By Dennis Nessler
Most hoteliers agree that leisure and drive-to destinations will be at the center of any potential recovery for the hotel industry and it’s for this reason that NorthPointe Hospitality Management is well positioned to bounce back sooner than later.
Greg Winey, president/principal of the Atlanta-based operator and developer, expressed a degree of confidence in both the company’s prospects going forward, as well as the lodging industry in general.
“It’s starting to slowly ebb back and I mean very, very slowly but that really depends on the jurisdiction. What I’ve found is that the U.S. traveler has considered vacation a right of passage,” he said.
NorthPointe’s portfolio of 8 southeastern properties includes a pair of properties, the Holiday Inn Resort and the Beachview Club Hotel, on Jekyll Island, a popular summer destination in Georgia. The company’s other properties include the Hilton Garden inn in Albany, GA and The Partridge Inn in Augusta, GA, as well as the Hotel Indigo Mount in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, SC; Crowne Plaza Riverside Village at Hammond’s Ferry in North Augusta, SC; and Holiday Inn Express in Charleston, SC.
He pointed out the company did not shut down any of its properties but he did acknowledge the impact of the pandemic has been considerable as they’ve been running at roughly 10 percent capacity. For example, daily revenue at the properties has been cut to $15,000 to $20,000 a day compared with the $200,000 to $300,000 typically generated, according to Winey.
Winey, however, does expect that to turn around. “What I am seeing is a drip not a stream but certainly the summer months are a good indicator that people are still trying to salvage their vacations, “ he said.
One of the challenges for any operator today is ensuring a clean and healthy environment in which guests feel safe. “I think it goes without saying that’s probably our biggest concern running our facilities. We’re hypersensitive to that right now,” said Winey.
He explained that some of the company’s efforts include markings for properly positioning restaurant tables to ensure proper spacing, additional signage and staff that is fully equipped with gloves and masks.
Even still, Winey acknowledged there’s only so much a property can do. “We want to be careful about saying that we are guaranteeing safety; we’re not. By the letter of the law we have to provide reasonable care as it relates to that and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to stay out of overpromising, but give guests a sense of that it’s going to be ok,’” he said.
Meanwhile, Winey noted despite some of the current challenges it is actually an opportune time to develop and invest in properties. As such, the company is moving forward on development of a boutique hotel called The Lawrence Hotel in Lawrenceville, GA, that will be paired with a new public parking deck. The 120-room hotel will be part of Hilton’s Tapestry brand and is scheduled to open in 2021. Winey explained some of the upside to ongoing development projects.
“We think actually the timing of it now is probably better because we know we were going into a flattening, if not somewhat declining, period for the next 24 months. So this hyper-accelerated what was going to happen to some degree with the hotel industry in general. Now if you look at some of the guidance you’re seeing that we should have really great growth in ‘21 and ‘22,” he said.
Further noting the company is “plowing ahead” with capitalizing properties, Winey emphasized the importance. “We learned in 9/11 if you’ve got the means to do it renovate now so when you come out you’re going to come out a lot stronger,” he said.
Winey provided some positive perspective on the current economic crisis when referencing both 9/11 and the downturn that resulted from the lending crisis in 2008. “This actually feels foundationally better in my opinion. Things were getting pretty fragmented back then and then it collapsed in terms of the economy. We had an unbelievable economy going into this. If we eradicate the fear and get some means of treating this virus, it’s going to be infinitely better than it is today. This happened so quick and so deep that my belief is that we’ll be able to get it back a lot quicker,” he concluded.