Recovery or paradigm shift?

The whole profession has gone through moments of doubt and introspection over the last 30 months. Once one crisis was over, another immediately presented itself. To refocus on priorities, it is important to take a step back. The performance of the hotel industry in Europe since 2000 demonstrates the good health of its assets over the long term. It also illustrates the sector's ability to bounce back from the worst of events. Moreover, France has shown itself to be a good benchmark in Europe as it knows how to capitalise on its strong domestic market and the diversity of its offer.

The Covid-19 crisis was not a structural crisis in the hotel industry. It was a mobility crisis as it was impossible to travel, and potential tourists did not go to hotels. The rebound illustrates this perfectly because as soon as it was possible to travel again, it was immediate and strong. The sector has weathered previous crises with equal resilience. We are certainly at the beginning of a new cycle, after the 2001-2007 cycle when RevPAR grew by 15.8% and 2008-2019 when it grew by 25.8% in Europe.

Our sector could be labelled as a leading indicator of economic recovery. Its performances typically rebound ahead of more global economic recoveries. Thus, RevPAR is growing again before GDP. This observation appears obvious because the recovery of the hotel industry reflects the recovery of major events, travel, and professional meetings. For the international clientele, there are still many sources of tourists. This is demonstrated, for example, by the return of middle-class American visitors to Europe thanks to the shift in the euro-dollar parity in their favour. The underlying factors are therefore robust enough to support the activity with a demand that is, and will remain, strong.

In this period of strong recovery, while occupancy is flirting with its 2019 rates, it is primarily pricing power that is driving performance upwards. For some, 2022 has been a record year. However, it is important to bear in mind the many contrasts between assets and between markets. The hotel industry is becoming a sector of expertise where market knowledge, the development of specific tools, and financial engineering play a decisive role in performance and profitability.

The biggest challenge facing the hospitality industry today is productivity gains. So far, pricing power has driven performance, but the next 18 months raise many uncertainties. Will it be possible to maintain such price levels in an environment where energy costs and, more generally, production costs are likely to remain high? Part of the answer lies in the expectations of investors, who are increasingly attentive to the yield per square metre. To meet this, products need to be rethought as hospitality spaces and more efficient models for diversifying revenue streams. This transformation is already underway for many hotel assets. Another performance lever is operational efficiency, which requires specific know-how and effective staff management. Hoteliers are becoming more and more aware of these issues, as you will discover in the business forecasts.

Behind this salutary rebound for the profession, we can already observe a multitude of new trends that probably herald a profound change in the medium term. The cards are being reshuffled and we will reach a new stage in the maturity of our sector.

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