When Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE:AHT) went public last year, it trumpeted itself as the only REIT (real estate investment trust) that provided one-stop access to direct hotel ownership, mezzanine capital, first mortgages, and sale-leaseback transactions.

So far, the strategy sounds more like a philharmonic than a measly trumpet. The company has put $500 million into capital and used 85% of that leveraged bankroll to purchase distressed hotels. These properties' operating income allowed Ashford Hospitality Trust to boost its quarterly dividend from zero to $0.14 per share over the past year, with yet another surge due next quarter. While some hospitality REITs such as Host Marriott (NYSE:HMT) have until recently played the funeral dirge known as the "Suspended Dividend," Ashford's structure will create plenty of cash flow to cover its dividends for quite a while.

Ashford Hospitality Trust's mellifluous tones are the result of its talented conductor. CEO Montgomery J. Bennett watched the 9/11 terrorist attacks deliver a crushing blow to the industry's already-declining revenue per available room (RevPAR). The result, however, created a gap between the long-term RevPAR growth before the attacks and the current one. It was in this gap that Bennett saw an opportunity for greater returns than a normal recovery would provide, and the Ashford Hospitality REIT was conceived. His foresight proved incisive. For 2004, analysts expect hotel RevPAR to increase by the largest amount in 20 years, and it's happening.

But what makes Ashford Hospitality Trust sing so beautifully is that management's business plan takes advantage of the industry's peaks and troughs. The hotel biz is only one year into what is, on average, a five-year cycle. In the next three years, look for Ashford Hospitality Trust to redeploy capital toward providing mortgages and mezzanine financing, similar to Anthracite Capital (NYSE:AHR), and thus generate cash flow to fund its dividends. Meanwhile, straight-up hotel owners such as Choice Hotels International (NYSE:CHH) and Marriott (NYSE:MAR) may struggle during the same cyclical downturn.

The market has overlooked Ashford Hospitality Trust much as Vienna overlooked Salieri. But Mozart's rival was doomed to mediocrity; Ashford Hospitality Trust is worthy of humming duets with the top REITs. Its stock hovers around its IPO price of $9, while yielding a maestoso 6.3%. With its visionary business model, Ashford Hospitality Trust's dividend should be music to investors' ears for years.

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Fool contributor Lawrence Meyers owns shares of Ashford Hospitality Trust and occasionally zones out to classical music.