At the close of 2019, analysts at Lodging Econometrics (LE) report that the total U.S. construction pipeline continues to grow with 5,748 projects/708,898 rooms, up 4% by projects and 6% by rooms year-over-year (YOY). The pipeline has now completed its eighth consecutive year of growth. These robust year-end counts are a mere 135 projects/76,649 rooms shy of the all-time high of 5,883 projects/785,547 rooms reached in the second quarter of 2008.
Projects under construction continue to rise reaching an all-time high of 1,768 projects with 237,362 rooms, up 7% by projects and 10% by rooms, YOY. Projects scheduled to start construction in the next 12 months stand at 2,283 projects/265,161 rooms. Projects in the early planning stage are at 1,697 projects/206,375 rooms.
In 2019, the U.S. had 1,017 new hotels/118,674 rooms open, a 2.2% growth in new supply, bringing the total U.S. census to 57,903 hotels/5,486,909 rooms. The LE forecast for new hotel openings in 2020 anticipates a 2.3% supply growth rate with 1,127 new hotels/127,896 rooms expected to open. In 2021, the forecast for new hotel openings rises slightly to 1,162 new hotels/135,228 rooms, a 2.4% growth rate.
The hotel construction pipeline outlook in the U.S. should continue to remain optimistic through 2020 and through the early part of the new decade. The financial markets are strong, a partial trade agreement between the U.S. and China has been reached, and interest rates could very well go unchanged in 2020. Overall, the economy is in a good place, and the concerns of a possible recession have eased. Lenders continue to be cautious, but lending at attractive rates is still accessible to developers and should continue to drive development.