Hotels, along with other parts of the travel business, were among the real estate sectors most severely impacted by the shutdowns and social distancing requirements during the pandemic. Leisure travel is starting to show signs of recovery, indicated by a spring break bump at our nation’s airports, and one area that is practically bursting to get back to business are weddings and wedding receptions.
Nearly half of all couples that had planned a wedding in 2020 either postponed the entire wedding until 2021 or later, or had a small ceremony, but put off the reception to a later date, according to a recent survey by The Knot. In addition, as many as one-third of couples that did hold a wedding had a smaller reception and plan to hold a second, larger ceremony — perhaps a first-anniversary celebration? — in the months ahead.
The hotel business still has a long way to go to recover from the pandemic. Total spending on travelers’ accommodations declined 70.8% in the second quarter of 2020, to an annualized $80.5 billion, from a $275.4 billion annual rate one year earlier, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The start of the reopening of the economy allowed a partial rebound to $157.9 billion (annualized) in the fourth quarter of 2020, but this is still 43.5% below its 2019 pre-pandemic peak.
Financial markets are also seeing a brighter future for the hotel and travel business than they had feared during the initial months of the pandemic. One measure of this shift in sentiment is the stock market returns of Lodging/resort REITs since the announcement of positive test results for vaccines against COVID-19 early last November. Total returns (capital gains plus dividends) from November 2020 through the end of March 2021 have been 81.4% for Lodging/resort REITs. For comparison, the S&P 500 has delivered a total return of 22.3% over this period, and the FTSE Nareit All Equity REITs Index a return of 21.2%.
Lodging/resort REITs have fully recovered their losses from the early months of the pandemic, and the improvements in the fundamentals for leisure and business travel are encouraging for future gains as the economy — and the wedding business — gets back to normal.
A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.com