People are starting to take vacations again, but business travel and group events haven’t made much of a comeback. But when they do, Ryman Hospitality Properties (NYSE:RHP) could be a big winner as Millionacres Real Estate Analyst Matt Frankel and Motley Fool Editor Deidre Woollard explain in this Motley Fool Live video segment, recorded on June 15

Matt Frankel: In a normal year those numbers would be terrible. But it’s interesting to point out that there are two types of travel. There’s leisure travel, and then there’s business and group travel, pretty much all of that 61% occupancy is leisure travel right now. Business travels, it’s important to point out still has not made a comeback. People are starting to travel for business meetings again. Pretty much no conferences or conventions are happening right now. I know I was scheduled for a bunch of them in the first half of this year. None of them happened. I can’t wait till CES is brought back next year hopefully. Usually conferences let me go to Vegas and let me get out and about the country. There’s one in New York I like to go to. I’m so happy New York’s reopening. I can’t wait to get back to New York. Hopefully, I will get back to D.C. again someday. How reopened is D.C. by the way.

Deidre Woollard: Getting there.

Frankel: It’s getting there. Down here I haven’t worn a mask in a month. I don’t know how it is in DC.

Woollard: It’s about 50/50 on the street now with people wearing masks.

Frankel: Well people down here haven’t worn masks on the street since I think last May. It’s different worlds. But anyway, business travel it really hasn’t gotten caught up yet so from an investor’s point of view, a lot of hotel REITs have properties that mostly focused on leisure and they’re the ones that you’ve seen them they’re 70% or 80% occupancy right now, then you have a lot like some of our favorites that focus on business travel, that around 20%-30%, maybe they pivoted a little bit to leisure travel, things like that. Then you have some that are in the teams that specialize in group travel. Which really isn’t happening. I will talk about one of my favorites, Ryman Hospitality Properties. Speaking of being reopened in D.C., you know their hotel in D.C. is still closed?

Woollard: I do, and yet everything around it is open. I was just over there this weekend and the wheel is back open. The kids around the carousel. There’s a lot of people around.

Frankel: The Tanger Outlets (NYSE:SKT) right there is open?

Woollard: It’s true. Yes.

Frankel: But they’re opening July 1st by the way, if you were wondering. Their business is the four largest hotels by conference space in the U.S. They decided at the top of the pandemic that, that one especially didn’t really have much use for leisure travel. It was just better off to shut it down. It’s going to be so bad business wise. I think Ryman top-performing hotel is the Gaylord Palms right now, which is the one right near Disney (NYSE:DIS) World. That’s been the one that’s been most successful for obvious reasons that pivoting a little toward leisure travel. They’re at 24%. It’s not great for some of these businesses, hotel operators, their overall portfolio occupancy is about 16. That’s not including I don’t think that the impact of the Gaylord National Harbor, which is closed, they did a good job by the way, they decided to do a full room renovation during COVID and take advantage of the situation. Every room in the building has been completely redone. They’ve invested heavily. They’ve done a great job of positioning themselves for the future. They bought out their partners in the Gaylord Rockies in Denver, for example, while things are still at COVID prices, I guess you’d say. They’ve done a great job of taking advantage of the situation. But there’s a big difference between stock prices coming back, which Ryman’s definitely is on anticipation of future business and the actual business coming back. The best statistic about Ryman and then I’ll shut up about them. Right now obviously it’s 2021 so we’re talking about a year out, 2022 bookings at Ryman Properties are stronger than 2019 bookings were a year prior. We’re talking about 2022 could be stronger for Ryman than pre-pandemic times. That’s pretty impressive they successfully rebooked 64% of their canceled room nights and they’re fitting them into future years. There could be some boom times in store for Ryman’s Properties.

Woollard: I think there’s something interesting that they’re doing where they plan to sell shares to raise $300 million so they’re tightening up their balance sheet while their stock price is high.

Frankel: This what I was saying with Tanger, how they raise some capital at their new higher stock price. Not that the stock price is too high, but it’s not at a fire sale valuation like it was last year. They had to increase some debt to buy out their partners in Gaylord Rockies, like I just mentioned, they have some old debt that storm on the balance sheet, and their share prices recover to about where it was before COVID, which is pretty remarkable considering that they’re still not doing any business right now. You can’t walk in through one near you, but if you walk into any of the other Gaylord Hotels, it’s pretty empty. Like I said, the one by Disney World is somewhat busy, but for the most part, these are big convention hotels and they’re not doing anything right now, but the stock prices almost fully recovered. So raising capital to reinvest in the business at these levels is a brilliant move, especially when you were talking about lowering the balance sheet, improving liquidity. Right now, the business travel market is like a spring pulled back.

Woollard: Yes.

Frankel: They’re trying to get themselves in the best financial position for when someone let’s go of that spring.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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