With hotel supply growing, NYC no longer a cash cow

The InterContinental New York Times Square.

Third-quarter earnings reports reveal that hoteliers’ revenue from New York properties is flattening as an increase in supply and a drop in international visitors have slowed growth in what has long been the most lucrative U.S. hotel market.

Executives with Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Hyatt Hotels all noted during their earnings calls that the city has deteriorated from a relatively strong market to a weaker one this year, a trend they say is unlikely to reverse in 2016.

New York “continues to face an oversupply situation and pressure from lower volumes of inbound international travelers due to the strong dollar,” Starwood CFO Tom Magas said on an Oct. 28 earnings call. “I think some of the factors that have led to a weaker New York market in 2015 still are present in 2016.”

Likewise, Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said in his company’s Nov. 3 earnings call, “We saw weakness in New York City.”

Chris Heywood, spokesman for the New York tourism bureau NYC & Company, downplayed the potential challenge and said that the city was still on track to attract a record 58.3 million visitors this year.

Nevertheless, Heywood did allow that the city’s 8,000 new hotel rooms this year created more competition for existing hotels. With almost 114,000 rooms, New York’s inventory trails only Las Vegas and Orlando in the U.S., according to research firm STR.

With higher-end accommodations leading the hotel industry out of the recession, New York had been somewhat of a cash cow for the country’s largest hotel companies.

More alarmist is the Hotel Association of New York City (HANYC), which has been lobbying against Airbnb, citing a 2010 ordinance that prohibits New York City residential rentals of fewer than 30 days when a host isn’t present in the unit.

Citing a report it commissioned from HVS Consulting, HANYC estimates that Airbnb cut New York’s hotel room revenue by $450 million for the year ended in August. With New York’s year-to-date revenue per available room (RevPAR) at about $210 a night, the city could generate about $8.7 billion in revenue this year, putting Airbnb’s share at about 5.2% of that figure.

STR’s numbers appear to support HANYC’s concerns. During the third quarter, New York hotels’ RevPAR advanced just 0.6%, lagging the 5.9% U.S. average. It was the fourth-worst U.S. growth rate, after Houston, New Orleans and Washington, according to STR. Year to date, New York hotels’ room supply is up 3%, the second-highest inventory growth after Miami’s 3.5%.

With higher-end accommodations leading the hotel industry out of the recession, New York had been somewhat of a cash cow for the country’s largest hotel companies, as record numbers of international visitors and a strengthening U.S. economy pushed up both occupancy and room rates in the city. By 2012, New York’s occupancy rate had grown to 85%, the country’s highest, while its average room rate of $251 was more than double the country’s average and 36% more than No. 2 Oahu.

However, such gaps have narrowed during the past few years as developers have added rooms to capitalize on the demand. New York’s room supply jumped 5.5% last year, far outpacing the country’s 0.9% inventory growth; New York’s room count grew another 3% through September.

The combination of the strengthening dollar and the recent devaluation of the Chinese yuan could be also be hindering room revenue. As of last week, the dollar was worth about 0.92 euros, up from about 0.8 euros a year ago and up from the recession-era depths of about .63 euros in 2008.

As a result, New York room revenue continues to stall. Through September, New York’s RevPAR fell 1.6% from a year earlier, representing the only decline out of the 25 largest U.S. hotel markets.

And hoteliers aren’t expecting that trend to change anytime soon, though that might be because the room supply increase is of their own doing. Manhattan alone this year has added myriad select-service offerings as well as full-service, high-profile properties such as the New York Edition and Baccarat Hotel & Residences.

Meanwhile, the 686-room InterContinental New York Barclay will reopen next year, while Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels brand will make its New York debut in 2017.

“It’s a market where we will continue to see supply growth, and as a consequence, we wouldn’t put that at the average level of RevPAR growth for the U.S.,” Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen said on the company’s Oct. 29 earnings call. “That market has seen 30% of its supply growth over the last handful of years. I suspect we will see continuing supply growth in New York for the next few years.”

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