ALIS Summer Update: What’s the Development Outlook?

DALLAS—In the last installment of the ALIS Summer Update, Emmy Hise, senior consultant, STR, gave an update on the overall outlook for the industry, complete with newly released June numbers, as well as insight on the hotel development pipeline in the U.S.

According to STR, June was not as bad—but still quite bad.

For the month of June, total U.S. room supply stood at 150 million. According to Hise, “Rooms are starting to open up. June supply was at -6.2%. However, May supply was at -11.4%, so that’s a good sign that we’re seeing things open up.”

Even with added supply, occupancy is still growing. “Demand was only at 48 million in May, but now it’s at the 63 million mark for June, which resulted in a 42% occupancy for the month of June,” Hise said. “For comparison’s sake, it was 33% in May. If we’re looking at it for prior year, it was 73%—but we are trending up. ADR is still about a third of what it was at $92 for the month of June, whereas, compared to last year, June was $135.”

Hise noted that at halfway through the year—with four of those months being extremely impacted by COVID-19—year-to-date June occupancy was at 43.1% and ADR year-to-date was at $109, which is $22 less than what it was prior year.

“If we’re looking at the long-term trends here, we’ve all been significantly impacted by COVID,” Hise said. “We hit rock-bottom in April at -80% [RevPAR], got slightly better in May at -71% RevPAR and even a little better in June at -61%. I never thought I would say a -61% RevPAR is a good thing, but it’s starting to shoot back up, so that’s good news for the industry.”

How has this affected the development pipeline? “Despite the bad recent hotel performance, the development pipeline is actually very active,” said Hise, referring to properties in construction, in final planning—meaning they’ll go into construction in the next 12 months—and those in the planning stage.

The number of in-construction properties is  up 7% compared to last year, final planning is up 14%, and projects in the planning stage are down 12%.

“When you roll it all up, the active pipeline is positive 2.6% compared to last year,” Hise said.

Hise noted that the previous peak of rooms under construction occurred right before the last recession at the end of 2007. “We surpassed that number February of this year. The new peak occurred in April of this year with 220,000 rooms under construction,” she said. “Since April, it’s been slowly starting to trend down again, although it’s still above the 2007 peak.”

However, she noted, “One might think the trending down of in construction could be a result of COVID with deferments and abandonments, but our data isn’t showing that. Considering there are nearly 5,800 active projects in the U.S., not a lot of projects have actually moved to deferred or abandoned. June was the highest month with 34 moving to deferment, but there’s been zero projects abandoned in the months of May or June.”

Eight projects were deferred and four were abandoned in February; March saw 30 projects deferred and eight abandoned; and 25 were deferred and five were abandoned in April. Only 12 were deferred in May.

“This gives us indication that although there’s a slight downward trend in the in-construction rooms, it’s most likely a result of the in-construction rooms starting to open and that some projects in the final planning stage are getting delayed and not moving into the in-construction phase right away,” Hise explained.

In terms of what is in construction, Hise noted, “It’s strongly dominated in the upscale and upper-midscale, representing 61% of all in construction rooms for the total U.S.”