US RevPAR to increase 7.2% in 2012, 5.6% in 2013: PwC

Despite persistent economic headwinds and heightened uncertainty, U.S. RevPAR recovery in 2012 is projected to remain intact, with slightly stronger gains in both demand and pricing than previously anticipated, according to new data from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

While the U.S. economy has inched forward in recent quarters, business and leisure travel continues to recover, with hotels experiencing solid demand and price gains in the second quarter. These recent gains, coupled with year-over-year improvement in group bookings currently in place for the balance of the year, off-set slowing related to the near-term weakness in economic fundamentals. As a result, U.S. RevPAR is now expected to increase 7.2% in 2012 and 5.6% in 2013.

Macroeconomic Advisers’ August outlook expects slower economic growth in 2012 than it previously anticipated, followed by gradual improvement in 2013, with real GDP increasing 1.8% in 2012, followed by an increase of 3.0% in 2013, measured on a fourth quarter over fourth quarter basis.

PwC’s outlook for RevPAR recovery reflects continued momentum in business travel, including gains in corporate meetings, as well as leisure travel growth that includes greater volume from international visitors. Year-to-date RevPAR through July was 7.3% ahead of last year. While results for July were weaker (4.3% RevPAR growth), in part due to the timing of Independence Day and the start of Ramadan, preliminary results from STR for the first 18 days of August show an approximately 7.2% increase in RevPAR.

Overall, PwC expects lodging demand in 2012 to increase 3.0%, which combined with still restrained supply growth of 0.5%, is anticipated to boost occupancy levels to 61.5%, the highest since 2007. While hotels across the spectrum of price tiers are benefiting from the recovery, hotels in the higher-priced segments are expected to experience the strongest gains. Occupancy levels at hotels in the luxury, upper-upscale and upscale segments are expected to meet or exceed each segment’s recent peak in 2007. As stronger business transient and group activity returns to the higher-priced hotels, revenue management tactics are anticipated to drive increased pricing, resulting in a continuation of meaningful RevPAR gains. Hotels in the lower-priced segments have not experienced as solid of a recovery in occupancy, but are still expected to realize increased room rates as demand gradually strengthens.