Hotel empire Hilton Worldwide expects last year’s tax cuts will drive revenue as much as 3 percent higher this year as Americans spend their extra cash on vacations and corporate America increases its travel budget.
The Republican overhaul of the U.S. tax code, which cut the top corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, has already made businesses more comfortable negotiating hotel rates and arranging corporate events, said CEO Christopher Nassetta.
“Having talked to a bunch of our customers and been at a bunch of different events where we host large numbers of them, it’s viewed as very positive,” he said on an earnings call Wednesday. “If I think about where we are this year versus where we were last year, I would say it is a very, very different tone.”
Revenue per available room, an industry metric that gauges the payoff from lodgings available to guests, will rise from 1 percent to 3 percent this year after climbing 2.5 percent to $109.27 in 2017, the McLean, Va.-based company predicted.
Both business and leisure travel increased at the end of last year, and economic growth will probably drive continued improvements in 2018, said Harry Curtis, an analyst with Nomura Instinet.
Historically, once per-room revenue starts to rise, “only a decline in corporate confidence reverses the trend, which we believe is unlikely this year,” Curtis said.
Hilton, which booked a one-time benefit of $665 million from the new tax law in the last three months of 2017, reported net income of $840 million, or $2.61 a share, for the period. That compared with a loss of $387 million, or $1.18 a share, a year earlier.
Excluding the tax benefit and other one-time events, profit of 54 cents still topped the 45-cent average estimate from Wall Street analysts.
Hilton expects to return the bulk of the extra cash it gains from the tax break to its shareholders, Nassetta said. The company will probably pay about $200 million in dividends this year and buy back about $1.2 billion of its shares, according to Curtis.