In March 2020, when lockdown started because of the pandemic, I think that absolutely nobody could imagine that two years later we would still be dealing with restrictions on account of a mitigated sixth wave. Neither could anyone have expected that, in barely two years, several vaccines against the disease would have been created, or that a considerable proportion of Spaniards would have already received our booster dose. While the dimension of the health crisis has been the biggest in many decades, so too has been the capacity to respond that we have shown as a truly interconnected global society. The solidarity, hope and responsibility of so many millions of vaccinated individuals around the world have been good news in one of the most severe and devastating health crises in our common world history.
The hotel sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Overnight, a key sector for trade, industry and cultural exchange between nations came to a complete standstill all over the world. We had never experienced such a sudden and such a global crisis, not even in the two World Wars last century. For the companies dedicated to this business, the outlook was practically apocalyptic. It did not matter where each company came from or how much it had achieved by the end of 2019. The health crisis crushed us all alike and forced us to pick ourselves up, reflect, prioritise and make the necessary decisions to resist, keep going and try to reinvent ourselves. Without any continuity or the slightest reference, we had to be reborn from intuition, assume the most adverse reality, and take very difficult decisions that would keep us away from the brink and allow us to recover a certain capacity for reaction and survival over time.
As an example, I would like to provide some numbers to help us gauge the seriousness of what happened. According to recent official figures of the Tourism Satellite Account for Spain, drawn up by the National Statistical Institute, in Spain tourist activity in 2020 fell to 61.4 billion euros, almost 58% less than the 154.7 billion obtained in 2019. In terms of GDP, the contribution made by tourism fell from 12.4% to 5.5%, almost seven percentage points less.
If we look at forecast made in the Exceltur Tourism Prospects for 2021, last year’s activity will total around 87 billion euros, 41% more than 2020, but still 44% below 2019. There are some reasons for hope, such as the fact that in November 2021, international tourist spending in Spain increased to 3.7 billion euros, only 25% below the 5 billion euros recorded in the same month in 2019.
In the international sphere, the situation is extremely similar. According to the latest edition of the World Tourism Barometer issued by the UN World Tourism Organization, revenues from international tourists in 2021 could be close to 800 million dollars, a slight improvement compared to 2020, but less than half the 1.7 trillion dollars recorded in 2019. Last year, the economic contribution made by tourism was estimated at 1.9 trillion dollars in terms of direct tourist gross domestic product, well below the 3.5 trillion dollars for the year before the pandemic. In this same report, the UNWTO warned that the safe resumption of international tourism will continue to depend to a considerable extent on a coordinated response by countries in terms of travel restrictions, harmonized health and safety protocols and effective communications to help restore consumer confidence.
NH Hotel Group, supported at all times by Minor International, its leading shareholder, has performed exemplarily in these two extremely complicated years. We owe this, first of all, to the efforts and commitment of the more than eleven thousand professionals in the Group’s corporate offices and more than 350 hotels. All of them have managed to always adapt to the new health and technological standards, learn and successfully apply the more than seven hundred health measures incorporated into the everyday activity of the hotel business and, above all, assure the safety of the teams, suppliers and guests. While it is always difficult to gain the trust of each guest, in these two years, ensuring everyone’s safety, conveying efficiency, being empathetic and regaining their trust has entailed an extraordinary dedication, resolved with magnificent results and a moving sacrifice.
Maintaining the viability and the future of the business in these two years has also been an extremely challenging task which the management team has overcome with rigour, discipline and clarity of purpose. Preserving liquidity and reducing expenditure were the two major priorities. To achieve them, it has been necessary to make decisions that were as painful as they were inevitable, and thanks to them, the Company has managed to consolidate its position, emerge stronger from the crisis, and save as many jobs as possible in the different countries where we operate. Throughout their history, companies leave a legacy that makes them special and highlights their mission and their results. I am convinced that the control and efforts of the NH Hotel Group management team in these two years will constitute one of the most memorable and meritorious chapters in our company’s rich history.
From the Board of Directors, which I am honored to chair, we have tried to help the different teams, while assuring good corporate governance and defending the legitimate interests of the different shareholders and other stakeholders in our Group’s activity. There have been numerous initiatives and resolutions, both of the Board and its different Committees. I am especially satisfied with the way in which the holistic refinancing of NH Hotel Group has been managed and approved, including a capital increase and a bond issue. This refinancing also made explicit Minor International’s firm commitment to NH Hotel Group by granting a subordinated loan that was subsequently capitalised through the afore-mentioned capital increase approved at the General Shareholders’ Meeting.
Finally, I would like to highlight two distinctions awarded to the Group. I am referring to our inclusion, for the third consecutive year, in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index for our commitment to gender equality policies and the transparency of our performance as a listed company. We are the only Spanish hotel company included in the index, which particularly values our feminine leadership and talent flow, wage equality, inclusive culture, policies against sexual harassment, and our status as a brand committed to women’s rights. We have also been recognised, for the second consecutive year, as one of the three most sustainable leaders in the hotel sector according to the S&P Global ranking. These are important distinctions because diversity, equality and sustainability will be decisive aspects when the hotel business fully recovers. A time when, with the dedication and enthusiasm of our professionals, we aspire to continue providing the best service to our customers and return their trust and maximum satisfaction in each of their stays with us.
On behalf of the Board of Directors of NH Hotel Group, thank you.
Alfredo Fernández Agras
Chairman NH Hotel Group
Those of us at NH Hotel Group have every reason to be proud of our work in 2021. In just twelve months we have deployed a wide range of management measures. In addition to the advances in digitalisation and robotisation, which we had been applying since before the pandemic, we have added a very successful cost-saving policy, which has been key to facing these two years of sanitary restrictions.
We also found ourselves in the situation of being the first hotel company to apply a redundancy plan in Spain, at our central services. This was an especially painful measure, but it was completed in a clear agreement with the trade unions and the employees voted in favour of it practically unanimously. It brought stability at a very delicate time for business. Completing this process has allowed the Company to minimise job losses. And we are confident that the recovery that is drawing nearer will enable us to return to being net employers as soon as possible.
At the same time, we carried out a comprehensive restructuring and refinancing of corporate debt. We received two injections of capital: one through the sale and long-term leaseback of the NH Collection Barcelona Gran Hotel Calderón, and another with the capital increase led by our main shareholder, Minor International. It is a known fact that between 2016 and 2019 NH Hotel Group carried out the greatest debt reduction in its history, down to just 0.6 times EBITDA. 2019 was also the year in which we obtained the highest net income in our history, more than 100 million euros in that year.
Just three months later, in March 2020, the pandemic reduced all these achievements to practically nothing. But in reality, it did not. Having achieved them allowed us to face a devastating, sudden and very deep crisis from a better position. With that prior support, in these two years we have managed to re-apply the same method of debt containment, cash protection and sufficient liquidity. Time will tell whether or not the record results achieved in 2019 have more merit than those achieved in 2021. I have been involved in both, and personally I am even more satisfied with the latter. I will give you one reason: apart from the dramatic effect of the pandemic on the accounts for the last two years, if we were efficient in 2019, we were even more so in 2021.
Of course, the restructuring and refinancing of debt has been an essential milestone in strengthening our corporate future. Every step taken in the past year has been significant. One was the 400 million euros senior secured bond issue completed in June, maturing in July 2026 with an annual coupon of 4%. The capital received was used to redeem the previous senior bond with a value of 357 million euros and maturity in 2023, three years earlier than the current one. In parallel, we had already extended the two credit lines activated. The first one, from the Instituto de Crédito Oficial, for 250 million euros. Also, the Syndicated Credit Line (RCF) for 242 million euros. The maturity of the two was changed from 2023 to 2026, which has freed us from relevant debt maturities until four years from now, leaving us in an extremely solid financial position to undertake the industry recovery.
Moreover, last summer we received the express support of Minor International, our main shareholder, through a convertible loan completed through a capital increase for a total of 106 million euros. The operation substantially reinforced the Company’s liquidity position. It also gave us the support of all our shareholders. Minor exercised its rights and so did the minority shareholders, with their preferential tranche being oversubscribed by 10.9. This was an important statement of confidence from our shareholders. It also materialised at the height of summer, when the sector recovery data started to consolidate and the way out of the crisis seemed more and more imminent. The steps made to improve liquidity did not stop there. On June 30th, our group signed a sale and leaseback deal with LaSalle Investment Management on the NH Collection Barcelona Gran Hotel Calderón. This includes an associated lease for an initial term of 20 years, with two extensions of 20 years up to a total of 60 years.
In 2021, revenues totaled 834 million euros, up 55% compared to the 540 million euros reported in 2020. This evolution is explained by the recovery of business in the second half of the year, following the flexibilization of restrictions in European countries. As a result of the improvement and strict cost control, total net income was -132 million euros compared to -437 million euros in 2020. A highlight is the change in trend since the end of the second quarter of 2021 with the lifting of restrictions in European countries. This operational improvement, together with the efficiency measures implemented by the company, the efforts to control costs and very selective investment, has made it possible to avoid cash drain in the second half of 2021. In addition, as a result of the capital increase and asset rotation, gross borrowing fell to 813 million euros at the end of the year, compared to 998 million euros a year earlier. In turn, the Group’s liquidity has also increased, with available liquidity – considering cash, other liquid assets and unused credit facilities – totaling 511 million euros in December 2021, compared to 346 million euros in 2020.
We are certain that the great efforts made in 2021 will bear fruit throughout 2022. During the restrictions of these last two years, the sun and beach model prevailed, although an alternative urban model, with much more quality and differentiation, has gradually been emerging, associated to emblematic cities and which is starting to be a growing trend in both leisure and business travel. Hardly anybody now questions the progressive shift by customers from the previous pattern, perhaps more massive and undifferentiated, towards more qualitative options with stays that are possibly shorter, but more aspirational, in which gastronomy will have more decision-making power and resorts and major urban hotels will be the leading formats in the medium and long term. For NH, this is excellent news because the new tastes match the hotel portfolio, we have been defining in recent years almost down to the last millimeter.
As the recovery takes hold, we expect to be a very active player in a rising market. With our liquidity and financial structure already well established, we are perfectly placed to take advantage of opportunities that may arise. Many international funds and investors have taken positions in the hotel real estate market. They need recognised operators capable of efficient management. We are one of the national and international benchmarks in this field, we already manage many of these hotels and we intend to be even more active in the future. In addition, between now and 2024, we are already planning to open 20 new hotels and 3,400 rooms. These will also be the years of growth and consolidation of the Anantara brand in Europe. It is set to be one of the most relevant and recognised brands in the medium term. We also have significant development plans already in progress, both in the Nordic countries and in Central Europe, and we are activating the cross-branding with Minor to increase our presence in Asia and the Middle East as well.
However, we believe that to take advantage of these opportunities and achieve excellence in our operations, we need to focus on the sustainability of our business. Therefore, as a member of the Spanish Chapter of the United Nations Global Compact Network, NH is committed to continuing to show our contribution to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), focusing especially on those directly related to our activity through the different pages of the Report.
We leave behind two particularly tough years, probably the most challenging in our company’s recent history. We have adopted important management measures, applied greater cost control and extending and improving our financing conditions. I am proud of both the results obtained and the opportunities that these efforts will provide from this year onwards. But I must also underline that all these measures would have been meaningless without the excellent performance of all our professionals. They are the ones who have built our future, with two years of exemplary work in central services and in each of our hotels, always on the front line. Their success is also the success of our suppliers, shareholders and customers, who have continued to place their trust in us. If we have come this far, I guarantee that it will be to multiply the quality and distinction of our offer. Our objective is to keep getting better every day to continue to deserve your trust.
Thank you very much
CEO NH Hotel Group