04 March 2020

Funding a hotel upgrade to increase potential revenue

By Clint White - Head of Property Lending and Director of Fiduciam

I recently found myself staying in a provincial budget hotel which, given the number of bugs flying around, was an experience I prefer not to repeat. I have encountered many cheap (and nasty) hotels on my travels and, especially as I hate spending money on accommodation, it upsets me that I continue to encounter them. The rise of Airbnb and other internet-based operators, that are offering rooms in private houses, means that lower starred establishments such as these are facing a new risk. Often private accommodation is superior and, as a result, some hotels are closing down and being converted to residential properties.

According to PwC research, hotel revenue per available room (RevPAR) is expected to rise slightly in 2020, but it is likely that much of the increase will come from hotels with better standards of accommodation. “Flying bug” hotels are unlikely to see an increase in revenues and will continue to lose market share to higher quality hotels and the likes of Airbnb.

One way to prevent this deterioration is for the hotelier to spend money to upgrade, to look at the hotel as a whole and assess how best to improve. Can they alter the configuration, increase room numbers and improve the overall standard of the hotel? If so, they can potentially increase revenue as well as the value of the hotel. The first step is design, then, assuming planning permission is obtained, funding needs to be put place to finance the works.

There are a large number of lenders who like to lend on hotels (although I have seen evidence some are leaving this market), and a sizeable number that are happy to lend on development works. However, the number of lenders willing to lend on ‘hotel developments’ is relatively few, particularly if the hotel continues to trade during the works. Fiduciam is a lender willing to lend on hotels operating during upgrades but, as a prudent lender, we also like to know that the works are properly managed and the risks associated with the works are mitigated.

Borrowers should engage with their lender at an early stage and this is when a lender can add real value. For example, we have in the past worked with architects, planning consultants, contractors and even have fire engineer contacts and have a suite of professionals who have worked successfully on previous hotel developments. Whilst we, unfortunately, can never make recommendations to our clients, we are happy to put them in touch with people we have worked with before, and provide suggestions on how a transaction may be structured and works undertaken to best suit the hotel owner.

For hotel owners that know it’s time to upgrade the most important step is getting funding in place. Find a lender, like Fiduciam, that will work with them to engage with professionals, plan the hotel upgrade and fund the works through to completion. At the end of this, the owner should have a better hotel, with more stable revenue and they can share in some of the expected RevPAR growth that PwC is forecasting for 2020.