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Top 10 U.S. Hospitality Industry Sleeper Markets for 2024

By January 26, 2024February 5th, 2024Uncategorized

Members of our team at The Plasencia Group are often asked by investors for insights on hot hotel markets that may be “under the radar.” Our travels frequently take us to cities that may be overlooked by some but that we are wowed by, given their vibrancy, growth, and varied demand generators. In this edition of Market Insights, we’ll take a look at ten cities that our team has deemed “Sleeper Markets for 2024.”

These are markets worthy of consideration by hotel investors and developers, given their pace of growth and the diversity of their local economies. We’ll finish with our top pick for 2024, a market that is significantly outperforming other communities of its size and even some gateway cities with a slew of recent notable corporate relocations and fast-paced growth.

10. Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia is a major college town, state capital, and home to a diverse array of major U.S. corporations. It benefits from a highly skilled workforce, a heavy concentration of insurance firms, and no state income tax, property tax, or local income tax for businesses. Developable land is available at reasonable prices. Employers moving to the area include BlueCross BlueShield, Colonial Life, and Aflac.

9. Knoxville, Tennessee

The once sleepy college town is now the best-performing university hotel market in the Southeast. It is home to a fast-growing public university with a bustling downtown. No state income tax. Easy access is available to Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions via I-75 and I-40. Nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park generates heavy leisure demand. RevPAR is up almost 40% since 2019.

8. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is the nation’s eighth fastest-growing metro area in a state with no income tax. Major growth industries include defense, healthcare and bioscience, aerospace, information technology, and cybersecurity. Over $1 billion in public investments have been made in the region for infrastructure, roads, libraries, and life safety.

7. Jacksonville, Florida

CSX, Deutsche Bank, Mayo Clinic, Dun & Bradstreet Holdings, and others continue to relocate into the market. There is no state income tax. New downtown projects include high-end residential and a Four Seasons hotel. A new Jacksonville Jaguars stadium is in the works.

6. Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina

Graduates from Clemson, Furman, and the University of South Carolina fuel a skilled and educated workforce. A diverse employer base includes Michelin, Duke Energy, Lockheed Martin, Verizon, TD Bank, and BMW. A well-planned downtown redevelopment is underway, and a substantial influx of new residents is relocating from larger southeastern cities drawn by the region’s attractive lifestyle and amenities.

5. Boise, Idaho

Chip maker Micron Technology is in the midst of a $15 billion expansion in the region, and Facebook/Meta is also relocating staff from Silicon Valley to Boise. A recently enacted property tax reduction law has eased the burden for homeowners. The area is experiencing outsized growth in health care, retail trade, and scientific and technical services.

4. Round Rock, Texas

Round Rock is an attractive suburb of Austin and one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. An influx of new companies, such as Elon Musk’s Boring Company, Amazon’s massive Pflugerville facility, and an under-development Apple campus, drive explosive residential growth. There is no state income tax. RevPAR is up over 50% since 2019.

3. Cary, North Carolina

Cary is home to 14 Fortune 500 companies and boasts thriving Health Sciences, IT, and advanced manufacturing sectors. It is located in the middle of the burgeoning Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill triangle and has a highly educated, skilled, and diverse workforce.

2. Melbourne/Cocoa Beach/ Space Coast, Florida

High-growth demand generators such as NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and other space and defense contractors have a major presence. A skilled, educated labor force and ample affordable housing attract corporate relocations, as does the lack of state income tax, the Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal, and Atlantic Coast beaches. Convenient access to I-95 and I-4, and significant feeder markets: South Florida (3 hrs.), Jacksonville (3 hrs.), Tampa (3 hrs.), and Orlando (1 hr.).

1. West Palm Beach, Florida

Now known as “Wall Street South,” with relocations of major NE Corridor financial firms complementing established tourism, real estate, agriculture, information technology, life sciences, and FinTech growth. Recent relocations include Citadel, Related Companies, NewDay USA, and Icahn Enterprises. The area features no income tax, an attractive climate, and active lifestyle. Over 1.7 million square feet of space has been occupied in the past 12 months alone.

Are you a hospitality investor or developer looking to make a smart investment? For over thirty years, The Plasencia Group has had the pleasure of advising many private investors and family offices, as well as some of the largest real estate and financial institutions in the world. We would love to partner with you!

We welcome the opportunity to discuss these markets and others with you in more depth to see what the right opportunity may be for you in 2024. Reach out to one of our Investment Sales professionals to set up a call today!

Chief Executive Officer

Lou Plasencia

Tampa, Florida | Industry Tenure: 42 Years

As the firm’s Chairman and CEO, Lou Plasencia is responsible for The Plasencia Group’s business development activities and the oversight of all acquisitions, dispositions, and advisory engagements. He began his career with Hyatt Hotels Corporation over thirty years ago. After his departure from Hyatt, Lou spent a number of years growing the hospitality investment sales division of a major national commercial real estate firm.

A natural trailblazer, the father of three eventually left the corporate environment in 1993 to launch his own firm, The Plasencia Group, a boutique alternative to corporate hotel brokerage. The close-knit firm was born out of passion and sheer gumption. The oldest of three siblings, Lou arrived in Tampa’s cigar-making district as a young Cuban immigrant, living with his family in a one-room apartment. He is the son of a cigar factory worker who he says instilled in him the importance of “committing yourself to one thing and doing it ethically and better than anyone else.”

As an undergrad at Loyola University in New Orleans, he studied psychology and broadcast media before going on to get his master’s in education from Indiana University. After serving as a Student Affairs administrator at Indiana and then at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Lou landed a job in sales and marketing department at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. He eventually returned to Tampa to oversee the development of the Grand Hyatt on the shores of Tampa Bay. From there, he launched a long and storied career in hotel investment sales and consulting and is recognized today as one of the most experienced hotel real estate advisors in the country.

During his three-plus decades as the face of The Plasencia Group, Lou has steered a plethora of heavy-hitting hospitality deals, including one-off transactions and major portfolio disposition engagements. Over the years, he has brought together owners and investors for the InterContinental Hotels in Chicago and Miami, the Four Seasons in Atlanta, Amelia Island Resort in Northeast Florida, PGA National in Palm Beach, the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, and the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. Recognized for his integrity and deal savvy, he has served as a trusted advisor for Apollo Global, Brookfield Asset Management, Hilton Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, MetLife Real Estate Investments, Starwood Capital, and Walton Street Capital. Other transaction and consulting clients include Bank of America, Blackstone Group, Host Hotels & Resorts, PGIM, RLJ Lodging Trust and countless family offices and high-net-worth hotel and resort owners.

Lou is an active member of the Hospitality Investment Roundtable of the AHLA. He serves on the Boards of Directors of the Florida Council of 100, the Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council, the Advisory Board for Visit Tampa Bay, and chairs the School Advisory Council of St. Lawrence Parish in Tampa. He previously served on the Board of Trustees of Jesuit High School (Tampa).

A longtime resident of Tampa, he is proud to work alongside his three sons (Chris, Nick and John) in the family business. Lou has been married for four decades to his wife Jennifer, with whom he enjoys cooking, traveling, and playing “off the grid.” If he doesn’t answer his cell phone, it’s because he’s out fishing or hiking a forest.

“One of my favorite words in my native Spanish is “confianza”. It’s the close trust that builds in a friendship over time. It’s the very real affection we have for our longstanding clients. It’s also something we work hard to earn and, most importantly, it lasts a lifetime.”

Senior Managing Director

Robert Wiemer

Houston, Texas | Industry Tenure: 41 Years

Robert Wiemer is The Plasencia Group’s resident power broker. As Senior Managing Director of The Plasencia Group’s Southwest Region, Wiemer has a storied reputation among Texas hoteliers. The Houston-based executive has coordinated the disposition of over $3 billion in hospitality sales – more than any other person in the Lone Star State. His greatest hits collection includes the sale of the New Orleans Embassy Suites, Houston InterContinental Airport Sheraton, Houston Galleria DoubleTree Suites, InterContinental Houston Galleria, and a portfolio of Marriott-branded hotels in the New Orleans area.

Prior to joining The Plasencia Group in 1994, Robert served as the Director of Asset Dispositions at American General Corporation, now AIG, where he once again excelled, leading investment sales in hotels, office buildings, retail centers, apartments, and industrial investments for brands such as Embassy Suites, DoubleTree, Marriott and Holiday Inn.

The Louisiana native has devoted most of his career to asset management and dispositions. He honed his business acumen managing bank-owned real estate properties, first for First Republic Bank Houston and later for Collecting Bank, NA, a division of First City Bank-Texas. He graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Master’s of Business Administration.

A straight-shooting Southern gentleman, Robert is a natural extrovert and a rabid New Orleans Saints fan. He spends his free time volunteering at charity crawfish boils around Houston and hunting birds in exotic countries with his four children.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re selling hotels or widgets. The more time you put into it, the better your return. We’re a small firm competing against national and international firms. We excel on the service side. I think we substantially outperform based on our size.”

Senior Managing Director

Dexter Wood

Boston, New York, Palm Beach | Industry Tenure: 37 Years

Dexter Wood is an accomplished industry veteran with more than 37 years of diverse global hospitality, finance, and real estate experience. As Senior Managing Director at The Plasencia Group, he leads investment advisory efforts for the firm’s clients, including lodging transactions, developments, and strategic consulting, drawing on his almost four decades of experience at some of the world’s largest hotel and investment companies.

Dexter, who joined The Plasencia Group in 2019, does not come from a brokerage background. Rather he brings to the team a wealth and breadth of experience that includes institutional hotel ownership, management, brand development, finance, strategy, consulting, and more. Spending time in Boston, New York, and Palm Beach, Dexter anchors the Plasencia Group’s Northeastern presence and bolsters its national reach.

He is justifiably proud of having been part of a small team that put together the largest single-asset deal in the history of hotel real estate. As a senior vice president for Hilton, he was instrumental in the sale of the iconic Waldorf Astoria for $1.95 billion, a record not soon to be broken. What’s more, the team reinvested $1.8 billion of the proceeds in five hotels to facilitate a like-kind exchange transaction, thus avoiding capital gains taxes — and they did so in less than a month.

At Hilton, Dexter was Senior Vice President and Global Head of Development and Real Estate Finance and charged with governing the allocation of capital to drive new unit growth, brand expansion, advancement of the timeshare and management business, and value creation opportunities at owned properties. He led an international team of 50 professionals based in the US, London, Dubai and Singapore. In 2017 he transitioned to Senior Vice President – Investments at Park Hotels & Resorts following Hilton’s spin-off of Park and Hilton Grand Vacations, which created three independent publicly traded companies.

Dexter spent most of the 2000s as senior vice president of global feasibility & portfolio analysis at Host Hotels, the world’s largest hotel real estate investment trust. Prior to that, he was director of financial advisory services/hospitality and real estate for PriceWaterhouseCoopers in New York. He began his career with Hospitality Valuation Services (HVS).

Dexter grew up in a small town in western Massachusetts and attended boarding school in New England. From there, he matriculated at Cornell University, where he started off studying chemical engineering. Finding that avenue unsuitable, Dexter, who bartended during summers and in his spare time, made the cut at Cornell’s prestigious School of Hotel Administration, earning a bachelor’s degree. He has remained active with the school ever since and is extremely proud to have attended the graduation of his daughter as a member of the Hotel School’s class of 2023.

Dexter has also served on the Advisory Board for the Hotel School’s Center for Real Estate Finance and the Center for Hospitality Research. He was a member of the Hotel Development Council at the Urban Land Institute and is an Executive Board Member of the Boy Scouts of America.

Dexter is an avid golfer, foodie, and wine enthusiast — both in the kitchen and as a restaurant guest.

“What attracted me to the Plasencia Group is that I’m not a broker and Lou wasn’t looking for a broker. It seems that everyone in the company comes from another aspect of the industry, and we’ve all worn a lot of different hats.”

Managing Director

Chris Plasencia

Tampa, Florida | Industry Tenure: 12 Years

As a Managing Director at The Plasencia Group, Chris Plasencia has closed nearly $2 billion in hospitality transactions over the course of his career, primarily portfolio and single asset dispositions of resorts and full- and premium select-service hotels. The resident attorney on the team, with a background in drafting, negotiating, and executing a wide variety of real estate deals, Chris is well equipped to handle complex hospitality transactions, while fielding the more-than-occasional attorney joke with grace. In addition to personal involvement with his parish and other local organizations, Chris also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Visit Tampa Bay and the Jesuit High School (Tampa) Board of Trustees. Chris majored in history at Duke University and earned a Master’s degree in real estate from the University of Florida, in addition to his law degree.

When he’s not in the office you can find him spending time with his kids, Claire, Thomas, and Mary, his wife, Katie, whom he’s known since kindergarten, and his golden retriever, Molly. He is the firm’s resident wine connoisseur and makes the second-best barbecue pulled pork in the office.

I’m going to be with this company for the next 20, 30 years. I’m not looking for quick victories. I’m interested in building long-term relationships.

Managing Director

Nick Plasencia

Tampa, Florida | Industry Tenure: 14 Years

Nick Plasencia is a Managing Director with The Plasencia Group and specializes in the disposition of full-service, premium select-service, boutique, and resort properties, both in single-asset and portfolio transactions. He has personally transacted nearly $2 billion of lodging assets across all regions of the United States. Mr. Plasencia has had the opportunity to advise a wide breadth of clientele, ranging from privately held owner-operators and high-net-worth individuals, to management companies, private equity funds, and REITs.

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Plasencia worked in the Real Estate Investment Banking group of Raymond James & Associates, a publicly traded financial services firm, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, and private placements. While at Raymond James, Mr. Plasencia was integrally involved in capital raising assignments in the lodging sector, including preferred and common stock offerings.

Nick is a graduate of Harvard University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. During summer breaks, he worked in operations positions at properties with Marriott International and Quorum Hotels and Resorts, experiences he says helped give him a valuable glimpse into the human element of hotel operations.

Always keen to explore nature or a new city, Nick is a novice runner who credits his outdoorsy wife for whipping him into shape. He enjoys hiking and backpacking during his travels and taking his children for runs in the jogger. Nick is a proud advocate for the Tampa Theater, a historic U.S. theater and city landmark, and has been involved in the Theater’s real estate pursuits and charitable events.

“Our strength is in our team and the unique backgrounds that our team members bring to the table, with experiences in all aspects of the industry, ranging from ownership, to lending, operations, and brands.”

Managing Director

John Plasencia

Tampa, Florida | Industry Tenure: 12 Years

John Plasencia joined The Plasencia Group in 2014 and, as Managing Director, he works on the firm’s investment sales efforts from Tampa, Florida. In his role, he guides asset sales and is responsible for investor solicitation. John has been directly involved in the transaction of hundreds of lodging properties with a focus on Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. John previously served as Vice President and Senior Analyst with the firm.

Prior to joining The Plasencia Group, John worked in the Feasibility and Acquisitions departments at Interstate Hotels & Resorts, a global hotel management company that has since merged with Aimbridge Hospitality. Interstate, which was the largest hotel operator in the world during John’s tenure, proved the ultimate training ground for an aspiring hotel advisor. During his time with Interstate, John facilitated the procurement of numerous hefty management contracts, in addition to the acquisition of other hotel management companies.

John is a graduate of Northwestern University. He is a loyal patron of Parasol’s in New Orleans and The Brisket Shoppe in Tampa. He lives in Tampa with his wife Ariel, a broadcast journalist, and Nori, their golden retriever.

“Hospitality is a service industry, and while we occupy a unique niche on the investment side of the industry, we work to provide a high level of service to our clients and help them achieve their investment goals.”

Vice President

Andrew Pappas

Tampa, Florida | Industry Tenure: 8 Years

Andrew Pappas, a Tampa Bay area native, joined the Plasencia Group in August 2019 after spending nearly two years as a research analyst in the industrial and retail sectors for the real estate behemoth CBRE, while simultaneously earning his master’s degree in real estate finance at Georgetown University. He finds that working for the more boutique Plascencia Group puts him “in the trenches,” closer to the dealmaking, than his tenure at CBRE, where he focused on market research and quarterly reporting. “It’s definitely an engaging environment here,” he says, “and it’s more professionally satisfying to know that my work directly affects client engagements.”

Andrew supports The Plasencia Group’s lodging transaction and advisory engagements through value and feasibility analysis, investor solicitations, negotiations, due diligence oversight, and deal execution. Andrew is also essential to the development of investment marketing materials, providing memoranda and other supporting content that make properties — from premium-branded select service hotels to independent resort complexes — attractive to potential buyers. He continuously hones his skills by working alongside team members with decades of experience across the industry.

Andrew grew up in Clearwater, the son of a real estate attorney. In high school and college, Andrew worked part-time in his father’s law office. Pursuing an interest in real estate, he earned a finance degree from University of South Florida and a master’s in real estate finance at Georgetown University, which combined two of his passions to create a rewarding career.

Andrew is steeped in the heritage of his Greek ethnicity. His mother grew up in Athens and his paternal grandfather owned a Greek bakery in Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys working out, plays ice hockey regularly, and is an avid traveler.

“It’s definitely an engaging environment here and it’s professionally satisfying to know that my work directly affects client engagements.”