If you're looking for lodging-industry bellwethers, Jameson Inns
However, Jameson may be a better gauge because it's not as dependent on foreign tourists, ritzy timeshares, or overseas corporate travel to drive results. Jameson reported its fourth-quarter results last night, and they seem to indicate that the domestic hotel industry is in great shape.
Revenues were up 17.5% for the quarter -- to $22.6 million -- as the company posted a narrower quarterly loss than it did in the final quarter of 2004. This is a seasonally soft quarter for the company. The second and third quarters bring home the bacon for the chain of 95 Jameson Inns, a dozen franchised locations, and 14 company-owned Signature Inns. That shouldn't detract from a healthy fourth-quarter showing that allowed the company to close out 2005 in the black.
Jameson isn't fancy, but it does treat guests to homemade Belgian waffles in the morning. Like many extended-stay specialists, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Guests paid an average rate of $65.50 this past quarter for a room that includes a microwave and a small fridge. That was a few bucks higher than last year. More importantly, occupancy rates shot up from 50.7% in the final period of 2004 to 57.3% this past quarter. Those welcome trends continued into the first two months of 2006.
However, there's something else that caught my eye with Jameson. It recently rolled out a revolutionary Stock Awards program. Guests who stay at least three nights can be enrolled in the program, and they'll receive 10% of their room rates in Jameson stock.
Thanks to Jameson's direct purchase plan, participants can add to their positions even when they're not staying at one of the company's inns. It's a brilliant concept. I wouldn't be surprised if the company's improving occupancy rates are due to empowered overnight guests who are feeling a little more loyal now that they own a piece of the place.
Maybe that makes Jameson a little less perfect as a bellwether for a little hospitality gauge Americana style, but between the waffles and the stock certificates, I get the feeling that I'll be leaning on Jameson's inn locator to help map out my family's summer vacation.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders what would happen if more companies rewarded their patrons with stock. As long as it's more productive than dilutive, he likes it. Rick does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.