LESI ON SLIPPERY SLOPE

The Lodging Executives Sentiment Index reading is down again. The current reading is 63.1, versus last period's 69.0 and one of 83.3 during the same period last year. A LESI reading greater than 50 indicates that the lodging sector is generally expanding; one smaller indicates shrinkage. The distance from 50 reflects relative strength or weakness. Developed and maintained by the University of New Hampshire's Hospitality Management Department, LESI is a leading economic indicator in lodging, based on opinions of lodging executives.

Though this period's LESI indicates continued economic expansion in the lodging sector, it continues to drop: recent low readings include 62.5 in November 2003 — and the bottom, 44.6 in July 2001. Both the Present Situation Index, at 71.4, and the Future Expectations Index, at 54.8, showed drops from last period's respective readings of 80.0 and 58.0. The respective readings during the same period last year were 90.0 and 76.7. The Present Situation Index's rate of decline from 80.0 to 71.4 was faster than that of the Future Expectations Index, down from 58.0 to 54.8.

The Future Expectations Index direction of business activity aligns with the Reservations Expectations Index reading of 61.9 from 64.0, a slight drop from last period. The Future Expectations and Reservations Expectations indices read 76.7 and 78.3 respectively a year ago to date.

Nearly half (47.6 percent) of respondents indicated that current business conditions were good, far below the 60.0 percent reading of last period; the same percentage, up from 40 percent last period, indicated they were normal. None of the executives indicated business conditions were bad, though 4.8 percent called them poor. With regard to future business conditions, 28.6 percent of the executives thought they will improve in the next 12 months (down from 32.0 percent last period); 52.4 percent felt that future conditions would be the same (versus 52 percent last period); and 19 percent, up from 16 percent last period, indicated they would be worse.

The Reservations Expectation Index asks lodging executives to project rooms reservations over the next 12 months as compared to the last 12 months. A third of respondents indicated they expect them to increase, versus 48.3 percent last period.

The Lodging Employment Index asks executives whether they expect to add non-management employees. Forty-two percent indicated they would add, versus 33 percent last period; 47.4 percent say they'll maintain current levels. and 10.6 percent, versus 4.2 percent last period, plan layoffs.

Taken together, these indices suggest a lodging slowdown. Perhaps, as one respondent indicated, the “fallout from the housing market” now roosts in hotel rooms.

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