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Intercontinental Hotel Group’s Americas business exceeded pre-pandemic activity levels in the first half as the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions accelerated the rebound in leisure and business travel.

The owner of Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, which has more than two-thirds of its global fleet of 6,000 people in the Americas, said on Tuesday revenue per available room (revpar), the industry’s chosen metric, had increased 3.5% in the Americas in the three months to June 30, compared to the same period in 2019.

The group also posted operating profit of around $351 million in the six months to June 30, up 2.6% from the comparable period of 2019.

Across IHG’s global operations, revpar declined 10.5% from 2019 levels in the first half. The group posted a worldwide operating profit of $377 million, down 8% from the $410 million profit recorded in the first half of 2019.

“Along with leisure stays, the return of business and group travel demand continued to strengthen during the period,” said Keith Barr, chief executive of IHG.

He added that the group’s strategy had enabled it to “emerge from the pandemic a stronger and more resilient business”.

IHG announced it would return $500 million of capital to investors through a share buyback program, as well as issuing an interim dividend at 43.9 cents per share, 10% more than the 2019 payment.

“As the economic outlook faces uncertainties as central banks and governments take steps to manage inflation, we remain confident in our economic model,” Barr said.