Due to Covid-19 restrictions , Irish hotels were closed to all but essential business from December 30th, 2020, to June 2nd, 2021. These five months of lockdown diminished hotel finances, increased stress levels across the sector and endangered the very livelihoods of staff. Unsurprisingly, this unwanted hiatus also had a significant impact on investor demand.
As the reopening took hold, however, hotel deal activity resumed. To date, there have been five major hotel sales in Dublin in 2021, totalling €325 million and an average price per guestroom of just more than €300,000 per key.
These sales comprise The Morrison, The Moxy, Premier Inn Castleforbes, The Big Tree Hotel, and the Hilton Garden Inn IFSC.
The sale of the 163-bedroom Big Tree Hotel on Dorset Street highlights three key emerging trends. They are:
1. New joint ventures: The Big Tree was acquired by a joint venture between MM Capital and Roundshield Partners LLP. This is an example of a local asset manager partnering with a UK investment fund to acquire a brand-new Dublin hotel.
2. Sustainability: Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) – the Big Tree is an example of a BER A rated and BREAAM “Very Good” hotel. Sustainability is now a key pillar in any hotel buyers acquisition strategy.
3. Returning hotel debt: The buyer of the Big Tree settled the purchase with a new mortgage in place at closing. Indeed, four of Dublin’s five major hotel sales this year have all had dept in place at closing.
The second half of 2021 has seen a flurry of activity. Recent openings include The Wren and Keavan’s Port in Dublin city centre, and a new 421-key Holiday Inn near Dublin Airport. Elsewhere, a high-end aparthotel, Beckett Locke, has just opened next to Point Village, while two large Staycity schemes are nearing completion near Trinity College Dublin.
Outside of Dublin, Cork has just welcomed its first ever “micro-sleeper hotel”, in a prominent building on MacCurtain Street, named REZz Cork.
Two of the most interesting Irish hotels to open in recent months have been the Premier Inn on South Great Georges Street in Dublin and the Dean in Cork. The Premier Inn will offer budget accommodation, while the Dean is expected to achieve one of the highest room rates in Cork city.
Few provincial hotel sales
While the Dublin hotel market has seen a number of major sales, provincial Ireland has, in contrast, seen very limited activity. Of the €360 million in deals done this year, just €35 million of this has occurred outside the capital. Most of this deal volume was derived from the €19 million sale of the Castlemartyr Resort in Co Cork to Stanley Quek and Peng Loh, who also own the five-star Sheen Falls Lodge.
We expect full-year hotel transaction volumes to reach about €400 million for 2021. This figure excludes corporate level M&A activity in the Irish hotel sector, with recapitalisations and sales of partial stakes in Irish hotel groups also now starting to occur. We expect this corporate deal activity to contribute to an additional €100 million in sales.
For 2022, we expect hotel Irish transaction activity to increase further. With capital raising at an all-time high, record low yields in sectors, such offices and PRS and impending debt maturities, we expect to see an increase in the number of motivated sellers.
Despite valid concerns among hoteliers around cost inflation and labour shortages, we still expect a further improvement in hotel trading performance in 2022. While the trading environment remains uncertain, there are huge excess household savings across the globe and, when unleashed, tourism will be a major beneficiary of this spend.
Changing of the guard
We regularly write about hotel deals, but too rarely talk about the people behind them.
Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott, the world's largest hotel chain, died in February this year. Anders Nissen, one of Europe's most charismatic owners and CEO of Scandinavian hotel group Pandox, died of Covid-19 in May.
Here at home, both Pat McCann and his deputy Stephen McNally retired from Dalata Hotel Group this year, leaving behind them Ireland's largest and only listed hotel group. Pat and I are both Arsenal fans (for our sins!) and as he retires, I'm reminded of the quote from former Arsenal captain Tony Adams: "Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they'll remember the name on the back."
Dan O’Connor is executive vice president with JLL’s hotels & hospitality group and head of JLL’s Irish hotel division.