Horwath execs: Outlook positive for industry, company

LOS ANGELES—With Horwath HTL now a robust 102 years old with 46 offices across the globe, two of its leading East Coast managing directors—Paul Breslin in Atlanta and Andrew Cohan in Miami—were recently in the City of Angels at ALIS bringing perspective to what’s in store for lodging and the company in the year ahead.

“It’s going to be one of the most exciting years ever,” offered Breslin. “More people, I think, will stay in hotels than ever before as far as volume. We have some of the most exciting brands, opportunities and different products in the market today along with some of the coolest ideas and amenities that are happening and changing our industry. And there are more reasons to travel. The United States is a very safe place. I’m very optimistic.”

Cohan noted in Florida, and in Miami in particular, the dynamic is a bit different, with the hotel cycle intertwined with the condominium cycle and a large proportion of condo owners using their properties for vacations and developers snapping up sites for residential.

“People who know Florida know there typically are swings in the market that are a little bit more severe than in other markets. What seems to happen is there’s a boom, then a bust that’s mild, and the next boom goes higher. So in the long run, it’s not a market where you want to flip something in a year because you never know which stage of the market you’re going to be in,” said Cohan.

He noted with global events continuing to drive uncertainty, such uncertainty is now being factored into strategic thinking and business forecasts.

“We’re starting to incorporate uncertainty as a way of life,” Cohan observed.

Breslin noted Horwath HTL (HTL standing for Hotel, Tourism and Leisure) is trying to make life more certain for the bulk of developers, investment bankers and high-net-worth individuals who are looking to bring projects to fruition.

“We might be one of their early calls to begin the process, for example, with site selection, brand selection, management company selection, or with feasibility/market studies, impact studies. Quite frankly, a lot of the people who call us are ‘exploring’ and looking for opportunities,” said Breslin.

Toward this, the company publishes market reports and data to help these so-called “explorers” get a sense of where opportunities might exist. “We work very closely with all of the brands and others to find out where the ‘hot spots’ are, what are the emerging markets,” said Breslin, citing the industry’s historic ability to reinvent itself in cities and secondary markets. “Hotels expire; they have a life cycle, too. Or they get higher, better use or it [the environment]just changes. And that’s what’s exciting about our industry; it just keeps evolving, growing, changing, recycling.”

Horwath HTL itself has been expanding. Two years ago, its U.S. presence consisted of offices in both Denver and Atlanta. It now has six U.S. locations and a total of 12 offices serving the Americas.

“One of the beauties that we’re tarting to see as we have more staff and offices is we can go after corporate business to help a global brand in a certain area. We all team together and pitch in and become the preferred provider for one or two services (e.g., asset management, valuations, sustainability planning, pre-development, repositioning),” said Cohan.

Horwath HTL also has the resources of its sister company, Crowe Horwath LLP, which is known for its accounting and consulting.

“So we can partner with them, we can lean on their resources,” said Breslin. “We can build on the momentum of what they’re doing. We can pick up the phone with our Croatia office that does tourism studies and partner with them on a study.”

Andrew Cohan, Horwath HTL/Miami

Horwath currently is consulting and asset managing a 236-key Hard Rock hotel, said Breslin, without divulging the location. “We’re in the think tank with Hard Rock on how to actually create some innovative services and amenities, and balance those things. For example, in its urban setting, we’re putting a spa and really gearing it so that it’s sort of a hub,” he said. “We’re also doing a Westin resort in Douglas County (Georgia) with a ‘sportsman’s paradise’ feel and consulting on an urban, public/private partnership of an adaptive reuse of a Marriott product in Jacksonville.” [The Courtyard by Marriott Jacksonville (FL) Downtown is part of an adaptive reuse of three historic buildings known as the Laura Street Trio.]

“Our role isn’t to be the developer or to be the brand,” Breslin continued, “but to be the advisor. We web through the pieces to fill in the gaps. I think where Horwath adds the greatest advantage to a developer is we can help save some ‘brain damage’ for them. Do the analytics, give them some of the basics and, most important, incorporate their strategy into the process so we nail it for them.” HB

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