Returning international visitors boost US demandBy Jeffrey Weinstein | August 8, 2023Share The acceleration of performance recovery in U.S. urban markets is being largely driven by the resurgence of international arrivals, according to a new report from JLL. NATIONAL REPORT – Between January 2019 and June 2023, hotel room nights sold in the top 10 U.S. urban markets showed a very strong correlation of 0.9 with foreign arrivals. These international visitors typically have a longer duration of stay and tend to spend more on travel than domestic tourists.In June 2023, foreign arrivals to the top-10 U.S. urban markets achieved 82% of 2019 levels. “Given the strong correlation, there is potential for further momentum in recovery,” JLL wrote. “Thus, expect an acceleration in hotel performance in U.S. urban markets over the long run as international travel continues to recover.”Resort markets have been the frontrunners in RevPAR recovery across the country. However, hotel performance in these markets is starting to normalize from the record-breaking levels seen the past two years, although still generating RevPAR above pre-pandemic levels. This is driven by consumers now having more travel options, particularly outside the country. On the other hand, urban market recovery has meaningfully accelerated with markets including New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles reaching full RevPAR recovery in the first half of the year.JLL Senior Research Analyst Ophelia Makis further responded to queries from Hotel Investment Today.Hotel Investment Today (HIT): How much of this inbound international business is being driven by China visitation, and when will it become more significant a piece of the inbound growth? And when China inbound does pick up, how much more will this data below be impacted?Ophelia Makis (OM): In the first half of 2023, the recovery of foreign arrivals to urban markets in the U.S. has primarily been fueled by the Middle East, Africa, and Central America. While a few Asian countries including India, Singapore and Taiwan have seen outbound visits to U.S. urban markets surpass the levels seen in 2019, the region of Asia is still lagging behind, down 38% from 2019 in June 2023 according to data from ITA. The decline in Chinese arrivals to U.S. urban markets, which historically accounted for the largest share of foreign visitor spending, has been significant with flight capacity issues and geopolitical tensions slowing their return. Despite this, we expect to see a gradual increase in the number of Chinese visitors and an additional boost from emerging markets like India to accelerate the recovery of international arrivals to U.S. urban markets.HIT: Is this growing inbound traffic skewing more toward economy, midmarket or luxury?OM: Hotel demand has generally continued to favor the opposite ends of the spectrum: luxury and select-service and extended-stay hotels in pursuit of unique, immersive experiences and cost-effective options, respectively. With global wealth on the rise, expect luxury hotels to increasingly benefit from international travel.HIT: What is the best piece of advice for owners or operators to get their fair share of the growing inbound travel?OM: Place a strong emphasis on the customer experience, as consumers are allocating more of their spending towards experiential services. By enhancing the guest experience, there is a higher likelihood of capturing a larger share of the customer's wallet. Many hotels, especially those in the luxury segment, have been expanding their offerings in response to the merging of work, life, and leisure, along with the increasing number of HWN individuals worldwide. These expansions include private membership clubs, yachts, and branded residences. Additionally, hotels are embracing technology to augment the guest experience by leveraging a variety of innovative solutions.