• Pain in Spain alleviates

Spain saw the first increase in international tourist arrivals for 22 months during March and this summer is expected to see an increase in visitor numbers over last year.

Much of the 7.5% rise in hotel stays in March, year-on-year, can be put down to the shift of Easter holidays but the underlying trend at last appears to be turning positive.

Sol Melia saw the first positive revpar growth in March after 21 months of consecutive declines. The company said current bookings by both German and British tour companies – the two biggest international source markets – are ahead of last year. Domestic bookings are also up.

Sol has also managed to tuck away some asset sales. The Tryp Los Gallos in Cordoba was sold for Eu10m, a five year average multiple of 22.0 times or 30.2 times 2009. During the current quarter, the disposal of two minority stake has also been agreed for Eu23.9m.

Further asset sales are planned to keep Sol within its banking covenants. It said it was confident of meeting the required ratios.

Revpar at Spanish city hotels was down 0.9% for the quarter but across Europe it was up 1.5%. Across the company, revpar was down 0.7% and sales fell 3.1%. Gabriel Escarrer, CEO, said that 2010 would be a transitional year, moderately better than 2009.

NH Hoteles said that in the first quarter fall room rates were beginning to be offset by rising occupancies in all markets except Spain, Central and Eastern Europe and the Americas. Germany and Italy were particularly strong showing a like-for-like revpar increase above 6%.

The sale of St Ermin's in London for £65m at the end of April represented Eu75m of the Eu300m of planned disposals. The purchasers of St Ermin's – Amerimar Enterprise; Angelo, Gordon & Co; and GraceMark Investments – plan to refurbish and run the hotel as an independent. US-based Amerimar has a track record of independent hotel investments in America.

NH, which is skewed more to business travellers than Sol, was negatively affected by the Easter holidays starting in March. Nonetheless, revpar in Spain and Portugal became positive in March. Barcelona and Madrid showed a 20% increase in occupancy with leisure business being the main driver.

HA Perspective: Spain is the hardest hit of Western Europe's main hotel markets and looks destined to make the slowest recovery. The first tentative signs of recovery are there but it looks a long way back.

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