Hotel Online  Special Report

Double-Digit Profit Growth for U.S. Hotels in
2004 and 2005; Strong Revenue Growth
Overcomes Some Expense Concerns


Atlanta, February 24, 2005: The typical U.S. hotel achieved an estimated 13.3 percent increase in profits in 2004, and is projected to enjoy another 14.1 percent boost to the bottom-line in 2005, according to the 2005 P&L Forecast published by PKF Hospitality Research (PKF-HR). This improved profitability follows a three-year industry recession that saw unit-level hotel profits decline 36.2 percent from 2000 to 2003. Hotel profits are defined as income before deductions for capital reserve, rent, interest, income taxes, depreciation, and amortization. 

The forecast is based on a preliminary analysis of U.S. hotel financial statements collected by PKF-HR for its 2005 annual Trends in the Hotel Industry survey, according to R. Mark Woodworth, executive managing director of Atlanta-based PKF-HR. The analysis considered all hotel property types throughout the nation and incorporates the results of the PKF/Torto Wheaton Research (TWR) Winter 2005 Hotel Outlook forecast.

The turnaround in profitability starts with strong increases in hotel revenues. PKF-HR estimates that total hotel revenues grew 7.3 percent in 2004 and will increase another 7.0 percent in 2005. "Leisure, business, and convention travelers began to hit the road again during the second half of 2003 and continued into 2004," notes Woodworth. "With hotel occupancy rates approaching pre-recession levels, hotel managers have been able to get more aggressive with their pricing strategies. In 2004, the hotels in our Trends sample are estimated to have increased their room rates by a healthy 3.7 percent. Look for an additional 5.3 percent jump in 2005." Separate research conducted by PKF-HR has found that hotels are most profitable when they are able to drive their revenue by increasing room rates.

All Hotels Benefit

The recovery in hotel revenues and profits appears to be occurring across all types of hotels. All five property types tracked by PKF-HR are projected to experience double-digit increases in profits in 2005. 

"While all hotels should enjoy strong profit gains in 2004 and 2005, we foresee the full-service, resort, and convention properties experiencing the greatest bottom-line growth," says Woodworth. "With more extensive facilities and services, the increased guest counts at these properties also generate additional sales in their restaurants, lounges, banquet halls, recreational outlets, and gift shops."

Some Expense Concerns

With guest counts and revenues on the rise, hotel managers find themselves in a different operating environment than the previous three years of austerity spending. PKF-HR estimates that hotel operating expenses rose 5.5 percent in 2004, and will increase another 4.6 percent in 2005. "During the recession, hotel managers cut labor costs and other operating expenses in an effort to maintain as great a profit margin as possible. Now, the combination of increased business volume and deferred expenditures forces management to determine the best way to spend their newfound revenues," says Robert Mandelbaum, director of research information services for PKF-HR. "Some expenses are more controllable than others."

One operating expense that always concerns hotel managers is labor costs. PKF-HR believes that payroll and related costs are the dominant drivers of increased operating expenses in 2004 and 2005. "Naturally, increased business activity requires more employees. However, given the improvement in the economy, not only will it be increasingly difficult for hotel managers to find qualified employees, but there will be upward pressure on wage rates and salaries as well," says Mandelbaum. "In addition, government statistics show that employee productivity gains are starting to wane after years of growth. This trend is particularly acute in the hotel industry where most operating functions are manually executed, not automated." Upward pressure on labors costs will have a great impact on the operating costs of such highly staffed operating departments as rooms, food and beverage, and recreational outlets.

Two other departments where PKF-HR has recorded relatively strong increases in costs are marketing and maintenance. However, increased expenditures in these two departments can be viewed as investments. During the recession, several hotels had to defer renovation and refurbishment projects. This puts added pressure on the day-to-day maintenance of furniture, fixtures, and equipment. "The increase in spending for marketing is needed to preserve or increase a hotel’s competitive position in the rising market," observes Woodworth.

Some Expenses Under Control

Most operating expenses are on the rise. However, some costs are starting to moderate in their growth.

While the threat of terrorism has certainly influenced the upward movement of hotel insurance costs, it should be noted that this expense item started its trend of annual double-digit growth in 2000. Fortunately, it appears that this trend tapered off in 2004. PKF-HR estimates that the amount U.S. hotels pay for their general liability and property insurance declined 5.8 percent in 2004 and will grow at a modest rate of 3.7 percent in 2005. "Moderation in insurance costs is certainly welcome, given that this expense has more than doubled since 1999," says Woodworth. 

Utility costs have historically concerned hotel managers. While energy conservation programs have been put in place at many hotels, this cost is largely uncontrollable by management. Hotel energy expenditures have fluctuated dramatically in the past few years, ranging from a 9.0 percent increase in 2000 to 5.5 percent decline in 2002. The fear of high prices for crude oil made headlines in early 2004. However, by year-end 2004, PKF-HR estimates that hotel utility costs rose 4.0 percent, and should increase by just 3.0 percent in 2005.

Profits – The Real Bottom-Line

"Everyone is forecasting that hotel revenues will rise during the next few years. That is fairly obvious," Woodworth notes. "What our P&L forecast shows is that despite increased operating costs, this revenue growth will result in strong gains in hotel profitability. Profits are the true measure of the health of the U.S. hotel industry. Ultimately, the profits earned by U.S. hotel owners will dictate renovation, investment, development, and transaction activity, not just increased revenues."

PKF-HR’s 2005 P&L Forecast provides estimates of all major revenue sources and departmental expenses for hotels. The Forecast contains projections for resort, convention, and all-suite hotels, as well as full- and limited-service properties. Copies may be purchased through the firm’s website at, or by calling Claude Vargo at (404) 842-1150, ext. 237.

PKF Hospitality Research (PKF-HR), headquartered in Atlanta, is the research affiliate of PKF Consulting, the international consulting and real estate firm specializing in the hospitality industry. PKF Consulting has offices in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.


R. Mark Woodworth
Executive Managing Director
PKF Hospitality Research
3340 Peachtree Road, Suite 580
Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 842-1150, ext 223

Also See: Plying the Per Diems: How Market Forecasts Should Impact Hotel Rate Strategy / Gregory J Miller / PKF / February 2005
Hotel Construction Signs Along the Road to Recovery; Measuring Hotel Developer Intent / R. Mark Woodworth and Robert Mandelbaum / January 2005
Understanding the Recovery Occurring in the Meeting’s Market; Surveying the Meeting Planners / Robert Mandelbaum / December 2004
First Half 2004 Hotel Profits Solidify 2005 Outlook; Industry Still Lags Far Behind its Past Peak Performance in 1998 / HRG & PKF Consulting / December 2004
Room Rates Across the Top 50 Hotel Markets in the U.S. Will Increase by 3.7% in 2004; Five Highest and Five Lowest Average Daily Room Rate Hotel Markets in 2005 / December 2004
Perspectives on the Road to Recovery - U.S. Lodging Industry 2005 / HRG & PKF Consulting / November 2004
Other Revenue Is Good Revenue / Robert Mandelbaum / November 2004
Uncanny! Hotel Occupancies “Key Indicator” of Presidential Election Outcome / October 2004
Is the Hotel Industry Smart Enough to Avoid Overbuilding; Ten Reasons Why Real Estate Markets Become Overbuilt / Jack B. Corgel / July 2004
PKF Consulting/HRG Survey Forecasts Banner Year for Hotel Transactions; Investors Favoring the Full-service Segment / May 2004
First Uptick for Hotel Industry in Three Years; Full-Service Hotels Lead the Way In U.S. Hotel Profits for 2004 / Hospitality Research Group / March 2004
Demand in the Full-service Hotel Sector is Expected to Increase by 6.3% in 2004; Best and Worst Hotel Markets in Terms of RevPAR Growth / PKF Consulting / January 2004

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