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Read an interview by Eric Resnick KSL Capital Partners on how the Walker and Dunlop have had their best year in the travel business during 2020 and 2021 despite covid-19

Walker Webcast: KSL’s Travel & Leisure Platform Moves from Surviving in 2020 to Thriving in 2021

For a crow’s-nest view of the travel and leisure sector and its fall and rise over the past 18 months, it’s hard to beat the vantage point of KSL Capital Partners CEO Eric Resnick. In the first face-to-face, one-on-one Walker Webcast conversation with Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker since the weekly series was launched in March 2020, Resnick drew a striking contrast between 2020 and 2021. 

Denver-based KSL has invested exclusively in travel and leisure businesses, ranging from center-city hotels to Colorado ski resorts and luxury destinations in the Maldives, since its formation in 2005. Unsurprisingly, those businesses, domestically and overseas, essentially shut down when the pandemic put much of the world on a regimen of extremely limited travel options. 

As a result, 90% of the team across KSL’s enterprises experienced financial hardship due to the lockdown, said Resnick. “Understandably, we had people questioning whether we would survive,” he told Walker. 

Today it’s a different story. “Last year was about surviving,” Resnick said. “This year, we’re thriving.” 

During the survival phase of the past 18 months, Resnick said, KSL prioritized its people first, then its liquidity, and then future opportunities. In 2021, the opportunities have been coming back, such as the launch last month of a select-service platform, Mission Hill Hospitality. 

Helping the company shift from defense to offense was the advent of COVID-19 vaccines, Resnick said. There’s also the pent-up demand the vaccines helped to release.  

‘Leisure travel is resilient,” said Resnick. “People will come back.” He’d figured, though, that it would have taken a little longer.  

When it comes to properties geared toward leisure travel, “you can’t have enough hotel rooms,” Resnick said. Corporate travel has been slower to rebound, although Resnick predicted that the shift to remote work would actually give a boost to business travel, as corporations move to offsite gatherings. 

An investment that KSL made prior to the pandemic proved to be fortuitous as airline travel ground to a halt last year: its significant stake in adventure-hospitality company Under Canvas. With few opportunities to fly away for a vacation, people opted for “glamping” accommodations near America’s national parks. 

“There’s no better travel business during a pandemic,” said Resnick. 

Since its formation, KSL has raised some $15 billion for both debt and equity vehicles. Its first fund eclipsed the projections of the company’s founders—they were prepared to set a $400-million target, but then were persuaded to go for $750 million instead, with a $1-billion hard cap. It reached that hard cap. 

“We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” Resnick said. “We were very fortunate.” 

On-demand replays of the Sept. 15 webcast are available by clicking here and through Walker & Dunlop’s Driven by Insight podcast series. 

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Inside The Story

Walker & Dunlop’s WalkerKSL’s Resnick

About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).

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