By Muvija M
(Reuters) - Holiday Inn-owner IHG's first-quarter results on Friday and an update on its summer bookings are expected to shed more light on whether the global vaccination drive to combat COVID-19 is providing a shot in the arm for the hotel industry.
The company, among the world's largest hotel chains, has leaned on staycations to drive revenue during the pandemic, tapping into the needs of pandemic-weary people looking to break the monotony.
The trend helped the company's Holiday Inn Express brand rake in $4.2 billion in gross revenue last year, the most from any of its brands.
However, FTSE 100-listed IHG, which has about 6,000 hotels in over 100 countries, termed 2020 as the most challenging in its 200-year history as it recorded an annual loss of $153 million, with total gross revenue halving to $13.5 billion.
A rapid rollout of vaccines in Europe and its largest market, the United States, is expected to turn the tide for the company, which owns Six Senses, Regent and Crowne Plaza, and also its industry peers.
"In terms of an economic reopening there is optimism that any rebound in the next couple of quarters will be led by the U.S.," CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson predicted ahead of IHG's update. Roughly half of the company's overall revenue comes from the Americas.
"This area could see a strong rebound in the US summer driving season."
CHINA GROWTH ALL BUT INEVITABLE
Recent performance updates from IHG's rivals have been a mixed bag.
Whitbread, the owner of Premier Inn, said late last month that it was expecting a bounce in staycation demand this summer as curbs ease in Britain, while European group Accor has also forecast a strong recovery thanks to vaccination drives.
But Hilton Worldwide's first-quarter results missed market estimates this week, with the U.S. company saying bookings were hurt by a rise in COVID-19 cases and tighter travel curbs in parts of Europe and Asia. Hyatt Hotels also posted a wider loss for the period.
IHG, whose shares have more than doubled in value since their pandemic lows last year, has bet on its asset-light model to gain further market share amid the health crisis, touting that the business was able to achieve that in previous recessions.
Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laura Hoy noted that IHG's expansion in China should help its performance too.
"Growth in China is all but inevitable - this marks more than a year since the pandemic shut things down completely, which should make this year's numbers look particularly rosy," Hoy said.
She added that investors will want reassurance on Friday that IHG is set to meet market expectations for the first half, which calls for revenues to be around 53.9% of pre-pandemic levels.
(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)