Amid all the backslapping and proclamations that good times are back, or at least just around the corner, a nagging unanswered question wafted through this week’s New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference: Why hasn’t the long-predicted torrent of hotel transactions begun yet?

While Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels research and anecdotal evidence point to an increase in activity and interest in dealmaking, there still are a lot of hotel assets that should be ripe for acquisition, either because they’re in some stage of distress or because owners have reached the end of their planned holds. Add to that the common wisdom that hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) of dollars of private equity money is poised to purchase bargain-priced hotels and you have an environment seemingly perfect for lots of buying and selling.

Until just a few months ago, a lack of financing, plus unrealistic value expectations by owners, plus anemic operating fundamentals of the business prevented few transactions from happening. There were only 44 major hotel transactions last year, according to HVS, compared to a peak of 279 in 2005. Through April, there have been 21 sales of major assets.

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