|By Wayne Risher, The Commercial Appeal,
Memphis, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 12, 2011--The global head of Hilton Garden Inn on Friday predicted aggressive growth in India and other fast-industrializing nations.
Adrian Kurre, who leads the Memphis-based brand for Hilton Worldwide, told a lodging industry group he sees domestic growth cooling off while hoteliers focus on raising rates.
India has more prospective business-class hotel customers than the United States has people, Kurre said.
But "there are more hotel rooms in Orlando (Fla.) than there are in the entire country of India. I'm not kidding."
"The future truly is international growth for us."
His unit of Hilton Worldwide has more than 500 properties globally, but only one in India.
He projected 700-800 Hilton Garden Inns in India in 20 years compared to about 750 in North America. China is similarly primed for growth.
The domestic challenge is restoring hotel rates to more profitable levels after corporate belt-tightening tamped down prices.
"What we are looking for going forward, we are projecting an additional occupancy increase and an average daily rate increase," Kurre said.
He spoke at an industry update sponsored by the Metro Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association, Pinkowski & Co. and Smith Travel Research. Other speakers were Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority president Larry Cox, Jeff Higley of HotelNewsNow.com and Memphis industry consultant Chuck Pinkowski.
Hilton Garden Inn posted strong occupancy numbers in 2010, 68 percent, but average daily room rates were down 1.3 percent on top of an 8.5 percent decline in 2009.
Corporate travel managers continued to drive hard bargains because of uncertainties surrounding the pace of economic recovery.
"IBM, we were negotiating with them. We were looking for a 10 percent increase, they were looking for a 10 percent decrease, and somewhere in there we had to find a happy medium," Kurre said.
Pinkowski, quoting Smith Travel Research figures, said revenue per available room, a key indicator for the lodging industry, was up about 10 percent nationally in January. "That's a good start for the year."
In Memphis, hotel occupancy was at 56 percent in 2010 and is expected to increase. Relocation of the Church of God in Christ annual convocation to St. Louis took a bite out of November business.
No new rooms are planned for the Memphis market in 2011, Pinkowski said, and two hotels have closed: the Benchmark Hotel and the Country Hearth Inn & Suites, both on Union Avenue. The reduced supply means less competition.
Pinkowski said average daily rates in Memphis were down, to $75.67 in 2010 from $78.92 in 2009, but other metrics were up, "which is a sign of recovery."
-- Wayne Risher: 529-2874
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