Hilton turned a profit to the tune of $18 million in the first quarter of 2020 - down from $159 million for the same period in 2019 - despite the threat of the coronavirus.
According to the company, with the exception of Asia Pacific, its first-quarter results were not "significantly" impacted by the virus until March, with occupancy roughly flat through February in the Americas and the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.
Adjusted EBITDA for the period ending March 31 was $363 million, down from $499 million in the first quarter of 2019, while RevPAR decreased 22.6% for the first quarter compared to the same period in 2019, primarily as a result of decreases in occupancy.
"The decreases were due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related reduction in global travel and tourism, which required the complete and partial suspensions of hotel operations at many of Hilton's properties,” the company said in a statement.
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In a call with industry analysts, Hilton president and CEO Chris Nassetta said that, by drawing on industry experience with SARS and similar situations, the company has tried to estimate the potential impact COVID-19 will have on its business.
He said he expects the virus to last about three to six months, with an additional three- to six-month recovery period.
“Excluding coronavirus, we expect 2020 top-line growth to be similar or modestly softer to 2019,” Nassetta said.
He also pointed to “great feedback” Hilton has had in regard to partnerships, citing expanded relationships with Live Nation and Lyft.
In the first quarter of 2020, 29,500 new rooms for development were approved, growing Hilton's development pipeline to 405,000 as of March 31, a 9% growth from March 31, 2019.
The company also opened 8,800 rooms in the quarter, contributing to 6,100 net additional rooms.
"We are currently experiencing unprecedented times as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our number one priority remains protecting the safety and security of our guests, team members and owners,” Nassetta said.
“We have also taken precautionary measures to protect our business, including securing our liquidity position. Given the strength of our system and dedication of our people, we believe we are well-positioned to navigate this crisis and ultimately recover stronger."