Signs of Downturn Come with Hope Russia

Moscow has experienced the first signs of the economic downturn, with a five-point drop in chain hotel Occupancy Rate (OR) for 2008, reaching 70%. Average Daily Rate (ADR) ended the year at €251, only a 5% increase compared to 2007, whilst Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) decreased slightly to €175.

“These performance indicators released by our market monitoring database, Hotel CompSet, clearly illustrate the first phase of the downward cycle. Although Russia is an emerging market for hotel developers, and indeed will become a goldmine destination in the years ahead, the economic crisis has hindered performance in 2008,” stated Director of Development, MKG Hospitality, Vanguelis Panayotis.

Russia Tourism News
Russia Tourism News

This drop in OR was also fuelled by many new hotel openings in 2008, increasing competition. “Soon we will see ADR decreasing, as demand will continue to be low and hoteliers will be pushing to fill their rooms. This of course will ultimately drive RevPAR down,” added Panayotis. According to MKG Hospitality, the economy should slowly recover in 2010-onwards, and when it does, the country will see many major hotel developments.

Hilton is one of many hotel brands who have identified Russia as a key market, with major plans for the future. “Russia represents one of the greatest potential for hotel growth in the world today and we are certainly entering at a pivotal time in its economic development. Over the next ten years, we anticipate that we could see more than 70 Hilton Family hotels across key Russian cities and regional centres,” revealed Vice President Development for Northern Europe, Hilton, Mike Collini.

According to Collini, Hilton will achieve this growth target by working with local developers and hotel owners, through a combination of management and franchise agreements. Accor is another group with high hopes for the Russian market. “We are one of the few companies that truly believe in the Russian market,” remarked Director of Operations for Russia and CIS, Accor, Alexis Delaroff.

“We will have one or two hotels in each city with more than one million inhabitants. We are also looking at niche cities, where industrial and/or touristic potential is promising. We have over 30 signed contracts all over Russia – from Kaliningrad to Irkutsk, and from Murmansk to Sochi. This is the strength of our portfolio of brands that allow us to find an answer to each specific request of each specific location,” added Delaroff.

Opportunities seem to be greater in key cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as up-and-coming leisure destinations such as Sochi and the Black Sea coast. Then there is potential in over 30 key regional cities, such as Kazan, Ekaterinburg, Ufa and Perm – particularly for Midscale hotel products.

“Due to the lack of quality hotel guestroom supply, pretty much all regions have very strong potential for development. It is in the economically vibrant industrialised cities where the best potential lies, which is also the basis of our selection criteria for deciding where to go,” explained Senior Vice President Business Development, Rezidor, Arild Hovland – currently the largest hotel operator in Russia with 3,786 rooms in operation.

Improved accessibility from key feeder markets, such as Western Europe and the US, combined with increased wealth and mobility of domestic travellers are all key factors for the growth in Russia’s tourism and hotel industry in recent years. The country’s economic growth over the last decade is also fuelling major infrastructure projects for foreign investors, whilst opening new doors for MICE business.

“MKG expects big things from this market in the near future. Although the current economic crisis has hindered the pace of development, as it has throughout the world, new opportunities have emerged, suggesting that the right time to enter the race might be now,” said Senior Consultant and Director of MKG Hospitality’s office in charge of Russia, Colette Ambiehl. With the rise of local brands and the growing interest of international chains, including Hilton, Accor and Rezidor, Russia promises to be the world’s next major playground for hotel investors.

Together with an accommodation undersupply, short payback periods and high average daily rates, the country remains a very lucrative market. “Once economic recovery kicks off, there is likely to be built-up demand. At very least, companies should be well-prepared and ready to go,” concluded Ambiehl.

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