The one thing we can say for certain about U.S. hotels in 2016 is that there will be more of them. And since it is shaping up to be the seventh consecutive year of demand growth for hotel rooms, more financing is being pried loose for development.

As of this fall, there were about 450,000 rooms in the U.S. development pipeline, which marked a 21% jump from a year earlier. When completed, those rooms will boost the existing stock by about 9%, according to Smith Travel Research (STR).

That expansion won’t be coming only in lucrative markets like New York, which is already feeling the pricing effects of increased inventory. Broader expansion will largely be in the form of upper-end, select-service properties spearheaded by companies such as Marriott International and Hyatt with brands like Residence Inn, Courtyard and Hyatt House/Place. It is the level that is currently generating the most bang for development bucks.

Conversely, inventory growth probably means a slight tapering-off of revenue growth. In November, PricewaterhouseCoopers dropped its 2015 forecast for growth in revenue per available room (RevPAR) from 7% to 6.5% and predicted that 2016 RevPAR growth would slow further, to 5.7%.

Beyond those fairly conservative prognostications, here’s a Top 10 list of predictions about significant developments in the lodging industry in 2016:

1) Hotel investments will get especially hot in the Sun Belt. Through September, Phoenix’s 15% year-over-year RevPAR growth was the country’s fastest, followed closely by Tampa/St. Petersburg’s 13% and Nashville’s 12%, according to STR. The numbers suggest that hotel developers will redirect their funds appropriately where real estate remains substantially cheaper than on either of the coasts.

2) The traditional line between hotels and Airbnb will blur on the bookings front, if only a little. Unlike fellow peer-to-peer practitioner Uber (and New York, notwithstanding), Airbnb and its methods of selling destinations as much as, if not more than, accommodations have been the subject of begrudging admiration from traditional hoteliers, who  can no longer ignore Airbnb’s rapid growth.

So with more hoteliers moving out of real estate and accelerating their pure booking and branding plays, and with U.S. occupancy staying at two-decade highs, expect Airbnb and at least one hotelier to mend fences and hatch an agreement to book with and for each other. Consider it a salvo of sorts against Expedia and its $3.9 billion agreement last month to acquire vacation-rentals service HomeAway.

3) As Marriott completes its $12.2 billion acquisition of Starwood, it will realize that 30 brands are at least five too many. Starwood’s Le Meridien and Four Points are probably the most vulnerable in terms of redundancy, and with Starwood’s Sheraton having a bit of an identity crisis, Marriott could make that upper-upscale brand a strictly overseas affair, while pushing the most posh of U.S. Sheratons upmarket into the new Sheraton Grand brand and reflagging the rest as either Marriott or Renaissance.

4) On that note, Marriott’s Starwood acquisition puts it in prime position to take over the troubled SLS Las Vegas property on the north end of the Strip. SLS’s role has been reduced to a licensing agreement, and one of the resort’s towers will convert to a W next year while the rest of the resort falls under Starwood’s Tribute Portfolio soft brand. Expect a renamed property under Marriott management.

5) U.K.-based InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) will again be subject to buyout rumors, especially in the wake of the Marriott-Starwood agreement. The London Telegraph reported in late November that as many as three China-based companies, including Shanghai Jin Jiang International Hotels Group, were taking a close look at IHG, parent of Holiday Inn and Express. Again we can assume that no deal will be consummated.

6) There will, however, be more consolidation within the U.S. boutique/lifestyle segment. With Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants acquired this year by IHG, expect some sort of merger/acquisition/disappearance within the Morgans, SLS, Viceroy and Ace Hotels ilk, as boutique continues to become more mainstream and increasingly appropriated by larger hoteliers.

7) The luxury sector also will see further consolidation beyond St. Regis, Luxury Collection and W joining Marriott’s stable  and AccorHotels’ just-announced aggreement to buy Fairmont parent FHRI Holdings for $2.9 billion. Other traditional icons such as Four Seasons, Rosewood and possibly even Trump Hotels International might also be eyeing each other for possible mergers and others for possible acquisitions.

8) Running counter to the U.S. consolidation trend is the stateside influx of overseas-based hotel operators. That means a broader U.S. presence for China’s Wanda Group, Japan’s APA Hotels and U.K.’s Firmdale Hotels, as well as a couple of European micro-suite operators, U.K.’s Yotel and Amsterdam-based CitizenM.

9) With more people seeing travel choices and accommodations as an extension of their personal ethos, some small, slow-growth “chainlets” could have an outsized influence by maintaining unique qualities. That might mean more outposts for (and copycats of) Barry Sternlicht’s green 1 Hotels and Richard Branson’s splashy Virgin Hotels brand, as well as the funky Euro vibe of AccorHotels “budget-boutique” affiliate Mama Shelter.

10) The Bahamas’ stalled Baha Mar project will open late next year under the direction of either MGM Resorts International or Las Vegas Sands. The two hotel-casino giants are well capitalized (especially as MGM spins off much of its real estate holdings), familiar with offshore expansion and no strangers to overseeing behemoth resorts. You can bet on it.

Senior editor Danny King covers the hospitality industry for Travel Weekly.

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