Hotel group Accor expects domestic demand to return to 2019 levels by year-end

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(Reuters) -Europe’s biggest hotel group Accor said on Thursday it expected domestic demand to return to levels comparable to 2019 by the end of the year after reporting a jump in first-quarter revenue.

The global travel and hospitality industry is recovering from the pandemic as higher vaccination rates and an easing of restrictions spur a rise in business and leisure trips.

“This rebound reflects both the sustained increase in the number of business and leisure domestic guests, and border reopenings which accelerated the return of international travellers,” the French hotelier said in a statement.

Accor, which operates 5,300 hotels in 110 countries, said that the recovery in international demand was catching up despite a “bleak” performance in China due to the emergence of the Omicron variant and travel restrictions in some Asian countries.

Beijing closed some schools and public spaces on Thursday as most of the Chinese capital’s 22 million residents turned up for more mass COVID-19 testing aimed at averting a Shanghai-like lockdown.

“Accor’s performance in the first quarter of 2022 confirms the clear upturn in business across all regions and the renewed momentum in tourism, food services and entertainment,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sebastien Bazin said in a statement.

The French group, which runs high-end chains Sofitel and Pullman, as well as budget brands such as Ibis, reported revenue of 701 million euros ($737.10 million) for January to March, up 85% on a like-for-like basis from 361 million euros a year earlier.

The group’s revenue per available room (RevPAR),a key gauge of performance for the hotel industry, more than doubled in the first quarter of 2022 but was still down 25% compared to pre-COVID levels. Accor said that it will continue to improve in the coming quarters, based on current bookings and price increases.

Hotel group Whitbread said on Thursday profit at its UK business could return to pre-pandemic levels this year despite inflationary pressures.

Accor also confirmed its forecast of 3.5% net growth in its hotels network for 2022.

($1 = 0.9510 euros)

(Reporting by Anait Miridzhanian; editing by David Evans and Jane Merriman)