Briefs: US inbound travel recovers; InterContinental back in Romania

Recovery of inbound travel: Inbound international flight bookings to the U.S. surged 93% in the last six weeks (compared to the same period last year) after the U.S. government dropped the COVID testing norms before entering the country, revealed new data by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and its partner ForwardKeys. International spending, however, is still lagging other destinations and is not likely to touch pre-pandemic figures before 2025. As per WTTC’s latest Economic Impact Report, 2021 international visitor spending grew only 1.4%, reaching US$40.3 billion compared to 2019’s total of US$190.9 billion. According to flight booking data, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Orlando remained popular American destinations, with inbound flight bookings to Ft. Lauderdale rising 7% over the past four weeks. The leading markets for inbound international travel were Canada, Germany, France and Brazil. Boosted by a strong YOY growth of 35% compared to 2021, U.S. outbound flight bookings almost reached pre-COVID figures, falling short by 5% of the 2019 booking volumes. Destinations such as Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the U.K. and Italy led the list of international outbound travel, with the Philippines posting an 8% rise in outbound flight bookings over the last four weeks.

Room Mate finds buyer: Angelo Gordon, the New York-based alternative investment firm, along with its Canadian hotel group partner Westmont Hospitality Group are likely to become the new owners of the Spanish hotel chain, Room Mate, founded by Kike Sarasola. Angelo Gordon’s €57 million (US$58.17 million) offer for the chain has been the only one presented in the bid for the assets organized by the Spanish bankruptcy administration. The bankruptcy administrator and consulting firm PwC sought permission earlier this month to sell the assets of Room Mate to Angelo Gordon and Westmont. PwC set July 17 as the final date to present competing offers, anticipating closing the sale in next September. Angelo Gordon and Westmont have assured that they will retain all of Room Mate’s 599 jobs (422 direct workers and 177 employees of investee companies).

Schrager’s Public in default?: Ian Schrager and development partner Steve Witkoff have reportedly defaulted on their US$189 million mortgage backing the 367-room Public Hotel in New York City. Reportedly now paying a 9% interest rate penalty, lender Deutsche Bank is looking to sell the loan, according to marketing materials from Eastdil Secured. At a hearing in March, an attorney for the developers said they used US$20 million in rescue capital to keep the hotel afloat, but an EB-5 investors’ lawsuit was hurting efforts to refinance the property.

Rendering of InterContinental Athénée Palace Bucharest

Rendering of InterContinental Athénée Palace BucharestInterContinental returns to Romania: IHG Hotels & Resorts has signed the 238-room InterContinental Athénée Palace Bucharest, marking the return of the InterContinental brand to Romania. Slated to open in early 2023, IHG has partnered with long-time partner ANA Hotels, Brasov, Romania, to develop the hotel in Bucharest. ANA Hotels has owned and operated IHG’s Crowne Plaza Bucharest for several years. The building which houses the hotel initially opened in 1914. InterContinental Athénée Palace Bucharest is the latest among several signings by IHG across Europe in the last 12 months, including InterContinental Resort Crete and Kimpton St. Honoré Paris.

Mandarin Oriental in DC sells for US$139M: Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, has entered into an agreement with London-based private equity firm Henderson Park to sell the 373-key Mandarin Oriental Washington D.C. for US$139 million and relinquish its operations of the property. Once the deal is finalized, slated to take place on September 8, Mandarin Oriental will receive US$139 million in gross proceeds or a US$45 million non-trading gain post taxes, which will equal to about US$372,654 per key. Mandarin Oriental spent US$144 million to build the 11-story hotel, which opened in 2004. There has been no information on the hotel’s new management company. This marks Mandarin Oriental’s second divestment of a hotel in the U.S. this year, following the sale of a quarter stake in its Mandarin Oriental New York to Mumbai, India-based Reliance Industries for US$98.15 million in March amid weak corporate and group bookings in the U.S. This acquisition adds to Henderson Park’s global portfolio, which includes the addition of 12 Hilton-branded hotels in the U.K. and Ireland in late-2021.

Chartwell, Rockbridge partner in Nashville: Chartwell Hospitality, Franklin, Tennessee, has partnered with Columbus, Ohio-based Rockbridge to develop a 292-key Hilton hotel at the Nashville International Airport (BNA). Nashville, Tennessee-based Crain Construction is the hotel’s general contractor, hired by Chartwell to build the property. The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA) had selected Chartwell to be its hotel partner for the BNA Vision Plan, which will grow the airport and its surrounding areas to accommodate BNA’s increase in passenger traffic. The hotel is expected to be the tallest building at the BNA and the only hotel on MNAA property situated at the terminal door of the airport. The hotel’s vertical construction started on July 1. Chartwell is also part of the development team of two other hotels at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, which includes a Marriott and a Residence Inn.

Anantara resort in Brazil: Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, Bangkok, Thailand, has announced a new resort in Bahia, Brazil, marking the launch of the luxury brand in Brazil and South America. The 116-key Anantara Mamucabo Bahia Resort will be spread across a 500,000 square meter site and the construction of the new-build property will begin in 2023. The property is expected to open in 2025. The resort’s architecture and interiors will be designed by Sidney Quintela Architecture + Urban Planning, while Alex Hanazaki will work on landscaping. Currently, Minor International’s Anantara’s portfolio consists of more than 45 properties globally, with a pipeline of more properties in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America.

Meeting recovery forecast: The outlook for meetings and events in the U.S. continues to increase, especially after the second quarter of 2022 realizing significant growth and exceeding predictions, showed Knowland’s latest Top 25 U.S. Meetings Recovery Forecast. The outlook for the U.S. jumped to 72.1% recovery from 58.3% recovery by the year-end. Meeting levels are expected to recover to 106.3% of 2019 figures in 2023 and 115.7% in 2024. Out of the top 25 markets, the recovery forecast improved in 11 markets, while recovery forecast slipped in the remaining markets. Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville and Tampa are estimated to see a full recovery by the year’s end, while Atlanta, Anaheim and Miami will see recovery over 80%. Anaheim, Miami, Denver, San Diego, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and New Orleans will achieve 100% or greater recovery, while Boston, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Orlando will reach 90% or better recovery. A total of 23 of the 25 markets will achieve 100% or higher recovery by 2024.

ITC to rekindle hotel restructuring plans: ITC Ltd., Kolkata, India, will be reviving its plans to build an alternative structure for its hotel business following recent improvement in the hospitality industry. In 2020, the company announced it would develop alternative structures to enhance value creation but did not offer more details, amid speculations about a demerger of the hotel business. The company said the segment revenue of ITC’s hotel business doubled in the last fiscal year, while segment profit before interest and taxes turned positive in the second half of FY22. The resurgence of domestic tourism, big events and MICE helped revive Indian tourism, the company said. ITC’s current portfolio comprises 113 properties, both owned and managed, across three brands.

Spain close to full recovery: Spain is witnessing a resurgence in post-COVID tourism, which is likely to help the country post a near-record tourism and boost its economy. Despite the double-digit inflation, which is close to a four-decade high in the country, and chaos at the European airports, tourism is expected to recover fully a year earlier than anticipated. This resurgence is slated to play out throughout southern Europe, especially in destinations like Portugal and Greece where tourism significantly drives employment and the country’s economic growth. This comes as a welcome news amid concerns of an impending recession if Russia snaps its gas supplies. Flight cancelations and cabin crew strikes across Europe have, so far, failed to affect demand. According to tourism industry group Exceltur, employment reached its pre-pandemic figures in June and the segment is expected to generate €152 billion (US$155.14 billion) in income through this year, closely matching the record created in 2019.

Omniyat, Dorchester partner in Dubai: Omniyat Group, Dubai, and London-based Dorchester Collection, have announced the start of construction for AVA at Palm Jumeirah, Dorchester Collection, Dubai. The residential project will be managed by Dorchester Collection, like its neighbor One at Palm Jumeirah. The property is Omniyat’s 12th project. Each of the 17 ultra-luxury residences will have private pools on terraces with 270-degree views of the city skyline. Stretching up to 125 meters, the property will feature a sky palace spanning several floors, a resident-only cinema, infinity edge pools, lounges, spa and a fitness center.

Greenland USA selling Indigo Hotel: Greenland USA, a subsidiary of Shanghai-headquartered Greenland Group, is looking to sell its 350-key Indigo Hotel in Los Angeles, California, for US$28 million (setting a new record of US$800,000 per room). Managed by InterContinental Hotels Group, the hotel’s construction costs were estimated at around US$600,000 per room. The company is selling the hotel less than a year since it opened. Greenland will use the proceeds of the sale to finance the completion of the over US$1 billion Metropolis residential and retail project in Los Angeles. The project will comprise three high-rise towers offering 1,000 residential units. Initially planned as condominiums, the residential units may now be converted into rental units and sold to a multifamily operator. The sale comes following the implementation of new laws in China restricting significant overseas investments by Chinese companies.

Courtyard in Ithaca sells for US$11.25M: DelMonte Hotel Group, Rochester, New York, has sold the 107-key The Courtyard Ithaca Airport in Ithaca, New York, for US$11.25 million to Toronto, Canada-based Skyline Investments Inc. Located adjacent to the Ithaca Tompkins International Airport and Cornell University, the four-story, select-service hotel recently underwent a US$34.8 million renovation. Hunter Hotel Advisors, Atlanta, Georgia, arranged the sale of the hotel and represented DelMonte.

Anguilla resort opens year-round: Along with the Island of Anguilla announcing that effective August 8 vaccinated travelers no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country, the 178-suite Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club (formerly CuisinArt Resort) stated it will now remain open yearlong after traditionally closing in September and October. The resort is owned by Richard M. Schulze, the founder of Best Buy, and is now managed by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Middleburg, Virginia.