PKF Consulting: A True Pioneer in Tracking Hotel Industry Trends

The only remaining original copy of “Trends in the Hotel Business” is yellowing and carefully guarded in the offices of PKF Consulting. Dated March 20, 1937, the report includes 16 typed pages and simple charts. By contrast, the current 114-page issue of “Trends” features a slick cover, photos, computer-generated graphics and a CD. Although the reports were written 69 years apart, they share a lot in common. Each provides an analysis of key hotel metrics, such as occupancy and room rates, and similar economic factors, like the growth of personal income.

Much like its research publication, PKF has changed structurally in the past century but has stayed committed to its original focus — hospitality. The company, which will celebrate its 100th birthday in a few years, started out as an accounting firm that also offered consulting services.

The roots of PKF date back to Jan. 1, 1911, when William Harris and Errol Kerr founded an accounting firm in an office in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue in New York. Harris, a British businessman, was chairman of the Ritz-Carlton Co. Shortly thereafter, the firm became a hotel specialist. These days, PKF Consulting is a stand-alone firm, with 10 offices and 60 employees nationwide. The firm provides valuation services, market research and site selection. It also offers brokerage services in select markets, including Austin, Indianapolis and Huntington Beach, Calif.

Over the next five years, PKF plans to expand into new geographic markets, according to Mark Woodworth, one of the firm's owners and head of the Atlanta office. PKF recently opened a Boston office and plans to grow its brokerage business and broaden the research tools it offers.

Unlike those early years, today PKF has several competitors, including PricewaterhouseCoopers. The two firms compete both in research and consulting. HVS International is its competition in the consulting and valuation sectors.

With longevity, comes depth. Loews Hotels has been a PKF client since the 1950s. Glyn Aeppel, executive vice president of development and acquisitions at Loews, speaks glowingly of PKF, referring to it as “one of the most well-respected hospitality consulting firms.” PKF provides insight for Loews Hotels with appraisals, feasibility studies, market research and ongoing benchmarking. “We rely on PKF because they are extremely thorough,” says Aeppel.

Despite nearly a century of change, both at PKF and within the hospitality industry, Woodworth says he still finds value in the 1937 copy of “Trends.” Still, the world is a different place. The first report examined train travel as an indicator for hotel room occupancy. These days, PKF focuses on air travel.

The original report was drafted as the country was starting to recover from the Great Depression, and it contained valuable insights for Woodworth when he was trying to better understand the industry during its post-9/11 slump. “It is interesting how things are different,” he reflects, “and how things are the same.”

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