PKF Hospitality Research (PKF-HR) today announced that it has updated its forecast for RevPAR growth based on new research. The company is now predicting a slowdown in the pace of annual RevPAR growth for the next few years, with increases of 5.5 percent expected in 2007 and 4.2 percent in 2008. Average room rates (ADR) will continue as the primary driver of RevPAR gains, with occupancy expected to remain flat to only slightly higher for the period.

For 2007, occupancy is forecast to rise slightly (0.1 percent) as average room rates increase 5.4 percent. For 2008, PKF-HR is forecasting U.S. national occupancy to be flat, with a 4.2 percent gain in both ADR and RevPAR. "Compared to the last three years when RevPAR grew at an average annual rate of 8.0 percent, the 5.5 and 4.2 percent forecast growth rates are somewhat disappointing," said R. Mark Woodworth, president of PKF Hospitality Research, the research affiliate of PKF Consulting. "However, it should be noted that, according to Smith Travel Research, the long-term (1989 - 2006) average annual growth rate for RevPAR is 3.1 percent, so the industry is projected to continue to perform 'above average' this year and next."

These projections are detailed in the inaugural issue of Hotel Horizons(SM), a new quarterly report produced by PKF-HR that contains a five-year econometric forecast of occupancy, ADR, RevPAR, supply, and demand for the U.S. lodging industry, six chain-scale segments, and 50 cities.

Chain Scales In 2007

Among the chain scale segments, Midscale hotels without food and beverage are forecast to achieve the greatest gains in RevPAR (6.5 percent) in 2007. Conversely, Economy (3.3 percent) and Midscale with Food and Beverage (2.2 percent) properties are projected to achieve the lowest growth in RevPAR for the year.

Historically, declines in the pace of RevPAR growth have frequently been influenced by surges in new supply. "It is interesting to note that the two chain scale segments with the lowest forecast increase in RevPAR are also two segments that are projected to experience either a decline in supply in 2007 (Midscale with Food and Beverage), or just a slight increase in inventory (Economy)," Woodworth said.

On the other hand, Midscale hotels without Food and Beverage will see approximately 40,000 new rooms enter the competitive market in 2007, but is still expected to enjoy a RevPAR boost of 6.5 percent. "We attribute this segment's success to the popularity of brands among consumers, as well as the relatively low age of properties in this category," Woodworth noted.

Budgeting For 2008

In 2008, the U.S. lodging industry will begin to experience some impact from the buildup that has filled the hotel development pipeline over the past few years. The strong performance of the lodging industry has encouraged developers to build new properties. However, high construction costs and land prices have helped to suppress the number of proposed projects that have actually broken ground.

PKF Hospitality Research is projecting a 3.5 percent increase in the supply of hotel rooms in the nation in 2008. "The majority of development activity is occurring in the Upscale and Midscale without Food and Beverage segments," Woodworth observed.

This influx of new competition will contribute to moderating occupancy. PKF-HR is forecasting occupancy to remain at 63.4 percent in 2008, the same level achieved in 2007. Fortunately, with occupancy still above the long-term average, ADR is expected to continue to grow above the pace of inflation during the year. In 2008, PKF-HR is forecasting at 4.2 percent rise in average daily room rates. Therefore, RevPAR will also grow 4.2 percent in 2008. "While RevPAR growth will be relatively modest compared to recent years, with ADR the dominant driver of revenue growth, unit-level profits are expected to continue to rise in 2008," Woodworth concludes.

Tough ADR Growth

"During the recent recovery period, U.S. hotel managers have clearly demonstrated their ability to raise room rates at two or more times the pace of inflation. This has been the driving force behind the double-digit annual gains in profitability that we have observed," Woodworth said. "Looking ahead, PKF-HR is forecasting a more moderate pace of growth for average room rates within the U.S. From 2007 through 2011, PKF-HR is projecting an average annual growth rate of 3.8 percent."

Why won't U.S. hotel room rates grow at the 5.0 to 6.0 percent pace observed during the later years of 1990s industry recovery, and during the past three years? The firm offers several reasons why ADR increases will be somewhat restrained for the remainder of this decade.

- Economics - Both real personal income and nominal corporate profits are forecast by Moody's Economy.com to grow at roughly half the annual pace achieved in the 1990s. This puts pressure on both personal and corporate travel budgets.

- Operations - During the 1990s, automated yield management programs helped hotel managers maximize their ADR compared to the relatively inefficient pricing practices of the industry up to that point in time. Most of the pricing inefficiencies have been worked out of the system. In addition, hotel management has learned how to properly price rooms sold through third-party intermediaries (agencies, websites, etc.) and have re-captured most of the leakage that was lost during the early 2000s.

- Market Conditions - PKF-HR is forecasting new supply additions to reach an annual rate in excess of 100,000 rooms from 2008 through 2011. While these totals are less then the levels of new supply that came on-line from 1997 through 2000, the effect of new competition cannot be ignored.

"Given the turbulent economic environment, U.S. hotel owners and operators should welcome a forecast of modest and steady upward growth in revenues and profits for the next few years," Woodworth concluded.

A New Forecast Report

"PKF Hospitality Research is pleased to provide the U.S. lodging industry with a new source of performance projections," said John (Jack) B. Corgel, Ph.D., the Robert C. Baker Professor of Real Estate at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and Senior Advisor to PKF Hospitality Research. "When developing the forecasting model used to prepare the data presented in our Hotel Horizons(SM) report, we incorporated not only the most rigorous econometric methods, but the 80-year history of PKF's knowledge of local market behavior as well."

Hotel Horizons(SM) reports contain analyses of the historical and expected performance of the U.S. lodging markets. Hotel Horizons(SM) reports provide five year forecasts of supply, demand, occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR. The results of the Hotel Horizons(SM) forecasts are published in quarterly reports for each of the 50 markets. In addition, a national Hotel Horizons(SM) report is prepared on a quarterly basis that summarizes our outlook for the entire U.S. lodging industry, and provides insights into the performance of each of six chain-scale segments.

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