On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published a story on the downturn facing the Hawaiian resort industry. It began with this sobering stat:
For the hotel industry in the continental U.S., this downturn is the worst since the Great Depression. But the Hawaiian resort industry is taking a beating that’s even more severe.
Occupancy at Hawaii’s resorts dropped to 66.9 per cent in the first eight months of this year, the lowest level since the same period in 1993 (and down from this decade’s high of 80.7 per cent in 2005) the WSJ said, citing Smith Travel Research.
Moreover (emphasis ours):
Revenue per available room has fallen nearly 25% in the past two years and now averages $150.75.
That combination means a number of Hawaii’s resorts no longer generate enough revenue to pay the mortgages on their properties. Distressed debt tied to hotels is rising across the nation, but Hawaii has more troubled hotel debt per room than any other state, about $23,256 compared with $5,083 in California and $5,345 in Florida, according to statistics based on data from Real Capital Analytics. Overall, Hawaii’s distressed debt tied to hotels totals nearly $1.6 billion.
The situation in Hawaii – which saw investors buying up resorts during the heady days of the real estate boom – is reminiscent of the Florida condo market, the collapse of which recently claimed a high-profile scalp in the shape of Corus Bank.
Hawaiian resort owners had their own version of buy-and-flip:
Major renovations of existing hotels are common in Hawaii because construction of new resorts has been limited since the 1980s because of steep land prices and local governments’ opposition to expansion. “So the name of the game is to buy, renovate and reposition,” says Joseph Toy, president and CEO of the hotel-consulting company Hospitality Advisors, based in Honolulu. Many of the resorts that changed hands in recent years were built by Japanese owners in the 1980s.
But practitioners of that pricey repositioning strategy now find themselves in a bind due to the recession, the capital crisis and Hawaii’s tourism downturn. “The operating numbers have cratered, the underlying fundamentals aren’t very good, and you have a whole bunch of problem loans,” says David Carey, president and chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises Group, which owns 30 Hawaiian hotels, none in foreclosure.
As you would expect, Wall Street’s banks and more than a few hedge funds are exposed to the Hawaiian meltdown.
Back to the WSJ again:
Morgan Stanley, for example, teamed up with a local developer in 2007 to buy the 310-room Maui Prince Resort and 1,300 adjacent acres for $575 million. By this year, the resort’s annual revenue had fallen 50% from 2007 levels, its monthly operating losses were nearly $1 million and plans to build luxury communities on the 1,300 acres had fizzled, according to a lawyer representing Wells Fargo & Co., the trustee of the resort’s $192.5 million mortgage. Wells Fargo put the resort in receivership last month. A Morgan Stanley representative declined to comment.
On Hawaii’s big island, Westbrook Partners LLC, Farallon Capital Management LLC and Lodging Capital Partners LLC bought the 540-room Fairmont Orchid Hawaii in 2005 for $250 million. They spent $20 million to renovate the resort, but by this year it could no longer support its $230 million mortgage. The owners, who declined to comment for this story, forfeited the resort to lender Barclays Capital in June.
The Q3 results season will certainly be interesting.
Hotel defaults, foreclosures rise in California – LA Times
US banks warn on commercial property – FT
Banks not worried enough about commercial real estate, Fed says – FT Alphaville
The Pandora’s box of Wells Fargo and commercial real estate – FT Alphaville