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Europe from all angles

The summer season confirmed an observation that was recurrent in recent months, that there is great disparity between the situations of the hotel sectors, between countries and regions of Europe. The significant growth of the global RevPAR by 6.3% is the result of well-sustained growth of indicators in countries in Northern or Eastern Europe, as well as of the exceptional leap of occupancy rates and average daily rates in Greece, which is bound by the Olympic Games. Inversely, the tourism sector has experienced more difficulties in countries in Western Europe, France and Italy in particular.

The analysis of the month of August by MKG Consulting reveals very optimistic results. The RevPAR leapt by 6.3% over August 2003. While occupancy rates are fairly stable (+0.1 point), the explication of this evolution comes from the growth of average daily rates by 6.1% to 91.5 euros. In a more or less decided manner, all categories are subject to a schema that is relatively similar and posts occupancy rates that are close to those of last year and average daily rates that shows clear growth. The 1* category shows the least significant growth in revenue per available room (+1.2%) due to an occupancy rate down by 1.2 points and average daily rates up by 2.8%. The 2* segment also posts a slump in its level of occupancy over last year and, among the economy categories, it is the 0* segment that posts the best results. The strong rise in average daily rates by 5.6% casts no doubt over the levels of occupancy rates, and the RevPAR is up by 6.8%. But the most significant evolution occurs in the 4* segment. While occupancy rates remain relatively close to those observed last year, this August average daily rates shot up particularly remarkably (+8.2%). It is nonetheless necessary not to jump to hasty conclusions as to the meaning of this result that is greatly impacted by the vertiginous increases in RevPAR recorded in Greece, and in Athens in particular.Among these results from the month of August, Austria’s results might surprise us with their 11% drop that contradicts the trend observed in recent months. We will nonetheless remember that the month of August 2003 was exceptional with improvement in the RevPAR by more than 20% over the previous year! In the long run, the orientation is thus always clearly positive. In the Benelux, the Netherlands are once again experiencing a difficult month while Belgium is confirming its recovery, with respective evolutions in the RevPAR by –4.7% and +2.5%. Yet, Marc Horsmans, Sales Director at the hotel Radisson SAS Hotel Amsterdam Airport manages to smile: “Clients were not very warm at the beginning of the year, but we are already receiving reservations for next year, confidence is back. For two years we have seen the slow return of American clientele. Our priority today is to focus on business clientele and we are carefully studying the needs of this particular market. Our team has also been formed to better meet clients’ expectations. We are very optimistic about the months to come, clients are back and business is picking up.” We hope that this analysis rings true very soon.Nonetheless, these results confirm that overall Europe has regained a healthy glow. At the end of 12 months, the global RevPAR posts growth by nearly 3%, which is visible on each of the hotel categories.However, a country by country study of the results confirms once again that there is a great disparity between the situations of the different European countries. Thus, like France where the RevPAR posts a drop by 2.1%, Italy, another major tourist destination in Europe, posts a disappointing month of August. “Italian tourism has lived the most difficult summer in ten years,” observes Bernbo Bocca, president of two confederations Federalberghi and Confturismo. Thomas Citterio, Director Sales and Marketing for the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan illustrates this observation: “We are seeing a drop in our occupancy rate and average daily rate for August 2004. The primary reason is the shortage of business groups arriving from the Middle East.” Another factor of the slump in hotel results in the Italian peninsula is the significant drop in German clientele this summer with respect to the past. The economic difficulties in Germany, in fact, restricted the budgets of tourists who thus turned towards less expensive destinations. Spain also had an uncertain summer. Growth by 0.2% of the RevPAR in August 2004 makes it possible to maintain results that had dropped by nearly 5% between 2002 and 2003. Thus the high capacity hotels in Southern Europe all experienced a delicate summer. It is undoubtedly too soon to speak of massive carryovers of clientele towards other destinations in the Mediterranean – in Africa or Europe. Nonetheless it is certain that the “major destinations” in Southern Europe are receiving and will continue receive increasing competition from a hotel industry that is slowly developing in emerging countries. And which, of course, offer ultra competitive rates.While further north the United Kingdom continues to post growth in the RevPAR by nearly 5%, Germany continues its progressive return to growth with a 1.1% increase in the RevPAR in August. Of course prices are still following a downtrend, thereby testifying to the rude competition in which hoteliers persist in engaging themselves. But the properties’ occupancy rates are on an uptrend. Leaving Anja Niclas, of the hotel Sorat Ambassador Berlin overjoyed: “Our clientele consists mostly of tourists: 50% individual clients and 50% groups from Scandinavia in particular. This summer and autumn Berlin is enjoying the boom in short stays and the city has organised many cultural during this period such as the exhibition from New York’s MoMA. There are more and more tourists who visit the city for a few days. Our hotel benefits from the short stay trend thanks to its location in the centre of town.” German clientele, who are awaited by many in Western Europe has also tended towards Eastern destinations. According to Jean-Philippe Savoye, President of Orbis, “Three provincial towns post excellent results with RevPARs up sharply in Poland: Sceczin (+31.5%) and Wroclaw (+23.2%), thanks to German clientele from the Leisure segment as well as from the Business segment, and also Lodz thanks to its economic development.” “In Warsaw, the RevPAR for August is down. Demand for this destination is on the rise, but not as fast as supply. In Krakow as well, the supply is up with the opening of a Sheraton and a Radisson. But this tourist town was able to absorb this growth thanks, in particular, to the growth of low-cost companies,” he remarks in his analysis of the situation of the country. Poland thus experienced significant growth in its RevPAR by nearly 10% over 2003 thanks to the improvement of occupancy rates (+2.5 points) and the growth of average daily rates (+4.8%). All the countries in Eastern Europe seem to be benefiting from their entry into the European Union and attracting clientele from the West that is intrigued.Among these results from the month of August, Austria’s results might surprise us with their 11% drop that contradicts the trend observed in recent months. We will nonetheless remember that the month of August 2003 was exceptional with improvement in the RevPAR by more than 20% over the previous year! In the long run, the orientation is thus always clearly positive. In the Benelux, the Netherlands are once again experiencing a difficult month while Belgium is confirming its recovery, with respective evolutions in the RevPAR by –4.7% and +2.5%. Yet, Marc Horsmans, Sales Director at the hotel Radisson SAS Hotel Amsterdam Airport manages to smile: “Clients were not very warm at the beginning of the year, but we are already receiving reservations for next year, confidence is back. For two years we have seen the slow return of American clientele. Our priority today is to focus on business clientele and we are carefully studying the needs of this particular market. Our team has also been formed to better meet clients’ expectations. We are very optimistic about the months to come, clients are back and business is picking up.” We hope that this analysis rings true very soon.

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