February 27, 2018 / 6:44 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Hotelier Melia beats profit forecasts despite hurricane-damaged Cuba portfolio

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Feb 27 (Reuters) - Spain’s largest hotel company Melia reported a near 9 percent rise in full-year core profit on Tuesday as a strong tourist season at home compensated for weakness in Cuba in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

“The international tourism industry has experienced a remarkable growth over the entire 2017 in a number of countries of America, Europe and Asia, including certain regions where our presence is significant, such as Mexico and Spain,” Chief Executive Gabriel Escarrer said.

In Spain, tourism had a good year despite militant attacks, the El Prat airport strike and political instability in Catalonia.

The number of international tourists visiting Spain broke records for a fifth straight year, while Catalonia remained Spain’s most visited region in 2017.

Foreign tourist demand led growth in tourism activity in Spain, generating an income of 60.3 billion euros for the country, up 10.4 percent.

Over the year, tourism gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 4.4 percent, and in Spain by 3.1 percent.

Melia’s core profit for 2017 came in at 310.3 million euros($380 million), beating a Reuters poll forecast of 305 million euros. Fourth-quarter EBITDA rose by 17.6 percent.

In Cuba, however, its biggest market behind Spain, the group was forced to temporarily close over a third of 28 hotels it then operated there due to damage after Irma struck the island.

The company said revenue per available room (RevPAR) on its Cuba portfolio fell 29.7 percent last year, and its total fee revenue dropped 76.1 percent due to Irma’s impact on the island.

Melia plans to add 30 new hotels this year, and has already opened eight in Cuba, its chief executive Gabriel Escarrer said last month. ($1 = 0.8167 euros) (Reporting by Anita Kobylinska; Editing by Susan Fenton and David Evans)

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