Declines in RevPAR; Occupancy Falls 8.6%
Compared to Previous Year
|April 17, 2003 - London Mayor,
Ken Livingstone recently announced that 17 May to 15 June will be a "Totally
London" month, during which time the capital will present the very best
it has to offer through a series of special promotions. This announcement
must have come as a welcome relief to the capital’s hoteliers who, still
reeling from the fall in demand following the events of September 11, are
now coping with the repercussions of the conflict in Iraq.
Preliminary March data from the HotelBenchmark Survey by Deloitte & Touche indicates that the capital experienced its first month of double-digit revPAR decline since June 2002 with revPAR falling 11.8% to reach £64. This comes on the back of two months of consecutive revPAR falls in January and February when revPAR fell 0.6% and 6.8% respectively. This fall is all the more worrying given that the comparable data for first quarter 2002 was weak, with the capital still experiencing double-digit revPAR declines as a result of the fallout in international travel post September 11 and continued challenging global economic conditions.
Preliminary March data from the HotelBenchmark Survey reveals that in March, London’s occupancy fell below 70% to reach 69.8%, a decline of 8.6% over the previous year. A contributing factor to this decline was undoubtedly the onset of the conflict in Iraq, which started on 19th March and caused some people to postpone or cancel their travel plans. This is the first time since the HotelBenchmark Survey was launched in 1996, that occupancy levels in London have fallen below 70% during March, and this contrasts with the average for the last eight years when London hoteliers have typically managed to record occupancy levels for the month of around 79%. However, it should be noted that the timing of Easter is different this year, with Easter 2003 falling in April compared to March in 2002. That said however, March occupancy levels are still 9% lower than the 76.7% reported in March 2001, when Easter also fell in March.
Hotels with an average room rate between £160 and £200 were the capital’s worst performers in March 2003 reporting occupancy declines of 21.7% to reach only 54.3%. Encouragingly however, the decline in average room rate was limited to 1.7%, resulting in revPAR tumbling 23%. Hotels with an average room rate of over £200 and boutique hotels were also hit hard by the fall in demand, with occupancy levels falling 13.2% and 13% respectively, although all categories of hotels did experience occupancy declines.
Occupancy levels for the first quarter of 2003 in London are also at their lowest levels ever recorded on the survey at 69.1%, which has resulted in a first quarter revPAR decline of 5.5%. This fall in performance is caused by virtually equal declines in both occupancy and average room rate. During the first quarter, the average occupancy decline across all London hotels was 2.5%, whilst average room rates fell 3% to reach £92. The only category of hotel to report an improvement in performance over 2002 levels during this time has been hotels with an average room rate of under £80 and over 400 rooms. Encouragingly, this segment has managed to increase occupancy by 1.9% during the first quarter to reach 75.1%. This increase in demand combined with a marginal (0.1%) increase in average room rates has helped this segment advance revPAR by 2.1% at a time when all the other segments are experiencing revPAR erosion.
Not unsurprisingly, given the overall slowdown in global travel, the hotel markets at London's two main airports - Heathrow and Gatwick - came under pressure in March with occupancy levels falling 6.4% and 6.8% respectively. These occupancy declines are set against a backdrop of decreasing passenger arrivals as recorded by BAA, of 8.1% for Heathrow and 6.2% at Gatwick for the month. Although March is the first month this year that Heathrow hotels have reported a decline in occupancy, the Gatwick market has been under pressure all year, in part due to increased capacity in the marketplace following the 219-room extension to the Hilton which came on stream in January.
Despite the impact that the war in Iraq and the general slowdown in international travel has had on the capital, hotels in regional UK have remained relatively unaffected, partly due to the fact that much of their business is domestic in origin. Preliminary March data reveals that hotels in regional UK have managed to curtail the revPAR decline to just 0.3%. Occupancy levels fell 1.2% to reach 64.2% for the month but this was offset by a 0.9% improvement in average room rate to record £60 for the month. Year-to-date regional UK revPAR is down 1.3% to £38, but hoteliers have still managed to grow the average room rate, albeit marginally, which was up 0.4% over the same period in 2002.
Commenting on the results, Julia Felton, director of travel, tourism and leisure at Deloitte & Touche said, "The first quarter results for the London hotel market are clearly very disappointing, particularly as the 2002 comparables are weak. Ken Livingstone’s "Totally London" month will be welcome news to the capitals hoteliers who having still not recovered from the shift in travel patterns following the September 11 atrocities combined with poor economic conditions are now confronted with the conflict in Iraq and subsequent travel fears that may ensue, particularly given the leading role that the UK has taken in the conflict. Given that Easter will influence the April results it is difficult to assess future trading conditions but anecdotal data would suggest that there will not be significant improvements in the short-term, and trading conditions will remain tough."
Performance of the UK Hotel Industry
The HotelBenchmark Survey contains the largest independent source of hotel performance data outside of North America and tracks the performance of over 6,000 hotels. The HotelBenchmark Survey – UK collects occupancy and average room rate data from over 1,350 hotels representing nearly 140,000 rooms every month, making it largest independently run survey on UK hotel performance. For further information or details on how to join the survey please visit us www.HotelBenchmark.com or contact Lorna Clarke on +44 207 438 2870.
Deloitte & Touche is the UK’s fastest growing major professional services firm. It is based in 23 locations, has over 10,000 staff nationwide and fee income of £713.6 million in 2001/2002. Deloitte & Touche is the UK practice of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a global leader in professional services with over 98,000 people in 140 countries.
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|Also See:||2002 Hotel Data Suggests Regional UK Hotel Industry in Recovery, But Average Room Rate Continues to Fall in London / Jan 2003|
|London Hotel Market RevPAR Declines 16 percent in March 2002 / April 2002|