December 2003 - Asian hotels report fourth consecutive month of revPAR growth

Year-end 2003 results for the Asian hotel industry showed some signs of recovery following another challenging year of operations, according to the HotelBenchmark Survey by Deloitte.Despite revenue per available room (revPAR) declining by 10.5 percent across Asia in 2003, the region did see revPAR move back into positive territory during the last four months of the year. Latest figures for December show revPAR across the region increasing by 9.5 percent compared to the prior year - making this, with the exception of February, the strongest growth seen in any month of 2003.

Despite improved performance during the last quarter of the year, this was of little consolation to the majority of markets tracked across Asia, many of which still finished the year in revPAR decline. Just under half of the 30 markets tracked, experienced double-digit revPAR declines during 2003, with Bali, Xian, Beijing and Hong Kong suffering the greatest losses of 37 percent, 31 percent, 24 percent and 22 percent respectively. Markets fortunate enough to see some growth were few and far between, with only Surabaya (11 percent), Nanjing (4 percent) and Phuket (1 percent) seeing any improvement in revPAR compared to 2002.

Looking at occupancy performance, a third of all markets tracked across Asia did see an improvement in occupancy levels during 2003, compared to 2002. Both Surabaya and Phuket topped the list reporting occupancy increases of 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.

When it came to average room rate however, only a handful of markets managed to report any growth. There was however some good news for China. Despite the challenges presented by SARS earlier in the year, all four markets tracked by the HotelBenchmark Survey managed to increase their average room rates compared to 2002 levels. Although this growth was marginal in Xian (1 percent) and Beijing (3 percent), both Shanghai and Nanjing reported amongst the strongest growth in average room rate across the region of 7 percent and 12 percent respectively. In the face of tough international trading conditions, China continues to benefit from increased domestic tourism, improved tourism infrastructure as well as additional public holidays introduced in 1999.

So with 2003 at a close, what does 2004 have in store? With Asian tourism agencies continuing to work on strategies to win back key inbound markets such as Japan, Europe and the Americas, this should start to have an impact on demand for hotel accommodation. However, given the recent announcements of new cases of SARS in Southern China, let’s hope that the media attention does not put the breaks on the progress that the region appears to be making.