2021 Review: Five key moments in resorts

Breathless Resorts and Spas - beach club
Beach Club at Breathless Resorts and Spas. (AMR Collextion)

It’s been a strange year in the world of resort hospitality and tourism. Obviously the emergence of new Covid-19 variants throughout the year meant much uncertainty on the consumer side in terms of bookings but investors continued to be convinced by the medium to long term credentials of leisure travel. 

We’ve picked five key moments from across 2021 to illustrate how things have changed across the industry over the past 18 months.

Blackstone buys Bourne Leisure 

What: U.S. investment giant bought Bourne Leisure, which operates the Haven, Butlin’s and Warner Leisure Hotels brands.
When: January/February
Why: Blackstone’s acquisition illustrates a renewed investor interest in the holiday park sector. International travel restrictions meant people were forced to stay closer to home boosting domestic holidays and a focus on the open air and outdoors has also helped. More deals have been done at the end of the year and there are even reports that Blackstone is thinking about splitting up the business with the sale of Butlin’s. 

Sani/Ikos Group expansion plans

What: Sani/Ikos Group is planning to spend €520 million on the acquisition of four new properties in Greece and Iberia plus the expansion of two existing resorts over the coming years.
When: November
Why: Since its creation in 2016, the Sani/Ikos Group has quietly been laying the groundwork for a significant expansion outside of its Greek homeland. Ndew properties planned in Portugal and Spain illustrate its appetite for growth.

Azora raises €815 million for pan-European hospitality fund

What: Azora closed its European Hotel & Lodging fund, reaching €815 million in total commitments plus additional co-investment capital, a 36% increase over the original €600 million target.
When: September
Why: Azora has been very active in the market this year, buying hotels in the Algarve and Costa Brava and at the end of November announced the acquisition of Bluserena SPA, the second largest resort operator in Italy, from the Maresca family. The warchest assembled as part of its latest fund implies it will be a key player going into 2022.

Hyatt buys Apple Leisure Group for $2.7 billion

What: Hyatt bought Apple Leisure Group (ALG) from affiliates of KKR and KSL Capital Partners, doubling its global resorts footprint.
When: August/November
Why: A lot of the big brand hotel companies have been moving into the leisure space over the past couple of years, something that pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic. But this year, Hyatt, who had lagged behind their rivals made a big splash, buying Apple Leisure Group and dramatically increasing their resort footprint.

New owners and a new CEO for Four Seasons

What: Bill Gates' Cascade Investment LLC is to take a controlling interest in Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts by buying half of Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's stake in the business for $2.21 billion. CEO John Davison also announced plans to step down.
When: September/October
Why: It will be all change for Four Seasons in 2022. The new majority shareholder will want to get things right with the appointment of a new CEO and whoever takes over will have an interesting job on their hands.