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ON A WING, A PRAYER AND A PARKING SPOT
By Michael Matthews
August 22, 2013 -- There's terrific excitement in the media in Tucson where I live. And it's all about a hotel.

A lone developer has announced the construction of a new hotel in our downtown core. As if we need one with our current lodging inventory barely achieving 60 percent occupancy. But this guy is clever. He's got some funding from a quasi-city organization and then he's leased back to the city about 200 parking spaces. This gives him enough heft to get a bank loan to build his new property. Clever as the financing may be, though, I just don't see the masses flocking to downtown Tucson just because we've got another chain hotel.

This development in Tucson led me to think about what sort of hotel building is taking place in other major cities. For fun, I started with Bangkok because, you know, Bangkok and Tucson are so similar.

Wow, folks. By the end of 2014, Bangkok will have increased its hotel inventory by 12 percent thanks to the addition of about 4,400 new rooms. That leads me to believe that there'll be some super, super deals soon in Bangkok, even better than the current super, super hotel deals you can get in Bangkok.

But Bangkok's hotel-building orgy is not the most outrageous global lodging growth around.

Take a deep breath before I tell you about New York. Since 2006, the island of Manhattan alone has seen 74 new hotels open with 13,500 new rooms. Today, the entire city has about 92,000 rooms. Looking forward to 2016, only two years away, another 100 new hotels will open with another 15,000 rooms. That's right, a 16 percent jump in lodging inventory in just two years.

And the hotels are opening everywhere. Union Square and Chinatown. The Flatiron district, which is oh-so-popular with the digital entrepreneur types. And the Sony building, just a few Midtown blocks from the Four Seasons, is being converted to a hotel. There are six new hotels coming to Brooklyn, three in the Bronx, five in Queens and even Staten Island gets one.

Frankly, it's going to be a bloodbath. It is tough, perhaps impossible, to fill hotel rooms when your inventory has increased by more than 15 percent virtually overnight. Despite its sky-high rates when the city is full, New York often has some spectacular bargains. This weekend, for example, rooms that usually command $300 a night can be had for less than $200. And the discount site Quikbook.com, which does a terrific job offering deals, shows some New York hotels for less than $150 a night this weekend.

To help staunch the blood, many existing New York hotels will undergo renovation projects and even close some rooms. The Loews Regency, The New York Palace, The Lexington and the DoubleTree Times Square are among those getting a rehab.

But you wonder if that can really help. To fill all those new rooms, New York will need almost two million new visitors a year. The math to explain that number is pretty easy to figure: 15,000 new rooms, divided by the average two-night stay is 7,500. Then divide that by 1.5 persons per room and then multiply by 365 days in the year. Where are those 1.8 million people going to come from? China?

If this all sounds like something out of a financial Disneyland, you're not that far off. In fact, the area around Disneyland in California is slated to get 14 new hotels with 3,770 rooms. That is a 19 percent increase in the area's lodging inventory.

Nationwide, one forecast for 2015 suggests that 739 new hotel projects with more than 82,500 rooms will open. That's more than double the amount that opened just two years ago. In 2011, there were only 346 rooms with 37,000 rooms opened.

Over in London, the British capital will see 51 new hotels this year. One of them is a 246-room Rosewood in, of all locations, Holborn. There'll even be a 202-room Shangri-La in The Shard, a hideous new office tower in the shape of a pyramid. In 2014, another 59 hotels will open. That's enough to keep the Royal Family smiling, waving and generally earning their keep. The newly minted Prince George certainly won't be old enough.

To me, all of this global development, regardless of the location, will bring tears. It used to be hotel-industry lore that only the second or third owner of a hotel building could make money. Now I'm not even sure that is possible--unless, of course, you're a very clever developer who leases his parking spaces to the city.

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ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2013 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.