Briefs: Whitbred rebounds, warns about costs; Rosewood adds in Italy

Whitbread warns of surging costs: Whitbread, the U.K.-based owner of Premier Inn, said that increasing costs of labor, utilities and food will lower margins in the second half. Inflation, along with investments in technology and marketing, will increase its costs by £60 million (US$68.27 million) in the second half, the company added. Despite the rising inflation, F&B sales remained 5% below pre-COVID levels and were not likely to fully recover this financial year, Whitbread said. The company’s group profit before tax for the six months ended September 1 stood at £307.4 million (US$349.81 million), compared to a loss of £19.3 million (US$21.96 million) in the previous year, with revenue doubling as travel saw a rebound. Premier Inn UK’s robust trading performance has continued into the third quarter, with forward bookings in a positive position despite the economic uncertainties as travelers have been spending more as travel restrictions have been relaxed.

Future home of the Rosewood Milan

Rosewood grows Italian portfolio: Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Hong Kong, has been appointed by Gruppo Statuto to manage Rosewood Milan, which is slated to open in 2025. The hotel is Rosewood’s fourth property in Italy after the recent announcements of Rosewood Rome and Rosewood Hotel Bauer in Venice. Rosewood Milan will offer 70 rooms, including 20 suites, a bar and restaurant with a courtyard garden along with a wellness facility with three treatment rooms and a fitness center. The hotel will encompass Palazzo Branca and Palazzo della Banca Commerciale, which earlier housed the Italian Commercial Bank. Parisian company Studio K.O. will oversee the design.

US construction pipeline grows: The U.S. construction pipeline has grown 10% by projects and 6% rooms YOY to 5,317 projects/629,489 rooms at the close of the third quarter, as per Lodging Econometrics. Projects scheduled to start construction in 12 months increased 14% by projects and 13% by rooms YOY to 2,074 projects/236,894 rooms. Projects in the early planning stage touched record highs to stand at 2,256 projects/257,545 rooms, a 14% increase by projects and 7% increase in rooms. Brand conversion room counts reached record highs of 988 projects/99,474 rooms. The renovation pipeline also remained strong with 893 projects/140,440 rooms – some of the highest counts dating back to Q3 2018. Together, renovation and conversion activity totaled 1,881 projects/239,914 rooms, up 36% YOY by projects and 50% by rooms YOY. So far, 343 hotels opened across the country, representing 39,772 rooms, with additional 182 projects/22,261 rooms expected to open by the year-end.

Top 2 project count among chain scales:
Upper midscale:  2,127 projects/214,473 rooms
Upscale: 528 projects/202,907 rooms

Top 3 brands with highest number of upper midscale chain projects:
Home2 Suites by Hilton: 494 projects/50,809 rooms
IHG’s Holiday Inn Express: 297 projects/28,323 rooms
Marriott’s TownePlace Suites: 291 projects/27,329 rooms

Top 3 brands with highest number of upscale chain projects:
Marriott’s Residence Inn: 234 projects/28,659 rooms
Marriott’s SpringHill Suites brand: 148 projects/16,350 rooms
IHG’s Staybridge Suites: 125 projects/12,962 rooms

Aman Essentials at Harrods: Aman Essentials, the lifestyle brand of curated items inspired by Aman, has announced its largest retail partnership yet with an expansive concession at Harrods in London. The Harrods concession is the ongoing evolution of Aman Essentials into a standalone lifestyle brand and also marks the first time the entire Aman beauty offering, consisting of Aman Skincare, Aman Fine Fragrance and Aman Spa Candles, will be available outside an Aman property. The Aman Essentials space is housed at a new extension of the Harrods Beauty Hall on the department store’s ground floor, which opened on Monday. The space has been designed in partnership with architect Kengo Kuma, who has also designed the Amanpuri Retail Pavillion at Amanpuri, Thailand, as well as the jars, bottles and packaging of the Aman Skincare and Aman Fine Fragrance collections.

Hersha closes sales: Hersha Hospitality Trust, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has closed on the sales of The Hotel Milo Santa Barbara and The Pan Pacific Seattle. The sale price implies a blended 2.9% cap rate and 27x EBITDA multiple on 2019 results and a US$455,000 per key valuation. The sale of these two properties along with the dispositions of the Urban Select Service portfolio and other pending dispositions totaling US$650 million in gross proceeds will bring down the company’s debt by US$500 million while generating unrestricted cash of roughly US$12 million. Moving into the fourth quarter, the company said it will maintain financial and operational flexibility with an estimated year-end cash balance exceeding US$200 million and a US$100 million undrawn line of credit. Hersha has a portfolio of 28 hotels totaling 4,270 rooms across the U.S.

TMGOC closes acquisition of 3-hotel portfolio: TMGOC Ventures (TMGOC), a partnership between The Montford Group and Opterra Capital, have closed on the acquisition of the three select-service Marriott and Hilton-branded hotels totaling 430 rooms in Charlotte Beach and Roanoke Rapids in North Carolina, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. TMGOC acquired the properties comprised of a fee simple interests in the 135-key Courtyard Myrtle Beach Broadway, the 147-room Hilton Garden Inn Roanoke Rapids, and the 148-room Courtyard Charlotte Airport. Aimbridge Hospitality will operate the hotels in North Carolina, while Marriott manages the Courtyard Myrtle Beach. In the last 18 months, TMGOC has raised more than US$120 million in equity and grown its asset base to more than US$400 million, mostly focusing on hospitality. The venture’s portfolio consists of 23 real estate assets and the future development pipeline is more than US$360 million, with two luxury lifestyle hotels in Charleston, South Carolina, an extended-stay hotel at Jacksonville, Florida, and a mixed-use project in Macon, Georgia.

Hogan grows portfolio: Hogan Hospitality Group, Honolulu, Hawaii, has added the 45-room Soap Lake Natural Spa & Resort in Soap Lake, Washington, and the 42-room Comfort Inn & Suites Ventura Beach in Ventura, California. The Soap Lake hotel will add 40 more rooms in fall 2023. Hogan operates 21 branded and independent properties totaling over 3,000 rooms across the U.S.

New hotel at UMaine: Olympia Hotel Management, Portland, Maine, will operate a new hotel on the campus of the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 1 and the hotel is scheduled to be completed in early 2024. The 95-key upscale, boutique hotel will comprise the two buildings and a newly-constructed addition. The project is expected to cost US$28 million. The hotel is being developed by Radnor Property Group and Harrison Street. The redevelopment plan will meet the National Park Service criteria to become a Certified Historic Structure. Archetype Architects is designing the hotel, with Wright-Ryan Construction serving as the general constructor. Two buildings — Coburn Hall and Holmes Hall — are being converted to create the hotel. The buildings, built in 1888, have not been used in 15 years.

Hospitality alliance updates carbon tool: The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance has updated its carbon tool, Hotel Carbon Measurement Index (HCMI). The Alliance has called on the hospitality industry to use the metrics to ensure a globally comparable approach to carbon, water and waste reporting. HCMI has been reviewed and improved based on user feedback and research by Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research. The latest version has been updated to align with the latest HGH Protocol guidance. HCMI is being used for more than 10 years by over 30,000 hotels and business travel platforms. The methodology was developed by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and WTTC, in collaboration with 23 global hospitality companies and reviewed by experts like the World Resources Institute.

Study on booking behavior: About 51% of people always read or often read reviews from the hotel’s website, with Google emerging as the second preferred platform (48%) for consulting feedback, revealed the latest consumer study on the impact on booking behavior and reputation. On average, a person reads 8.7 reviews before making a booking decision. Every author who writes a review reads an average of 9.8 reviews. Both positive and negative comments count as trusted reviews. Other aspects which increase trustworthiness for writers and readers are images, star ratings along with text and personal context. About 77% of authors who expect a response to a negative review would like to get it in four days, while 67% of authors expect to receive a response to a positive review in four days. Surveys sent out by the hotel are the most commonly used platform for review contributors. Small incentives, like a discount for their next stay, encourage pure readers to write reviews while also increasing customer loyalty.

Marriott Bonvoy launches design-focused platform: Marriott Bonvoy has launched Travel by Design, an integrated content platform showcasing design stories which inspired hotels. Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott International’s portfolio of 30 hotel brands and loyalty program, is collaborating with Samsung to create an exclusive branded destination within Samsung TV Plus, the free, ad-supported streaming service. From November 1, the service will allow viewers to select a tile on the service’s home screen to explore the on-demand library and watch a curated collection of travel video content. The series will also be available on Samsung, Roku, and YouTube and will be featured in hotel rooms worldwide. Travel by Design will comprise short films showcasing four stories where destinations meet design from brands like W Hotels & Resorts, Autograph Collection Hotels, The Luxury Collection, etc.

Family travel study: Travel intent is higher this year than in 2019, with 85% of parents very likely to travel with their children in the next 12 months, according to the 2022 US Family Travel Survey conducted by the NYU School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality and the Family Travel Association. While 57% of respondents said that the pandemic is mostly contained and felt comfortable traveling, 43% were cautious when making travel decisions. In a sign that the fear of the pandemic is receding, international vacations emerged as more popular this year, with city vacations on the rebound, and more families now looking to stay in hotels (pausing the continuous rise of vacation rentals of the past several years). Willingness to use a travel advisor for family travel is 52%, a significant rise over reported behavior since 2021, when only 17% used a travel agent. In terms of types of trips, beach vacations (66%), city vacations (65%), and visiting friends and family (61%) emerged as the top three indicators. Conversely, the interest in nature/active vacations seemed to be reducing. Affordability remained the top challenge for families and has been consistent every year, followed by dealing with potential cancellations.

JLL secures financing for OAK: JLL Capital Markets has arranged more than US$100 million in construction financing for Veritas Development to secure the funding for OAK, a mixed-use project in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. OAK will be developed in multiple phases, with the first phase spread across 11.85 acres of the total 20-acre project. The first phase will consist of 320 luxury residential units, a 133-room locally-branded boutique hotel and 142,701 square feet of specialty retail. After completion, the community will comprise 260,000 square feet of Class A office, residential units, hotel, 250,000 square feet of first-to-market and locally curated retail and 7,000 square feet of green space for outdoor events.