Episode 75: Thomas Emanuel, Senior Director, STR

Published: 09 June 2023

Thomas discusses the data solutions provided by STR, which collects data from over 78,000 hotels worldwide on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The company provides benchmarking analysis to help clients understand their competitive position in the market and their direct competitors. They offer a range of key performance indicators, including occupancy, average rate, and revenue per available room, as well as segmentation data and business on the books.

Tanja Millner (00:00:05) - In the lead up to our African Hospitality Investment Forum, which is due to take place next week in Nairobi on the 12th, 13th, and 14th of June. Uh, we are organizing our AIF podcast today in our podcast series. I'm delighted to be joined by Thomas Emanuel, senior director of S T R. Welcome, Thomas.

Thomas Emanuel (00:00:28) - Thanks, Tanya. Good to be here. Nice to see you.

Tanja Millner (00:00:31) - Good to see you too. Thomas, s t r provides data solutions for the global hospitality industry. Mm. Who share with us what kind of data do you provide for your clients, and how do you typically work with your clients.

Thomas Emanuel (00:00:47) - Sure. Happy to. Um, thank you. And, and thank you for inviting me to be on the podcast as well. So, as you rightly said, s t r, we, we provide data solutions. So we are very much the market leaders in hotel performance data, and the core of our business is benchmarking. So we collect data from more than 78,000 hotels around the world on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and provide them with benchmarking analysis to allow them to understand obviously, their competitive position in related to the market, and also their direct competitor to set those hotels that they compete with every night for, uh, a share of wallet effectively. And we deliver this in a range of different key performance indicators. So occupancy, average rate, rev, parra, probably the three that people are most familiar with. But we also collect segmentation data, so we look at group transient as well as, uh, monthly profitability data.

Thomas Emanuel (00:01:45) - Uh, and we also collect business on the books as well. So we've got a full range of, of historical and forward looking, um, KPIs. We also have a, a full, um, supply and pipeline database, which is very relevant of course for Africa as we look to the future. But this allows our clients to also understand the existing supply in the future supply and as well as providing benchmarking. Then we also work with our whole plethora of, of what we sort of, the umbrella term we use internally is industry partners. So they are our partners within the industry. Obviously they're advisors, investors, developers, analysts, lenders, governments, destination marketing organizations, vendors, anybody really who's got an interest in the hospitality industry. And we provide that this data to them to help them, of course, make better business decisions. Um, and I think it's worth mentioning as well.

Thomas Emanuel (00:02:38) - I'm sure you're aware. And, and, and most people who are listening also aware that Sstl was acquired by the CoStar group back in 2019. And since then we've been working diligently to integrate our data into, into CoStar, which is an incredible software platform looking commercial real estate data. And we took a major step forward in this last month when we launched our new benchmarking product, which is Fab, fabulous software, allowing hoteliers to log in and interact with live data, providing them with a plethora of new analysis graphs, uh, tools as well. So this is a really big step for us, and, uh, we are, we are delighted with it. The feedback from, from clients has been, has been great. And we'll be working diligently to, to launch that new software to all of our hotel participants in the coming months ahead. So in short, it's a, mm-hmm. , it's a really exciting and, and very busy time for the business.

Tanja Millner (00:03:42) - So, talking about an exciting and busy time for the business, um, we are recording this podcast in the lead up to the African Hospitality Investment Forum. So, uh, you know, talking of data, what, what, um, have you seen, uh, in the African hospitality market in the last, um, 18 months? So, um, you know, how did you see the market evolve in, in in recent months?

Thomas Emanuel (00:04:07) - Sure. So actually when we look at Africa, it has evolved in quite a similar way to other regions across the globes. The generaler pattern is basically, occupancy is not quite back in most markets, but average rates are considerably ahead. And obviously we're referring to, to, to pre covid here. So occupancy still in those final stages of recovery and a, a rates way ahead. So a very typical pattern. I think much of Africa initially when we think back to that in the initial stages of recovery, was a little bit further behind, um, many other regions. And I think two regions, two reasons predominantly for that. The first is, is a relative lack of domestic demand. When you compare that to, to other markets, obviously there are exceptions, of course, when you look at, uh, bigger, um, economies, and also airlift has obviously taken some time to come back.

Thomas Emanuel (00:05:05) - Um, and African hotels are very, very reliant for the most part on airlift. These are not drive to or train to markets. Mm-hmm. So those, it was a little bit slower to come back, but ultimately now pretty much in line with, with, with the rest of the world in terms of recovery. But of course, you can't talk about Africa as one, right. I mean, that's something we've talked about over the years at this conference. 54 different nations. Yeah. Very different, you know, economies, cultures, and so on and so forth. Um, so we do see some, some differences by, by country of course. And if we look year to date, we've, we've seen some sub-Saharan African markets have a really stellar time of it actually. So there are, there are definitely some, some differences, um, when we compare across the continent.

Tanja Millner (00:05:54) - And what trends, uh, have you seen in the market?

Thomas Emanuel (00:05:57) - So I think generally speaking, if we look at the, the current year, I, I think it's really been a year of, of relative stability, as I mentioned, you know, occupancies for the most part, hovering just slightly below and, and rates significantly ahead. Now, of course, as I said, there are, there are fluctuations, but I think the, the main thing to say is demand is now solidly back. We're not seeing, we're not seeing markets lagging significantly behind where they were, um, in, in the pre covid days. Also, when we look at the time of year, you know, we are in the beginning of June now. Um, we're starting to see things ramp up for the summer months for some of those, uh, some of those resorts across the continent. Mm-hmm. , um, other trends, you know, there are some currency issues, particularly in Egypt and Ghana, which, which are, you know, proving potentially a little bit more, more challenging.

Thomas Emanuel (00:06:45) - Obviously as I mentioned, different countries, different economies, but I think there's some, some real positive good news stories, which of course we always like to focus on. And I mentioned just a moment ago that some sub-Saharan African cities have had a really good year today. I mean, Addis, Nairobi, Lagos, all with much stronger occupancy than we saw in 2019. So really good news there. And then the other thing that I've noticed, which I, I think again, is a real positive, is we start to see some events which haven't traditionally been a big driver of demand for Africa as a whole. Of course, you've got, you know, certain cities that have got the facilities that have historically benefited. But when we look at the data, you can see, um, the African Union Summit in Addis, for example, in February, the Commonwealth heads of government meeting mm-hmm. in June of last year. And then the FIFA Congress, both of those latter two being in Kali in Rwanda, and those having a really positive impact on performance. So we're starting to see a nice trend relating to events as well, which is, I say, not something that we've typically associated with Africa. So that's a, a real good news story there.

Tanja Millner (00:07:50) - Mm-hmm. sounds great. So my next question, uh, was going to be, you know, what your view on the development of Af Africa's hospitality performance is and what we have in store for the rest of 2023. But, uh, it seems, uh, it seems that it's a positive outlook. I

Thomas Emanuel (00:08:08) - Do believe so. I, I think my, you know, if we look at the top line trading it, it does remain strong. Uh, so generally speaking, yeah, I feel pretty positive about, about the, the rest of the year. And of course, traditionally speaking, a lot of the markets that we cover are corporate markets. So that sort of September, October, November period, usually the strongest months of the year as well. Mm-hmm. . So I think we should see, you know, things tick up, um, quite nicely in those predominantly corporate markets. There is, of course though, and this is something I always do like to, to, to talk about, when we are looking at Africa, we look at supply, um, and the pipeline. And currently, if we look at the opening dates that we are receiving when we're collecting the pipeline, there are an additional 12 and a half thousand rooms mm-hmm.

Thomas Emanuel (00:08:51) - to open across the continent this year. Now, realistically, they're not all going to come to fruition in this calendar year, but ultimately that's still a a, mm-hmm. , you know, a significant amount of new supply. Some of it will obviously be clustered in, in certain markets. Certainly Egypt has a, an enormous, um, pipeline in comparison to, to other countries. Um, but that's something that we'll definitely be keeping an eye on in the coming, you know, weeks, months, and years ahead. Because too much supply coming quickly can obviously have an impact on, on the performance of a market. Not necessarily saying that's gonna happen, but we will be watching closely to see how, how supply develops over the, uh, the, the, the coming months.

Tanja Millner (00:09:37) - So let's see. I mean, you will be joining us next week. Uh, I will in Nairobi, uh, talking about insight on Africa, what are the numbers telling us? So we are very much looking forward to your presentation. Um, but without revealing too much, what will you be focusing during your presentation? Uh,

Thomas Emanuel (00:09:55) - We're looking forward to it as well. It'd be good to, to be back in Nairobi for sure. It's been a few years for me, so that will be nice. Um, I will be focusing obviously on, on the performance across the region. I mean, that goes without saying. We'll have a look at the cities. Mm-hmm. . I'm also gonna drill down and have a look at resorts in a little bit more detail, uh, which I think will be interesting. Uh, sort of that more leisure demand and, and also obviously commenting on the demand drivers, uh, as we see them a across those key markets. And then I've already referenced it, but we'll do a deep dive into the all important pipeline as well and look at, uh, developments across the, the continent. So there'll be plenty to cover, um, during that presentation slot.

Tanja Millner (00:10:36) - Sounds great. Because we are going to focus on leisure destination development as well. So that will then lead, uh, nicely over to, um, our panelists. There is an exciting program, so if anybody wants to join, uh, there is still a chance. Um, so my final question to you, Thomas, in your opinion, what are the key considerations for anybody looking to enter the African hospitality market?

Thomas Emanuel (00:11:00) - So I think, you know, summarizing things that are very high level, I think know your market, uh, have good partners, understand the connectivity. Very important. Be patient. I think that's important when looking at Africa. And then of course, utilize St. R's data to make sure you get the best possible analysis and understanding of the market.

Tanja Millner (00:11:27) - Fantastic. Thomas, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. We certainly look forward to seeing you next week in Nairobi. Thanks, Tanya. Thanks Thomas.

Thomas Emanuel (00:11:36) - We'll see you next week. Thank you.