The logo of French hotel operator AccorHotels is seen on top of the company's headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France. Image Credit: Reuters

Accor plans to open more than 1,200 hotels in the next five years, increasing the number of its resorts by more than one-fifth, it said on Tuesday, the latest sign the industry is betting on strong travel demand long-term following the pandemic.

Europe’s biggest hotel group also said it plans to return around 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to shareholders in the 2023-2027 period via dividends and share buybacks, and raised its 2023 core earnings outlook.

The hospitality industry has benefited from higher prices and a rebound in travel demand in the wake of the pandemic, with consumers rushing to travel even as rising interest rates stoke fears of a recession and inflation erodes household purchasing power.

Accor forecast 2023 revenue per room (RevPAR) to grow by 15-20 per cent amid reorganisation plans that were implemented in January, and expects core earnings before interests, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 920-960 million euros.

CEO Sebastien Bazin attributed growth to the confirmation of very broad international demand across different countries, and said he expected swelling demand in almost all of the group’s segments and geographies.

“We like the commitment to return 3 billion euros to shareholders by 2027, which we expect the market to focus on today, and 2027 EBITDA targets imply c.12 per cent upside to consensus if the company executes on its strategy,” Jefferies analysts said in a note.

“However, FY23 guidance is in-line of consensus at the midpoint and shy of buyside expectations, in our opinion.”

Accor also said it aims to grow EBITDA by 9-12 per cent annually from 2023 through 2027, and its revPAR by 3-4 per cent per year over the same period.

It had flagged the proposed additions to its hotels in May when it said it planned to double its presence in Saudi Arabia by 2027, opening hotels in, among other cities, the capital Riyadh, as well as Jeddah.

Peers such as Spanish Melia Hotels, Stockholm-listed Scandic, and Pandox have also planned an increase in the number of hotels, as the sector outlook brightens. This is despite inflation hitting customers throughout the leisure industry on purchases such as concert tickets or cruises.