Overall Conference Sentiment Modestly Positive: Driven by upward revisions in near-term RevPAR outlook, consumer confidence (18-year high), plentiful and low-cost debt, and the return of business travel impacted by recent tax cuts. STR increased their 2018 RevPAR growth forecast to 2.9% (from 2.7%), driven primarily by ADR gains and strong transient demand. This marks 98 months of consecutive RevPAR gains. 2019 RevPAR growth forecast remains at 2.4%.
Impact of the Tax Reform: Is viewed as the lodging cycle extender. Due to the increase in GDP and corporate travel budgets, business travel is fueling growth. This is quantified in the Top 25 markets' RevPAR growth that is now outpacing the rest of the country (reversing a two-year trend). Given this, hotelAVE remains focused on driving ADR in this segment with the upcoming 2019 RFP season fast approaching.
Transactions: Refinancing has proven to be competition for transactions given favorable terms for borrowers. Buyers told us that there were more and better-quality assets offered by the brokers vs. past conferences. Overall transaction volume is up 4% YOY. There is a "wall of capital" looking for yield around the world, and this is the most global cycle in recent times. Chinese capital has evaporated, making it a more favorable buying environment for traditional buyers. Interestingly, despite the volatile political climate, the U.S. is still viewed as a "safe haven" for foreign investment.
Stable Values: Similar to ALIS discussions this past January, HVS again reiterated that meaningful valuation increases would not come from market expansion for 8-10 years. As a result, value creation will come via internal asset improvement, product and service differentiation, financial structure enhancements, and ROI projects.
Technology is This Year's Disruptor: Airbnb talk was replaced with the message that technology is the industry's next disruptor. Google, Amazon and Facebook technology is far superior to that of the lodging industry, who desire guest data access and ownership; the brands' challenge is playing "catch up" with these tech behemoths. Brands are starting to get creative in order to compete with the tech giants – for example: Marriott's alliance with Alibaba targeting both domestic and outbound Chinese travelers.
Continued Consolidation Likely: Driven by stock vs. asset values, the cost to operate a public company and the benefits of scale, M&A activity should continue within the brand, public and private REITs, and management company categories.