Hotels may be forced to close after months-long pandemic wreaks havoc on industry 07

Executive housekeeper Candace Carter vacuums in the bedroom as she cleans a room at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Orem on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

According to a survey from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, its members stressed that the hotel industry will continue to decline and experience more job loss unless additional COVID-19 relief is approved by Congress.

Seventy-one percent of hoteliers expressed that they would be unable to make it another six months without more government help due to the current and projected travel demand. Thirty-four percent reported they could only last between one to three more months, according to the survey.

Seventy-seven percent of hotels added that they will have to lay off more workers, as well, and 47% said they would have to close hotels without more assistance.

“Every hour Congress doesn’t act hotels lose 400 jobs,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA, in a press release. “As devastated industries like ours desperately wait for Congress to come together to pass another round of COVID-19 relief legislation, hotels continue to face record devastation. Without action from Congress, half of U.S. hotels could close with massive layoffs in the next six months.”

As travel demand continues to drop and minimal travel expected during the holidays, hotels are preparing for a difficult winter. This preparation is in place for Pennbridge Lodging, which manages two hotels in Orem, one in south Murray and one in St. George along with others.

Principal Thomas Lewis echoed a similar sentiment, mentioning that an increase in COVID-19 cases and the lack of business travel makes for a tough winter.

While the hotel industry has been struggling, Lewis said the summer in Utah County was great for leisure travel, which boosted hotel stays.

“Obviously, March was horrible and basically everyone was 5-10% occupancy while people were trying to figure out what to do,” Lewis said. “It slowly started to get better, April was a real rough month. May started to get better, but the summer in Utah County was quite a bit stronger than the rest of the country on average at least for us.”

Usually the winter is helped out by typical business travel, but without it, Lewis said most hoteliers are looking to conserve cash, keep expenses as low as possible and wait it out.

Lewis added Pennbridge does not necessarily fit into the survey the AHLA put out. With lower debt than most, Pennbridge is actually looking to begin acquiring struggling hotels.

“Our hotels have done significantly better than most, even in the state of Utah,” Lewis said. “A lot of that is location and also our Marriott branded hotels. Because we have been able to do better than a lot of our peers we actually recently launched a fund to acquire distressed hotels. A lot of this plays into how we are looking at assets from a buyers perspective.”

With COVID-19 vaccine talks sounding positive, the hotel industry is hoping, coming into the spring of 2021, there will be some sense of a new normal with travel and demand rising.