Skift Take

Plenty of money is out there to buy up hotel assets during the pandemic, but various rounds of stimulus and bank forgiveness may prevent the wave of deals Dreamscape and other investors hope to find.

Dreamscape Cos. is the latest investment firm to announce plans to direct cash into the struggling hotel industry, particularly properties catering to business travelers. It isn’t clear when those deals will — if ever — transpire.

The New York City-based investor, which bought the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in 2019 for $516 million, has more than $1 billion on hand to buy hotels.

While it is expected to look at all opportunities, Dreamscape is notably exploring properties in the struggling business-transient and convention sectors — two areas with a less certain recovery timeline.

“We are not married to simply that vertical, but the recovery within that vertical may take more time, and as such that’s where entry pricing may end up being more compelling,” Dreamscape CEO Eric Birnbaum told Skift via email. “That being said, it is hard to make broad stroke claims as every asset and deal has its own narrative.”

Dreamscape’s first acquisition is the Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia, Bloomberg first reported. There is plenty of reason to think more hotel investment opportunities will come from larger cities than resort locations. Hotel occupancy rates in more business-oriented markets lag leisure destinations: the occupancy rate in Boston last week averaged nearly 32 percent compared to nearly 67 percent in Miami.

But there is a growing sentiment in the hotel industry that further hotel deals could be hard to come by.

“There may not be complete carnage; but there will be opportunities,” Birnbaum told Skift via email. “You have to, like always, be nimble, judicious and pick your spots.”

Hotels remain a leading source of delinquencies for commercial mortgage-backed securities, a group of mortgages pooled as one that hotel developers use to build new projects.

But that delinquency rate is falling, dropping from 19 percent in January to 16 percent last month, according to real estate data provider Trepp. It was a nearly 24 percent delinquency rate last summer.

There is further optimism surrounding federal economic stimulus and bank forbearance when it comes to struggling operators. Most banks don’t want to take on ownership of a struggling hotel.

“I think a lot of the lenders learned some very good lessons in the last downturn,” Clifford Risman, a Dallas-based real estate attorney at Foley & Lardner, told Skift last year. “If the lender could foreclose and change a flag or management company and operate better or differently, yeah they would. But this is a problem that changing a flag and management company isn’t going to fix.”

The hotel industry received further optimism this week following U.S. President Joe Biden’s claim the country could be back to some degree of normalcy by July 4. Hotels in China are now only about 10 percent off 2019 revenue levels after stumbling at the beginning of the year due to flare-ups of the virus in northern parts of the country.

That isn’t keeping investors away from pursuing pandemic opportunities. The $24.5 billion in hotel and hospitality-targeted capital raised last year matched 2016 levels, according to a real estate firm JLL.

Bainbridge DXS, CGI Merchant Group, Electra America Hospitality Group, and Torrey Pines Hotel Group are some of the leading investment groups raising money to buy hotel assets during the pandemic.

They, along with investors like Dreamscape, may still find opportunities in the hotel sector.

“There will be some distressed deals out there,” Richard Clarke, a senior analyst covering global leisure and hotels at Bernstein, told Skift last month. “After 2009 [and the financial crisis] there was four years of churn of hotels closing and changing hands. We’re only 12 months in. It’s too early to say we’re in a state where there aren’t opportunities.”

[UPDATE]: This story has been updated to reflect comments received from Dreamscape Cos. following initial publication.

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Tags: business travel, coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, hotel investments

Photo credit: New York-based Dreamscape Cos. plans to spend more than $1 billion on hotel assets. Muhammad Ghouri / Flickr

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