Hotels in Asia-Pacific are likely to receive investment of more than US$9 billion this year, a 30 per cent increase from 2021, as countries begin to ease their Covid-19 restrictions and some confidence returns to the hospitality sector, according to JLL. The higher investment in the segment is just one of the themes likely to dominate the property sector in the region. Total capital outlay is expected to hit around US$200 billion, a 15 per cent rise from the full year estimate for 2021, the property consultancy said in a report. The forecast comes despite renewed uncertainty over the societal and economic impact of Covid-19 with the Omicron variant wreaking havoc across the world as it drives a new surge in infections. “Asia-Pacific’s real estate markets will be stronger in 2022, as investors maintain their bullishness and leasing activity continues to recover,” said Anthony Couse, chief executive officer for Asia-Pacific, JLL, in a separate statement emailed to the Post . “It’s clear that the path to economic recovery is not a straight one, but we’re hearing from our clients that they have confidence in the future of office-based work. Investor sentiment is positive, though uncertainty remains the reality and will be factored into any decision-making this year.” Hotels have been one of the pandemic’s most battered segments as states closed borders to stem the spread of the disease that has killed 5.6 million across the globe so far, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization. In 2020, the revenue per available room (RevPAR) – a gauge of how many rooms a hotel or guest house sells and how much they earn from those bookings – across the globe dropped by half, according to credit ratings company Fitch. Last year, boosted by the roll-out of vaccination programmes, the lodgings industry rebounded somewhat. The portion of RevPAR recovered across regions ranged from 51 per cent to 76 per cent, according to JLL. Fitch forecasts that the global hotels sector will see a gradual improvement this year compared to 2021, with RevPAR recovering to around 70 per cent of 2019 levels, mainly in the second half. “As border controls start to ease and countries emerge from the pandemic, hospitality investors remain poised to enter the sector, searching for opportunities in traditional Asian gateway cities and increasingly in resort destinations as a result of pent-up leisure demand,” the JLL report said. “While the focus on Asian gateway cities and countries was present at the beginning of the pandemic, it is likely to continue throughout 2022, especially in markets like China, including Hong Kong, Japan and Australia which represented almost 70 per cent of the hotel investment volume as of September 2021.” One notable hotel transaction in the last quarter of 2021 was Thai developer Asset World Corporation’s acquisition of the 130-room dusitD2 Chiang Mai from Dusit Thani Properties Reit for 435 million baht (US$13.15 million) and takeover of Lhong 1919, a tourist attraction on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok’s Thonburi neighbourhood with the intention of developing an integrated wellness destination managed by The Ritz Carlton Hotel. “The real estate market in Asia-Pacific has faced unprecedented challenges in 2021. While 2022 will come with some risks, investors with a long-term view remain confident in the secular trends that will drive demand in this region: ongoing urbanisation; increasing prosperity and a growing middle class; and the acceleration of e-commerce. All of these point to opportunities for investors,” said Roddy Allan, chief research officer, Asia Pacific, JLL, in the emailed statement.