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Investing

Oh, the places you might go — investing in luxury travel and leisure

The sector is enjoying a resurgence that’s expected to stay strong. It’s time for you to think about travel and leisure like an investor.


The U.S. travel and leisure sector—especially the portion catering to the affluent—has come roaring back to life as Americans, liberated from lockdowns, take pleasure trips in record numbers, visit restaurants, enjoy spas and play golf (seemingly unaffected by inflation).

Pre-pandemic, the overall travel and leisure industry enjoyed healthy annual growth for decades: U.S. consumer spending on travel and leisure grew by an annualized 7% from 1960 to 2019.1

Of course, when COVID-19 spread across the world, travel and leisure was among the hardest-hit sectors. But fast-forward to vaccines, boosters and the lifting of travel restrictions—the U.S. consumer’s desire for leisure travel and recreation skyrocketed to 115% of the historical average.2

Moreover, this growth is not expected to slow, especially in high-end consumer travel and leisure, as consumers increasingly prefer experiences over material goods and more people have the means to pay for them.

The opportunities for your portfolio are considerable—particularly in private equity, which offers access to hard-to-reach investments in resorts and clubs serving the affluent. If you’ve yet to consider private investments in luxury travel and leisure real estate, now may be the time.

The affluent are re-embracing travel 

The broad travel and leisure sector currently accounts for approximately 10% of global GDP. But look ahead and global consumer spending in the sector is projected to increase by more than 2x in the next 10 years.3

The desire to travel is even more pronounced among the mass affluent, a group that includes approximately 77 million people in the U.S. with household incomes in excess of $125,000 a year and $1 million in net worth.

Over the past year, visitor volumes at niche properties—notably boutique hotels, ski resorts and golf clubs (both U.S. and international)—neared, and in some segments even surpassed, pre-COVID levels.4

Strong tailwinds also have arisen for the development of ecologically friendly resorts (“eco-resorts”) as well as Under-Canvas high-end “glamping” facilities in unusual locations, such as the Moab Desert in Utah.5

Luxury travel and leisure assets act as a hedge against inflation    

Travel and leisure has long been a strong sector.

While business travel has yet to fully recover from the pandemic, consumer-led travel has historically been far more resilient. Its post-pandemic growth outpaced that of many other sectors. Even over the most recent full economic cycle (2007–2019), U.S. consumer spending on travel and leisure rose by an aggregated 70%—more than any other industry.6

Indeed, in an inflationary environment, investing in consumer-led travel and leisure offers both an implicit and explicit hedge to rising interest rates. This protective effect is visible across the hotel industry, but even more pronounced in luxury lodging.

Similarly, resorts’ annualized growth in net operating income has historically outperformed hotels generally and handily outpaced the inflation index.

To invest in travel industry trends: Think ‘private markets’    

One of the most exciting and potentially profitable ways to invest in luxury travel and leisure is to find specialized private equity managers offering long-term access to unlisted investments and leveraging their knowledge as seasoned owner-operators.  

Think of your favorite travel and leisure destinations: Most of these luxury properties—whether resorts, marinas, golf clubs or ski lodges—are not owned by publicly traded companies. (In the United States alone, there are about 10 times more private than public companies).7

Private equity allows for an owner-operator model in an industry that is fragmented by geography and asset type—and that creates interesting investment opportunities.

For private equity managers with strong capital reserves and an owner-operator mindset, market disruption can be an opportunity to add to their holdings, upgrade existing assets and invest in new leisure trends, such as high-end “glamping.”

Owner-operators are also able to directly drive performance by selecting the private company’s leaders. They can use leverage to enhance returns. And longer-term investment horizons allow private funds to maximize equity value.

Investors might want to be in it for the long term, as growth may take years to fully play out, given the projected increase in the number of mass affluent. Private equity is one way to access these companies; it can also provide you with specialists who can tailor your exposure by, for example, excluding corporate travel and focusing on more resilient, illiquid assets found in the luxury consumer travel and leisure sector.

In addition, as capital becomes more expensive due to rising rates, private equity firms may serve as key sources of financing for the acquisition and development of new luxury assets.

We can help

Speak with your J.P. Morgan team to learn more about investing in luxury travel and leisure assets to see whether this unique opportunity suits your portfolio and long-term financial goals.

 

1.Bureau of Economic Analysis, July 31, 2021; U.S. Department of Commerce data from 1960-2019 as determined by the last economic cycle.
2.MMGY Traveler Sentiment Index, April 2022.
3.World Travel & Tourism Council, March 2022. 
4.National Ski Areas Association, Kottke End-of-Season and Demographic Report (note that 2019-20 ski season was shortened due to COVID-19 closures); U.S. National Golf Foundation.
5.“Weathering the pandemic and the future of skiing, golf, and hospitality,” Eric Resnick, CEO of KSL Capital Partners, Walker Webcast, September 15, 2022.
6.Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce; travel and leisure includes hotel and resort accommodations, packaged tours, membership clubs, experiential activities, food and beverage purchased outside the home, air travel and foreign travel by U.S. residents.
7.Guide to Alternatives Q4 2021, J.P. Morgan Asset Management. 


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Unique disclosures:

Investing in alternative assets involves higher risks than traditional investments and is suitable only for sophisticated investors. Alternative investments involve greater risks than traditional investments and should not be deemed a complete investment program. They are not tax efficient and an investor should consult with his/her tax advisor prior to investing. Alternative investments have higher fees than traditional investments and they may also be highly leveraged and engage in speculative investment techniques, which can magnify the potential for investment loss or gain. The value of the investment may fall as well as rise and investors may get back less than they invested.​


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