Following a sluggish start to the year, Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta called March a "turning point" for the company, as a solid rebound in leisure travel helped to drive RevPAR and occupancy recovery.
"As we [entered March], RevPAR turned positive, up more than 23% year over year, and systemwide occupancy reached 55% by the end of the month," Nassetta told investors during the group's first-quarter earnings call on Wednesday. "In fact, we're on pace to see record leisure demand in the U.S. over the summer months, with April bookings for the summer exceeding 2019 peak levels by nearly 10%."
Nassetta credited successful vaccination rollouts, relaxed travel restrictions and increased consumer confidence with helping to bolster the leisure boom as well as contributing to a "significant lift in forward bookings and occupancy" and lengthening booking windows.
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Although group and corporate transient demand continues to lag behind leisure, Nassetta said he expected to see a "meaningful pickup" in the back half of the year, when more corporate offices are predicted to reopen. He cited encouraging trends in U.S. states further along in the reopening process, where first-quarter business transient revenues have already reached 75% of 2019 levels.
Nassetta added that while social events and smaller meetings currently account for most of the company's group booking activity, Hilton is "seeing a slow shift back to a more normal mix of business," with corporate group leads up more than 70% for future periods.
For the first quarter, Hilton posted a 38.4% decrease in systemwide RevPAR, to $46.23. In the U.S., RevPAR for the three-month period slipped 36.6% to $51.10.
Hilton saw first-quarter revenue plummet 54.5% to $874 million, while posting a net loss of $109 million.