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LONDON-More than 500 hotel projects representing nearly 100,000 rooms are now in Europe’s construction pipeline, according to a new report produced by Portsmouth, NH-based Lodging Econometrics. A global specialist in lodging real estate data and analysis, LE’s inaugural European pipeline report contains an annual forecast for new hotel openings in every country on the continent during the next several years.

“The numbers are very strong, certainly the best this decade,” LE president Patrick Ford tells GlobeSt.com. Ford says the report represents the first time the scope of the European hotel construction market has been quantified, making it difficult to say how the pace stacks up to previous cycles, but he adds the sheer volume would suggest the number of projects is substantially above normal.

“Every developer seems to want to ‘catch the curve’ this cycle,” adds Ford, who attributes the activity to economic growth, available capital and the resurgent lodging industry. “The next few years appear quite opportunistic for lodging development, with one critical proviso–that there is no substantial change in the political or economic horizon.”

According to LE, there are 513 projects being pursued in the 40 European countries, 59% of which are already under construction. Those 302 hotels contain 52,580 rooms, while another 74 projects representing 13,830 rooms are scheduled to break ground during the next 12 months. The remaining 137 projects that would produce 26,989 rooms are described by LE as being “in various stages of early planning.”

In past cycles, Ford says, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain had the lion’s share of European hotel development, but various factors has shifted activity into emerging markets. As it claims title as the leading financial center in the world, London is seeing a vast number of rooms added, with nearly five times as many projects in the hotel pipeline as Moscow, which is the second busiest for room construction. The UK has 147 projects in the pipeline, 74 of which are in London, representing 13,417 rooms.

“London is booming right now,” acknowledges Ford, with hotel construction further spurred by the upcoming Olympics in 2012, plus a new rule which will allow for creation of real estate investment trusts in the country. While perhaps not a core catalyst, Ford maintains the greater liquidity offered by the public markets from a REIT structure “is one more item in a developer’s arsenal to say, ‘We should be building.’”

A lack of rooms in Moscow and St. Petersburg is leading to brisk hotel investment in Russia, which Ford says is being further instigated by the country’s robust economy from its oil and gas industries. Presently, there are 10 hotels in the St. Petersburg pipeline and 15 in Moscow, with the country overall pursuing 34 projects that total nearly 9,000 rooms.

Turkey, meanwhile, is also enjoying solid economic times, and has the fourth most hotel rooms under way in Europe with 28 projects and 5,874 rooms. Two countries which this year joined the European Union, Romania and Bulgaria, will benefit from that inclusion, says Ford. Romania has 10 hotel projects representing 1,064 rooms in the pipeline, five of which are under construction.

In other findings, LE reports that 53% or the European projects, or 272 of them, will be full-service operations. Most of those are in city centers. LE counts 281 projects between 100 and 200 rooms, mostly select service properties offering limited food and beverage or meeting facilities. The study also revealed that 72% of the projects in the pipeline already have selected a brand, and Ford said another 10% will likely make such arrangements as they approach the approval and financing process. “Having over 80% of all new openings branded is striking testimony to the power and importance of international brands in a growing globalized economy,” he says.

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