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California Hotels

Travel slump triples California hotel foreclosures

Nadja Brandt  Oct 06, 2009

Hotel foreclosures in California more than tripled in the first nine months of this year as business travelers and vacationers cut spending.

Foreclosures including the 400-room St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Dana Point climbed to 47 in January through September from 15 a year earlier. Properties in default more than quadrupled to 259, Irvine, California-based Atlas Hospitality Group said in a statement. Atlas specializes in selling hotels. The survey didn’t include states other than California.

Declining occupancy rates and a dearth of credit for refinancing loans obtained during the U.S. real estate boom are squeezing the travel industry. Loans secured by more than 1,500 hotels with a total outstanding balance of $24.5 billion may be in danger of default, according to Realpoint LLC, a credit rating company that tracks the performance of securities tied to mortgages on commercial property.

“Urban areas are dependent on a mix of business, convention and leisure travel,” said Robert Mandelbaum, research director for PKF Hospitality Research in Atlanta. “There’s been a tremendous decline in business and convention travel.”

Lodging owners are struggling after adding rooms and properties from 2004 to 2007, when financing was easy to come by because banks could bundle loans into commercial mortgage-backed securities and sell them on to investors. About $83.4 billion in hotel-backed securities were issued in those years, according to Realpoint.

Trouble in L.A.

“We see higher default numbers in L.A. County and San Diego County because of the sheer volume of hotels,” Alan Reay, president of Atlas Hospitality, said in a telephone interview. “A lot of new product has been added in those counties.”

More than 70 percent of troubled California hotel loans originated between 2005 and 2007, Reay said. Nearly 2,500 of the state’s hotels were financed or refinanced during those years, accounting for about 25 percent of the entire supply, he said.

Occupancy in the top 25 U.S. travel markets fell to 61 percent in the first eight months of the year from 69 percent a year earlier, according to Smith Travel Research in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Riverside, California, outside of Los Angeles, had nine hotels in foreclosure through September. San Bernardino was home to six and Los Angeles had five, Atlas said.

Another 28 Los Angeles hotels were in default, according to Atlas. Occupancy there dropped to 65 percent in January through August from 75 percent a year earlier, according to Smith Travel.

“Los Angeles is a gateway city,” Mandelbaum said in a telephone interview. “Prior to 2009, we were enjoying the influx from foreign travelers. That also has tapered off due to this global economic decline.”

San Diego had 26 hotels in default and San Bernardino had 23, Atlas said.

Travel slump triples California hotel foreclosures
St. Regis Monarch Beach resort / Image via


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