Some of that is the lender looking at other options as well as performance.”

Market Trends

In Spring 2021, the respondents were expecting a 2023 recovery. However, in Fall 2021, responses were consistent with the prior survey, but more respondents shared 2024 as a target recovery period for the Top 25 Markets. Outside of the Top 25 Markets, recovery is expected for 2023. Trabulsi said that the “Top 25 Markets are pretty consistent in terms of the approach in what people thought last spring. Again, maybe a little more optimism on this call; the fact that 2023 improved quite a bit from the spring gives you some optimism that things are getting a little bit better a little bit quicker.”

Acquisitions

Over 80 percent of respondents are pursuing acquisitions and looking for opportunities; this is more than in Spring 2021. In fact, between 11-20 percent of respondents in Spring 2021 were expecting a discount for full-service and luxury property acquisitions in urban locations in comparison to 2019 value; in Fall 2021, less than 10 percent are anticipating a discount to 2019 greater than 20 percent for these assets. Trabulsi and Gulla agreed that people are looking for quality. Trabulsi said, “For quality assets that have come to market, the bidding process has been incredibly robust for refinancing activity.”

For full-service and luxury resort acquisitions, almost 50 percent of respondents believe that the asset pricing is currently above 2019 value. Discounts, Trabulsi and Gulla said, can vary by market and by class. Trabulsi added, “People coming into this were expecting 30-40 percent discounts. Due to COVID, the reality is it’s coming into play in the 10-28 percent value range. Again, that capital is looking to pounce, but they’re not seeing the great opportunity and great discounts they were going to see.”

But for select-service and below properties, over 50 percent of respondents think that discounts to 2019 value will be less than 10 percent. Trabulsi concluded that there’s “a different story in the select-service, but there are some discounts still to be had. But certainly, some folks think there is a potential for an increase in value, but I think the ratios are a lot less here than we’re seeing for other asset classes.”

Robin McLaughlin
Robin McLaughlin is associate editor of LODGING.

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