June 8, 2017 9:08 am

The Shifting Profit Profile of European City Hotel Markets

As cities across Europe have witnessed tectonic shifts in their regional and national economic and political landscape over the last ten years, the performance of hotel markets across the continent is becoming more and more divergent.

The landscape continues to shift, sometimes at a remarkable rate due to world-changing events, such as the great recession and terrorist activity, so it is crucial for operators and investors to understand what impact external forces are having on performance and what can be done to maintain and grow profit levels.

In our Benchmarking Beyond RevPAR publication, HotStats’ analysts journeyed beyond RevPAR and delved deep into the hotel profit and loss statement to investigate how the UK hotel market has evolved over the last 15 years.

In this publication, the performance of hotels across Europe are analysed over a ten-year period to evaluate the shifting revenue, cost and profit profile of full-service hotels in key markets. The publication will also highlight the growing dependence of European hoteliers on third party booking agents, changing demand booking profiles and the impact of the escalating cost of labour on profit levels.

Continental Shift

When the global recession hit Europe in 2009, Budapest was one of the worst affected hotel markets, recording a 33.3% year-on-year decline in profit per room. This profit drop was not an isolated incident and most hotel markets in Europe found themselves counting their losses.

The pain caused by a cruel and highly unexpected drop in demand hit top level performance hard and the subsequent impact on profit levels was reflected in major year-on-year declines recorded in Vienna (-30.4%), Prague (-34.8%), Amsterdam (-27.8%) and Munich (-31.4%) in 2009.

Hoteliers Struggle to Adjust to Rapidly Changing Market Conditions

For many markets, the decline in profit per room was much greater than just a drop in RevPAR, as several years of very successful trading in the early 2000s was reflected in a swollen cost base, and the immediacy of the downturn meant markets across Europe were simply unable to adjust costs downwards quickly enough to keep pace with the declines in revenues.

This is no better illustrated than in Vienna, where the 16.5% drop in RevPAR translated to a 30.4% decline in GOPPAR, as the Austrian capital was at the very top of its cycle when the recession hit. Such was the severity of the decline that profit levels at hotels in Vienna in 2016 remain 20.4 % below 2008 levels.

A Change in Strategy Helps Reverse Fortunes of Hoteliers

Following the declines in profit su ered across all hotel markets in 2009, European hoteliers have spent the last ten years rethinking their revenue strategy, adjusting their cost base and clawing back profit where they can.

For the majority of markets, this has been to good effect, illustrated by hotels in Budapest, which have fought back to record a 130.4 % increase in profit per room since 2009.

In addition, success stories have been noted in Barcelona
and Dublin, where profit per room has increased by 88.1% and 218.2%, respectively, since 2009. Performance in these countries has been buoyed by increases in demand due to their nations having enjoyed a clean exit from a harsh economic downturn, as well as significant increases in visitor numbers, and profit levels have benefited from astute cost management, which has meant profit growth has outpaced the increase in RevPAR.

The Great Divide

The Growing Gap Between Revpar And Trevpar

Analysis of European hotel markets over the last ten years highlights the growing divide between RevPAR and TrevPAR and means not only is the top line no longer a reliable bellweather of the health of the hotel market, but the lower overall spend on a per available room basis means the income being generated for operators and investors is dwindling.

Occupancy Reaching New Highs in Europe

Today, striving for RevPAR growth is typically translated into hotel markets driving occupancy to higher levels than ever before, such as in Dublin (83.3%), Berlin (81.3%) and Amsterdam (83.0%).

However, the growth in volume has typically not been matched by an increase in achieved average room rate, and revenue derived from non-rooms revenues (ie restaurants, bars, meetings and events, leisure and minor operating departments) has also fallen well behind the growth in RevPAR, which means hotels in these markets are working harder for less reward.

The Great Divide is Evident Across Europe

Our analysis of key European hotel markets suggests that this trend is becoming more prevalent, with the average RevPAR movement over the last ten years recorded at 27.1%. This is compared to an increase of just 16.3% in TrevPAR.

This trend points to the absolute necessity for a holistic approach to revenue management which looks beyond merely the ability to fill bedrooms and focuses on guest quality with an emphasis on rate and spend history or potential in non-rooms departments. Occupancy is not without cost, and that cost is increased if there’s a dilutive effect on TrevPAR.

Key European Hotel Markets

REVPAR, NON-ROOMS REVPAR & TREVPAR MOVEMENT 2008 – 2016

Fault Line

The Danger of Declining Non-Rooms Revenue

Hoteliers chasing profit have moved their focus, intentionally or otherwise, away from non-rooms departments and towards Rooms revenue. Whilst this may be a strategy to increase the profit conversion of a hotel, there is an increasing proportion of potential revenue being left on the table, which is not only reducing hotel profit levels but threatening to devalue hotel real estate.

Declining Non-Rooms Revenue Translating To Higher Profit Conversion

This increase in profit conversion at the majority of hotel markets across Europe is in line with the trend of declining non-rooms revenues. This is logical as a higher proportion
of total revenue is being derived from the Rooms department, which is the most profitable department in the hotel.

This is further evidenced by hotels in Dublin recording the greatest margin of profit per room growth of the European hotel markets polled, which is a market where non-rooms revenues as a proportion of total revenue has dropped by the greatest margin.

Whether this is a conscious decision by hoteliers to reduce non- rooms revenues or due to an increase in the quality and provision of external dining options, our analysis suggests that a significant opportunity to drive bottom line income is being missed.

Warsaw Hotels Missing a Revenue Opportunity

For hotels in Warsaw, non-rooms revenues has fallen by 24.9%, on a per room sold basis in the period from 2008 to 2016. Were they maintained at 2008 levels, hotels polled would currently be generating an additional €255,000 of income, based on the average room count and the 11.2% increase in rooms sold.

This additional revenue could have generated a profit uplift of as much as €90,000, helping to increase the value of hotel real estate as yields across European markets are unlikely to contract any further.

Key European Hotel Markets

NON-ROOMS REVENUE AS A PROPORTION OF TOTAL REVENUE 2009 V 2016

Shockwave

The Price of Terror for Hotels in Paris

Terrorist attacks in the French capital have caused top and bottom line hotel performance to plummet and the profile of demand to significantly shift over the last 12 months as tourists have migrated to alternative destinations and business confidence remains precarious.

Paris hotels sailed through the economic downturn and appeared to be unbreakable. However, profit per room at hotels in Paris has fallen by 36% year-on-year in 2016, to €100.74, as the impact of the terrorist activity in the French capital, as well as flooding and strikes have hit hard.

In addition to the devastating effect on families and friends of the victims, hotels have been amongst the local businesses to have suffered in the aftermath.

The terrorist attacks in November 2015 were carried out when confidence in the city was already frail from the shooting of 12 people in the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January, and signaled an almost immediate plummet in hotel performance, with an 18.5% year-on-year RevPAR drop recorded in 2016.

Occupancy Plummets in After Shock of Terrorist Attacks

Whilst a 5.2% decline was su ered in achieved average room rate, to €315.89, the real challenge has been in trying to maintain volume, with room occupancy dropping by eight percentage points year-on-year, to 67.2%. This is well adrift
of the previous low over the last ten years, which was recorded at the height of the economic downturn in 2008, at 75.1%.

Unsurprisingly, the greatest decline in demand has been in the leisure segment, with the number of individual and group leisure roomnights accommodated at the average hotel in our sample contributing to a drop of 1.4 percentage points
in occupancy or €1.2 million loss in rooms revenue for this segment alone.

A Year to Forget for Hotels in Paris

Paris hotels were also not helped by heavy flooding and strikes in 2016, and even the staging of the UEFA Euro 2016 football championships failed to arrest the decline.

That said, our analysis reveals that profit performance has been falling since as far back as 2013, dropping by 50.8 % over the last 36 months, suggesting the market was already fragile. Furthermore, despite growth in the top line performance, there has been no growth in profit conversion at hotels in Paris over the last ten years.

Core Issue

The Cost of Demand on Rooms Profit in European Hubs

The pressure to deliver continued top and bottom line growth to operators and owners, amidst the most challenging market conditions ever, led many hoteliers to seek new distribution channels in the wake of the economic downturn. As hoteliers have migrated to OTAs, Rooms Cost of Sales at hotel markets in Europe has soared by as much as 550% on
a per available room basis since 2009.

The Growth and Impact of OTAS on European Hotels

The benefit a orded by Online Travel Agents (OTAs) was an increased reach and brand new distribution platform during tough trading conditions. This was readily accepted by hoteliers, despite a typical cost of 15-30 % of the bedroom rate.

The migration to OTAs has resulted in a range of hotel markets in Europe su ering significant increases in Rooms Costs of Sales (a HotStats measure of Travel Agent’s Commissions, Reservation Fees, GDS Fees, Third Party Fees and Internet Booking Fees), including Berlin (+320%), Prague (+340%) and Dublin (+554%).

Net REVPAR is a Key Analytical Tool

In addition, there has been significant growth in other costs associated with rooms selling costs, negatively impacting Net RevPAR (ie Rooms Cost of Sales + Sales and Marketing Expenses).

In Berlin for example, whilst RevPAR in the German capital has recorded a 26.4% increase over the last ten years, due to an 84% increase in selling costs, Net RevPAR grew by just 18.8%.

Furthermore, the exponential growth in the utilisation of OTAs and investment in Sales & Marketing, to cope with changing market dynamics and a greater investment in digital marketing, means rooms selling costs for the average hotel polled in Berlin in 2016 were approximately €1.5 million.

Key European Hotel Markets

COST OF SALES AND SALES AND MARKETING INCREASE 2009 V 2016

Deep Drill

The Impact of Payroll on European Hotel Profit

Payroll remains the single biggest cost for hotels in Europe and can range from as little as 23%, to as much as 46% of total revenue. The cost of payroll is therefore inextricably linked to hotel profit conversion and whilst e ective sta ng can help to manage this cost down, employment legislation will continue to remain a serious headwind to hotel profit in certain European markets.

In 2016, the hotel markets in Europe which achieved the greatest profit conversion as a proportion of total revenue were Barcelona (47.8% ), Amsterdam (44.7%) and Prague (42.1%). Coincidentally these hotel markets benefit from some of the lowest payroll obligations in Europe.

The benefit of lower payroll levels can be staggering. In Amsterdam, despite TrevPAR in 2016 (€223.99) being more than 50% below the total revenue achieved in Paris (€460.43), the profit per room at hotels in the Dutch city was in line with that of the French capital, at approximately €100.

 

Employment Policy and the Improvement on Profit Conversion

In European countries where a more flexible working time policy exists, hoteliers are able to flex staffing levels to meet demand.

However, in France, the legal length of the working week is 35 hours and a single day may not exceed more than ten hours. Therefore, it is no surprise that hotels in Paris have
by far the highest payroll costs of any hotel market polled in Europe, at 45.6% of total revenue in 2016. And the lowest profit conversion, recorded at just 21.9% of total revenue in 2016.

That said, whilst the employment law of a nation could be seen as a contributor to high payroll levels, the difference in payroll as a proportion of total revenue in Barcelona (24.9%) and Madrid (37.3%) suggests it may also be heavily reliant on the operational specifics of individual markets.

The Positive Impact of Controlling Payroll

It is no accident that those hotels who have managed to control the growth in payroll levels are those which have seen the most substantial increases in profit per room over the last ten years.

In contrast, growth in payroll has been detrimental to those markets which have failed to grow profit. For example, Munich has recorded a 37% increase in payroll per available room over the last ten years, equivalent to a cost increase of €12.03. This increase in payroll has effectively cancelled out more than half of the €22.30 growth in TrevPAR during the same period.

Sliding Away

Whatever Happened to Vienna and Prague

In 2007, Vienna and Prague were amongst the best performing markets in Europe, attracting strong interest from investors and developers due to their ability to consistently grow top
and bottom line performance. However, the great recession was an event from which neither market has fully recovered as both fell from the very top of their cycle.

Profit Plunges at Hotels in Prague

For hotels in Prague, three consecutive years of significant profit decline in 2008, 2009 and 2010 meant profit levels in the Czech capital plunged by more than 55% in 36 months, to just €27.60.

Prague was arguably a victim of its own success, as visitor numbers swelled by more than 70% in the period from 2000 to 2007, to approximately 4.5 million and with this growth came an appetite for investment in new hotel stock.

The resulting development bubble and lag time to completion, meant that in 2008 alone more than 3,640 bedrooms entered the market as the recession hit and visitor numbers went backwards.

As a result of the impact on performance, at €97.84 achieved daily rate at hotels in Prague today is still 15.2% below 2007 levels (€115.89). And whilst cost management has enabled an 88% increase in profit per room since 2009, GOPPAR also remains 16.1% below 2007 performance.

Commercial Collapse Hits Vienna Hard

For hotels in Vienna, at the peak of the cycle in 2008, 52% of
total demand was derived from commercial sources, with 55% of rooms revenue derived from corporate and residential conference segments and conference and banqueting revenue hit a high of €3,260 per square metre, reflecting Vienna’s enviable position as one of the world’s top conference destinations.

Whilst the Austrian capital was hit hard by the global recession and subsequent impact on business and conference travel, this did not happen until 2009, but was marked by a 17% drop in commercial-related rooms revenue.

The pace of the drop was so quick that hotels in Vienna struggled to adjust, with profit per room falling by 30.4% in just one year, to €38.09 per available room.

Today, the achieved rate in the corporate sector (€150.82) remains 17.9% below the 2007 segment rate (€183.61), with profit per room still languishing 19.3% behind pre-recession levels.

Epicentres

What’s Next for Europe’s Emerging Hot Spots

Dublin and Barcelona have emerged as the top performing hotel markets across Europe over the last ten years. As well as their growing popularity as visitor destinations, limited additions to supply have helped hoteliers fight back from hitting rock bottom to record profit increases of as much as 220% since 2009.

Hotels in Dublin Record Huge Top Line Growth

For hotels in Dublin, a serendipitous mix of operating conditions has enabled a 102.8% increase in RevPAR over the last seven years, driven by a 23.8 percentage point increase in occupancy and a 44.7% increase in average room rate.

In addition, growth in profit conversion at Dublin hotels has soared due to falling non-rooms revenues, which comprised just 39.4% of total revenue in 2016. Shifting revenue away from lower yielding departments has enabled hotels in Dublin to increase profit per room by 218.2% in the last seven years.

However, total revenue growth at Dublin hotels has arguably been underoptimised. Had they maintained non-rooms revenue per room sold at 2009 levels, hotels polled could be generating an additional €340,000 of income per year, based on the average hotel room count and the 40% increase in rooms sold.

Barcelona is Also a Top Performer in Europe

Whilst profit growth at hotels in Barcelona has been recorded at 88.1% since 2009 on the back of a 35.4% increase in RevPAR, it has been from a very low base as Spain was one of the worst hit economies in the financial crisis.

But with an increase in visitor numbers of more than 150% over the last 15 years, the throngs of tourists to Barcelona and subsequent impact on residents has meant the newly elected mayor has initiated a one-year moratorium on new hotel licenses. This should help to sustain growth levels for Barcelona hoteliers.

Top Performing European Hotel Markets

REVPAR, TREVPAR AND GOPPAR GROWTH 2009 TO 2016

The World Keeps on Turning

Stay on Solid Ground with Hotstats Operational Benchmarking

If anything can be learnt from the last ten years, it is that the demand, revenue and cost profile of hotels across Europe has gone through a dramatic evolution and, for the most part, this has led to a significant shift in the dynamics of the hotel profit and loss.

The next ten years will undoubtedly be as volatile, but HotStats o ers the ability to learn from the past by adopting a holistic approach to benchmarking which allows hoteliers to focus their e orts on improving performance in identified departments across the entire hotel operation.

Revenue management can drive some of the top line (ie rooms revenue only accounts for 65% of total revenue at hotels across Europe), but the key to achieving optimal profit performance is to understand all that lies below.

In the same way RevPAR is a key metric used to benchmark Rooms revenue performance, HotStats o ers full performance tracking for each department to identify gaps and allow management to challenge operations teams to close that gap.

Line-by-line HotStats also tracks Departmental Expenses, Payroll, Cost of Sales, Undistributed Expenses and Profit.

Aligning the strategy of a hotel with a greater understanding of the operation from top to bottom offers management more levers to drive the optimal profit performance. Improved profit performance drives higher hotel real estate values and makes for happier owner, operators and investors.

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