Briefs: USTA on CDC’s mask mandate appeal; Arbor Lodging to Ann Arbor

USTA reacts to CDC’s call for appeal on mask mandate: An “overwhelming majority of Americans” do not require to wear masks in indoor public spaces and mandatory masking on public transportation was “simply out of step” with the current public health scenario, said Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association Executive vice president of Public Affairs and Policy in response to the CDC asking the U.S. Department of Justice to appeal a ruling that struck down the federal mask mandate for public transportation. “We have long stated that mask usage on public transportation should be an individual choice, and we were pleased to hear President Biden echo that sentiment this week —especially as the CDC’s own guidance advises that the overwhelming majority of Americans do not need to wear masks in indoor public settings. Masks were critically important during the height of the pandemic, but with low hospitalization rates and multiple effective health tools now widely available, from boosters to therapies to high-quality air ventilation aboard aircraft, required masking on public transportation is simply out of step with the current public health landscape,” Barnes said in a statement.

US hotel sales in Q1: There were 128 single asset sales during Q1 2022 transactions of more than US$10 million, which totaled US$7.9 billion and included approximately 26,000 rooms with an average sale price of US$306,000, found the LWHA Q1 2022 Major Hotel U.S. Hotel Sales Survey. In comparison, the Q1 2021 survey included 31 single asset sale transactions over US$10 million worth US$8.1 billion and included approximately 17,000 hotel rooms with an average sale price per room of US$477,000. Net of the Venetian Resort Las Vegas & Sands Expo and Convention Center trade, which skews the data, the Q1 2021 statistics equate to 30 trades totaling US$1.85 billion, 9,900 hotel rooms with an average sale price per room of US$187,000. By further comparison, the Q1 2020 survey identified 30 transactions totaling around US$1.97 billion including 7,600 hotel rooms with an average sale price per room of US$259,000.

US performance dips: Similar with historical patterns, hotel performance in the U.S. was lower during the Easter week, as per STR’s latest data through April 16.

  • Occupancy: 62% (-5.6%)
  • ADR: US$147.25 (+14.4%)
  • RevPAR: US$91.25 (+8%)

Among the Top 25 Markets, Tampa saw the highest occupancy increase over 2019 (+3.2% to 76.6%). Minneapolis recorded the largest occupancy decrease from 2019 (-22.7% to 46.6%), while Phoenix posted the largest ADR increase over 2019 (+33.8% to US$189.16). The steepest RevPAR deficits were registered in Minneapolis (-22.5% to US$52.66) and Houston (-21.2% to US$53.94).

TownePlace Suites by Marriott Ann Arbor

Arbor Lodging to Ann Arbor market: Arbor Lodging Partners, Chicago, Illinois, has announced its latest acquisition and first expansion into the Ann Arbor market with a two-hotel portfolio comprising the 130-key Hilton Garden Inn Ann Arbor and the 97-key TownePlace Suites by Marriott Ann Arbor. The Hilton Garden Inn is slated to undergo renovations of all its components. The TownePlace Suites had recently been renovated and will undergo some light work. Arbor Lodging currently owns and operates more than 37 hotels in the U.S.

Hilton’s first net-zero hotel: Hotel Marcel New Haven, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, in New Haven, Connecticut, which is set to open this spring, will be the first anticipated net-zero hotel in the U.S. The165-key all-electric hotel will use renewable solar energy on site for its rooms and suites, common areas, restaurant, laundry and meeting rooms. The hotel will operate independent of fossil fuels, resulting in zero carbon emissions and will be one among the less than a dozen LEED Platinum-certified hotels in the U.S. The hotel’s eco-friendly vision was led by lead architect, owner and developer Bruce Redman Becker, FAIA, LEED AP of Becker + Becker. The hotel, which opened in 1970, was acquired by Becker who then modernized it with key focus on sustainability. The hotel features triple-glazed windows, built-in motorized sheer and blackout window shades and 12 Tesla Superchargers or universal level-two chargers for electric vehicles. The on-site restaurants offer locally-sourced menu items with biodynamic and organic wines. The lounge’s kitchen and hotel laundry run on electricity while the kitchen uses induction cooktops.

Meetings industry recovery: The second quarter of 2022 will set the pace of recovery of the meetings industry in the U.S. and potentially quicken recovery of the sector, according to Knowland’s quarterly event activity forecast. Although there was volatility among some of the Top 25 markets, several markets improved their recovery outlook. Even the markets with considerably lesser forecasts saw major upticks in March, with minimal dips in January and recovery targets getting fulfilled in February. Anaheim, Miami, Nashville, Tampa and Washington D.C. saw improvements from the last forecast in February, while recovery fell in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Oahu Island, Minneapolis, Seattle and San Francisco. The rest of the top 25 markets remained unchanged from February. Phoenix and Tampa are set to see full recovery by the end of this year. A total of 21 of 25 markets will see 100% of greater recovery by 2024.

Focus on sustainable travel: There is greater consumer interest in sustainable tourism, with 90% of consumers looking for sustainable options while booking and seeking sustainability information from trusted travel resources and providers, revealed new research released by Expedia Group Media Solutions. About 70% of consumers were willing to forego some element of convenience to travel more sustainably. The study found that three in four travelers will choose a destination, accommodation or transportation option that supports the local community and culture even it was more expensive. In support of this mindful travel, Expedia Group has joined the Travalyst Coalition to empower travelers with better information and encourage travel providers to improve sustainability of their services. Expedia Group has also signed the Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism, which commits to deliver and start implementing climate action plans in 12 months.

Global cities preparedness for sustainable growth: After two years of the pandemic, the global travel and tourism sector is finally seeing signs of recovery and the halt of international travel has become an opportunity for stakeholders, destination leaders and policymakers to enhance the sector’s readiness doe sustainable tourism growth. In its new report Destination 2030: Global cities’ readiness for sustainable tourism growth by the World Travel & Tourism Council and JLL, 63 cities were measured and categorized into one of the five levels of readiness while providing attainable solutions to boost sustainable growth in tourism in the destinations. The levels of readiness are:

  • Dawning developers- Cities like New Delhi and Riyadh
  • Emerging performers- Cities like Dubrovnik and Buenos Aires
  • Balanced dynamics- Auckland and Vancouver
  • Mature performers- Miami, Berlin and Hong Kong
  • Managing momentum- Amsterdam, Las Vegas and London

US$75 million sale of Pendry residences: Pendry Residences Tampa, the luxury hotel and residential tower in downtown Tampa, Florida, has reached US$75 million in residential sales in the last 45 days. The 37-story building being developed in partnership with Pendry Hotels & Resorts and Two Roads Development, West Palm Beach, Florida, features residences across several floor levels and styles, including penthouse residences on the top floors. A formal groundbreaking of the project is expected this summer, with construction of the residences likely to be completed in spring 2025, when the hotel is slated to open. The tower will include a 220-room hotel and 207 residences, with home owners having access to a private residential lobby, elevator and rooftop pool along with access to hotel services and a dedicated residential staff.

ART issues sustainability-linked bond: Ascot Residence Trust (ART) has issued its first sustainability-linked bond of US$200 million under its newly established Sustainability-Linked Finance Framework, becoming the first hospitality trust in the world to issue a sustainability-linked bond. The bond was issued pursuant to its S$2 billion (US$1.46 billion) Multicurrency Debt Issuance Programme and proceeds from the bond issuance will be utilized to refinance ART’s existing borrowings. With a fixed coupon rate of 3.63% per annum, paid semi-annually in arrears, the five-year sustainability-linked bond will mature in April 2027. ART has achieved a ‘greenium’ through the bond and committed to a sustainability performance target (SPT) of greening 50% of its entire portfolio by 2025-end. The properties have to achieve a regional, national or internationally recognized green building standard or certification by a recognized third-party by the SPT observation date.

Evergrande sells Crystal City Project: Troubled Evergrande Group, one of the largest real estate developers in Mainland China, has sold the land use and building ownership of Crystal City Project in Hangzhou to stat-owned firms Zhejiang Zhejian Real Estate Group and Zhejiang Construction Engineering Group for CNY3.66 billion (US$570 million). The debt-struck developer will use the proceeds of the sale to repay construction fees of CNY920.7 million (US$143.54 million) it owes to Zhejiang Construction Engineering Group and the rest will be utilized for its own general working capital. Evergrande is likely to make a profit of CNY216 million (US$33.67 million) from the deal.

Boulud’s new restaurant at the Beekman: Celebrated chef Daniel Boulud will reportedly open a French restaurant called Le Gratin, inspired by his hometown of Lyon in France, at the Beekman Hotel in New York City. The kitchen will be headed by executive Chef Guillame Ginther, an alum of Restaurant Daniel and Le Coq Rico. The menu will include sweet and savory versions of baked gratin and the restaurant will open on May 6.

Taj-branded residences in India: The Indian Hotels Co. Ltd. (IHCL) has signed an agreement with Chennai-based AMPA Group to build its fourth Taj hotel in Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, as part of the company’s plans to grow its portfolio in key Indian cities. The 235-key luxury hotel will be spread over 3.5 acres and include 123 Taj-branded residences. Home owners will be able to access the hotel’s facilities. With this addition, IHCL will have 13 properties in Chennai with three in various stages of development.

Phuket hotel market study: Battered by the pandemic and its impact on the hotel sector, more than 73% of new hotel developments in Phuket are either lying dormant or have been put on hold, according to data in the newly-released Phuket Hotel Market Update 2022 from C9 Hotelworks. Negative sentiment and stressed liquidity have affected development, which has seen incoming supply of 33 properties with 8,616 rooms facing an uncertain future. Around 55% of the hotel projects are mixed-use or hotel residences with rental-based investment schemes targeting individual investments buyers. The study said some of the real estate-led hospitality projects are not expected to return to the pipeline. Over 40% of the island’s international visitors in 2019 were primarily from China or Eastern European countries, including Russia. The large-scale exodus of hospitality and service staff has also been cause for concern.

Demolition begins on Naples Beach Hotel: Demolition of the Naples Beach Hotel is underway in Naples, Florida, after the Athens Group acquired it for over US$362 million. The hotel will make way for a Four Seasons Resort, with plans of a 216-room resort and 185 luxury residences. The demolition is expected to go on for three months, with the construction of the new resort slated to be  completed by late 2024.

THRIVE, 33 Degrees investment: THRIVE, an Atlanta, Georgia-based coworking space solution, and global private equity group 33 Degrees announced an investment to aid the expansion of THRIVE’s coworking spaces from a few places in Georgia to 500 locations across the U.S. and Canada.

Corporate travel outlook: With easing travel restrictions and lesser health concerns arising due to COVID-19, corporate travel is making a slow but steady return but recovery to the pre-pandemic levels is unlikely even in 2023, according to Deloitte’s latest study Reshaping the landscape: Corporate travel in 2022 and beyond. Corporate travel is still 50% of pre-pandemic expenditure and faces a more complicated prognosis than leisure travel. Travel managers have reduced their expectations of recovery in 2022, with only 17% anticipating a full recovery by the end of the year versus more than half of the respondents in the 2021 survey. About two-thirds of the respondents feel new variants and outbreaks since summer 2021 caused them to delay their travel plans. One in seven said they did a significant reconsideration of their travel plans. Rising travel prices was also cited as one of the few travel-deterring factors that saw a significant increase from 2021 to 2022. To keep costs under control, around three in four companies said they will restrict the number of trips taken.

Placemakr announces California debut: Placemakr, a tech-enabled hospitality platform, has launched its new location WhyHotel by Placemakr, San Jose in partnership with local Bay Area developer, Bayview Development Group. This is Placemakr’s first property in California. The aparthotel will feature a 2/7 fitness center, outdoor seating and grilling areas, a private dog park, a Starbucks on the ground floor and an upscale Italian restaurant.

Global business travel improves: Business travel has made a significant improvement in the past few months as 86% of companies said they sometimes permit non-essential domestic and business travel, revealed the latest GNTA Business Travel Recovery Poll. This figure was up from 73% in February. Around 74% of the companies said they allow international travel (up from 26 percentage points). About 88% of suppliers and travel management companies said their bookings have risen, compared to 45% in February. An overwhelming 94% said their employees were “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business. Around 41% of GBTA’s stakeholders said their company’s return to office directly correlated to the return to business travel and 55% said their company has initiated a permanent back-to-office policy.

Benchmark Pyramid adds to management portfolio: Benchmark Pyramid has assumed operations of the 142-key Cambria Hotel Pittsburgh-Downtown. In the past seven months since the merge was finalized, Benchmark has added 31 properties to its portfolio of third-party operated hotels across the U.S. The hotel recently completed a multi-million-dollar renovation, which saw refurbishments of the public spaces and guest room enhancements.

Eden Hotels announces new CEO: Eden Hotels has appointed Billy Skelli-Cohen as CEO. Earlier, Skelli-Cohen served as CEO of Lore Group and led the acquisitions, re-positioning and operations of its iconic hotels. Most recently, he co-founded the soon to be launched hospitality brand Àterre. Currently, Eden Hotels owns and operates 14 hotels with almost 2,000 rooms, mostly in Amsterdam and other major Dutch cities.