The average U.S. hotel will suffer a 1.6% decline in operating profits this year, the first decline since 1991, a prominent hospitality research firm has projected.

PKF Consulting of San Francisco forecasts that a combination of declining occupancy and sluggish growth in room rates will lead to revenue growth of just 0.2% by yearend. That rate is not only "anemic" but a full two percentage points below the estimated rate of inflation, PKF said. Hence, hotels will have difficulty cutting costs, and profitability is expected to fall.

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