Hotel Renovation is Back - Doing More with Less.
By David A. Black
Friday, 30th August 2013
The great recession of 2008-2009 was the biggest threat to the hotel industry in at least a generation; 

How bad was it? According to Jones Lang LaSalle, the US transaction volume plummeted to levels not recorded during the past 15 years, bottoming in 2009 to just $1.8 billion, compared to $45.7 billion just two years earlier.

Likewise, revenue per available room (RevPAR) shrank to $53.71 in 2009, down from a peak of $65.62 in 2007. The ripple effect of hotel industry contraction slammed its suppliers and vendors just as hard.

As hoteliers hung on for dear life, renovation plans involving capital expenditures were put on indefinite hold. Providers in businesses such as furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E), foodservice, case goods, fabrics, architecture and interior design—if they survived at all—were forced to cut staff and capacity dramatically to stay afloat.

Beginning in 2010, the spigot began to slowly reopen. Transaction volume grew to $11.3 billion, as the number of transactions tripled from 2009. Deal flow climbed to $15.5 billion in 2011, and remained stable in 2012, more or less in concert with the general caution in economic investment last year. Yet RevPAR levels continue to grow, reaching $65.17—near the prerecession peak in 2012.

As the economy slowly improves, the outlook for 2013-14 is bullish among analysts. RevPAR in the U.S. is expected to grow between 5.7- 6.0 percent this year, and another 6.0-8.5 percent during 2014. In the Americas, transaction volume for 2013 is forecast to reach $18.5 billion, a 5.7 percent increase over 2012 levels.1

Hurry up and wait

4Hoteliers Image LibraryNow, the rush is on to renovate. As the hotel industry climbs out of survival mode, owners are faced with facilities  overdue for a freshening.

In addition, many of the new transactions require a Property Improvement Plan (PIP) which includes renovation as a key component, and many new owners find significant upside potential with targeted repositioning of the asset. These two factors are driving a resurgence in improvement activity not seen in years.

This industry rejuvenation is great news on the surface, but it creates an underlying challenge. After downsizing their operations to the bone, hotel industry suppliers are challenged to handle the sudden upswing.

As some frustrated owners have seen already, renovations put off for so long are now stymied by delays in getting designs produced, procured and executed. This comes as a surprise to many hotel owners and managers, who expect suppliers to be uber-responsive after being in the trough for so long.

A more studied approach

The slowdown in the renovation cycle, combined with increased caution by investors, is producing a silver lining: a more focused, thoughtful approach to renovations. The days of "throwing money" at a hotel to completely remodel it from top to bottom are over. The trend ahead will be to "do more with less," using a selective focus in areas such as:

Rooms: Instead of an expensive entire room remodel, many hoteliers are concentrating on targeted renovations that they believe will derive the greatest value to the consumer and the best return on investment. We are seeing an increased concentration of selective re-use of casegoods with new hardware and tops, creative approaches to lighting and soft goods, targeted bathroom renovations to the vanity experience, selective conversion of underused bathtubs into more popular shower stalls, and of course an upgrade in technology.

Food and Beverage (F&B): Operations are being redesigned and streamlined so that one kitchen can serve all F&B outlets in the hotel; or better yet, one multipurpose three-meal restaurant can accommodate all diners. The trend is toward fewer, more creative in-hotel restaurants and bars located on ground level, that can better lure guests from their rooms, and compete more effectively with those in the neighborhood.

Lobbies: While avoiding extravagances, many hotels will increasingly use the lobby to convey their distinct personality and brand and often integrate the F&B offerings rather that burying them within the hotel. Select service hotels in particular will burnish their often spartan lobby ambiance to better compete with upscale full service establishments.

Many major select service brands are developing wholesale upgrades to their lobbies and F&B concepts in a programmatic fashion over multiple sites. Owners with large blocks of similar assets find this strategy particularly conducive to "speed to market" in maximizing their strategic brand initiatives across multiple geographies.

Meeting Space: The quality of meeting space has a direct influence on group business. An increase in competition for meeting space is linked to room blocks, and many owners and operators are again focusing on providing more variety of meeting spaces while improving design, lighting and technology.

As we look at the year ahead, renovations will be conducted with a much keener eye on ROI than in the past. This intense focus on return on investment will be echoed in general hotel operations as well, such as energy cost savings. Huge technology strides in the past five years have slashed payback periods on equipment and fixtures from property management systems to lighting to HVAC that can add, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to a hotel's profitability. The challenge is to make the wisest choices from the multitude of products and suppliers available, sorting through their often conflicting claims.

Scheduling for success

4Hoteliers Image LibraryLooking ahead, a major factor in the success of a hotel renovation will be not just "what" is being done, but "how" the process takes place. Renovations are being targeted and phased further in advance to take advantage of a hotel's slowest periods, to accommodate FF&E long lead times which often become a project's critical path, and to plan ahead for minimum revenue displacement.

Efficiency will become increasingly critical. Construction and procurement schedules must be committed and delivered, because neither the owner, the operator nor the project team can afford to be even a week late.

Instead of bringing individual design and construction teams into a project when it's "their turn," strategies are changing to engage all stakeholders at the beginning of the process for communication, early budget and schedule validation, and confirmation of hidden conditions, as well as long-lead procurement advantages. Absolute clarity on the owner's objectives and enforcing check points throughout the cycle is a must for mitigating risk.

Don't try it yourself

Increasingly, the "better, faster, cheaper" renovations hotel owners seek will be more difficult to realize in the current scenario of high demand and reduced supplier capacity. The worst odds for achieving these goals is to try to handle everything yourself. Very few hospitality professionals are real estate, construction, procurement, energy or technology experts. Others have realized that rather than having a large in-house project management staff, it is more efficient to employ a focused CapEx team in house and then manage the ups and downs of the market with supplemental outsourced resources.

It is far more productive to engage an expert project manager with hotel industry experience, who can leverage national sourcing volume combined with local market knowledge to procure best-in-class suppliers at the lowest prices and highest service levels. Such a third-party partner can be your trusted advocate in mitigating cost and cycle time risks; taking the stressful, distracting renovation burden off your shoulders; and driving savings and value-adds that return their fee many times over.

1 Information sources for statistics in this section include JLL Research, Smith Travel Research, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and PKF Hospitality Research

David A. Black
Managing Director
+1 312 228 2718,

For more information on Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels and Hospitality Project and Development Services contact: www.us.jll.com/pds

©2013 Jones Lang LaSalle IP, Inc. All rights reserved. All information contained herein is from sources deemed reliable; however, no representation or warranty is made to the accuracy thereof.
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