By Andrew Sangster
European hoteliers shrugged off the recession during 1995, reporting steady occupancy levels, according to the EuroCity Survey 1996.
This study, produced by consultants Pannell Kerr Forster Associates (PKFA), and sponsored by JLW Hotels and Salomon Brothers, shows that bedroom occupancy across the Continent rose 1.1 percentage point to 68.7% for the year.
Of the 27 cities studied, London was the best-performing in occupancy terms, with an average bedroom occupancy of 81.9%. There were 16 cities with bedroom occupancies above 65%.
But the economic problems of mainland Europe were reflected in occupancy levels at nine cities in the sample that were lower than in 1994.
Worst hit was Lisbon, with a drop of 4.7 percentage points, followed by Paris, with a drop of 3.8 percentage points. Lisbon, however, was the European city of culture during 1994 and so a significant fall might be expected in the following year.
The UK's strength in 1995 was also shown in the performance of Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. The Scottish capital had the third-best bedroom occupancy in the sample at 76%, up from fifth place in 1994 (with 72.5%).
Manchester came in sixth, with a bedroom occupancy of 72%, up 1.5 percentage points, and Birmingham was 12th, with a bedroom occupancy of 67.2%, up 4.7 percentage points.
In terms of room rates, the top five ranking cities maintained the same positions they had in 1994. London comes in at fourth, but the other UK cities are well down the table, with Edinburgh the best ranked at 23rd.
Despite the good occupancy performance in the UK, the levels of discount off rack rates are significantly higher than in some cities where occupancy was lower. The low levels of discount helped revenue per available room in Paris, for example, to lead the field at £101.45.
In 1995, more than half the cities analysed recorded an increase in daily rooms yield. The best increases were in Helsinki and Stockholm, with rises of 24.3% and22.2% respectively. PKFA said the strong economies in both these countries underpinned the growth in corporate demand.
Overall, corporate bookings accounted for 32.6% of total rooms sold in 1995, a rise of 5% year on year. The share of leisure demand was up almost 8% and conference and incentive bookings also improved. The main drop was in group and tour bookings.
North Americans accounted for 17% of visitors to the hotels in the sample, favouring Athens, London, Moscow and Paris.
Demand from Japan was up 9.4% to represent 6.5% of total rooms sold. The Japanese favour Milan and Paris, but perhaps things will change for 1996 after Virginia Bottomley's visit.
"In spite of the continuing economic slowdown in Europe, particularly in Germany, hoteliers seem to be optimistic about 1996," said Alan Hopper, chairman of PKFA.
EuroCity Survey 1996 cost £500 from PKFA. Tel: 0171-493 6040.