Hotel and property investment professionals gave Brexit a resounding thumbs-down in a straw poll conducted at the Market Connections conference this week.
The 2nd annual Market Connections, organised by hotel consultancy HVS, saw 95% of an audience of around 80 investors, operators and property developers vote for the UK to remain in the EU.
Delegates' primary concern was that a vote to exit the EU could make it difficult to find high-calibre staff to operate UK hotels if immigration is curtailed.
HVS London MD Charles Human said: "The overwhelming feeling from our audience was that Britain should remain within the EU, not least because it removes huge uncertainties as to what will happen if there were a vote to leave."
Presenting research from HVS and STR Global, Human told delegates that hotels represent the fastest-growing category of property investment, rising 40% between 2013 and 2015 compared with non-hotel property investment up by 26%.
In 2015 some €25bn was spent on hotel real estate across Europe, compared with €14.4bn in 2014 while global hotel transaction volume rose by 61% to €73bn.
He said that while the majority of the institutions and private equity companies investing in the European hotels market are based in Europe (43%) the strongest investment growth is coming from Asia, pointing to research which shows that between 2007 and 2015 investment from Asia rose by a 1,262%,with investment from the Middle East seeing an 87% rise over the same period.
Investors from China, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong have emerged as the fastest growing, pushing total Asian investment in European hotel property up more than three-fold, from €1bn (Jan 2012 to June 2013) to €3.2bn (Jan 2015 to June 2016). Investors include the China National Travel Service, Fico Corporation and the Fraser Group.
Human said London remains second in the top five most popular cities for hotel investors after New York, followed by Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Paris.However economic uncertainty, combined with issues such as terrorism, the forthcoming US Presidential election and the Brexit vote has prompted a 60% decline in global hotel investment volume in the first quarter of 2016 with the year expected to end with around €11bn-worth of investment, compared with €25.8bn-worth in 2015.
Comparing the EU market with that of North America, Human said: "The big difference between the two markets is that the value trend in Europe for hotel property is still on the up, whereas Q1 in North America showed a 5-8% decline. There are less favourable debt terms in North America and we are seeing revpar weakening in the major markets. Having said this, there is a sense of optimism returning, whereas until the outcome of Brexit next week there is continued uncertainty in the UK and Europe."
Turning to the European sector, Human said Dublin had delivered the strongest revpar growth in the year to April at 23.2%, with Brussels the worst performing city this year with revpar down -13.3%.
Meanwhile, Frankfurt has the highest level of hotels under construction or planned, with Rome, Athens and Prague having the least amount of new hotel space coming on stream.
Delegates also learnt that over half of new hotel supply in the pipeline is in the luxury or upscale sectors (51%) although in the UK the majority of new supply (36%) is in the budget sector.
Latest video from The Caterer