WASHINGTON — Despite leisure travel resuming after last year’s vacation lockdowns due to COVID-19, a new report released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association shows 21 of the top 25 U.S. hotel markets remaining in a depression or recession. The data released July 1 shows urban hotels are still in a “depression” cycle, while the overall U.S. hotel industry remains in a “recession,” according to data comparing May 2021 to prepandemic May 2019.

“Urban markets, which rely heavily on business from events and group meetings, continue to face a severe financial crisis as they have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” according to the AHLA. “Urban hotels were down 52% in room revenue in May compared to May 2019. For example, New York City, which remains in a depression, has seen one-third of its hotel rooms (42,030 rooms) wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 200 hotels closing in the city.”

New York’s revenue per available room has dropped from $249 to $95, according to the report.

The report lists cities that are major tourist destinations.

According to the report, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, New York, Chicago, Seattle and Minneapolis were in a business cycle of Depression. Chicago revenue per available room, for example, went from $126 to $52, a drop of 59%. San Francisco had the highest losses, down 70%.

Meanwhile, Phoenix and Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia, are in a state of Stabilizing/Recovery while traditional spring break locations of Tampa Bay and Miami, Florida, both showed an upswing, 10% and 31%, respectively.

“The recent uptick in leisure travel for summer is encouraging for the hotel industry, but business and group travel, the industry’s largest source of revenue, will take significantly longer to recover,” according to the AHLA. “Business travel is down and not expected to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023 or 2024. Major events, conventions and business meetings have also already been canceled or postponed until at least 2022.”

The Washington, D.C.-based group wants industry-specific relief from Congress.

“While some industries are starting to rebound as COVID-19 restrictions ease across the country, the U.S. hotel industry is still in a recession, with the hardest hit markets in a depression,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA, said in the announcement of the report. “While many other hard-hit industries have received targeted federal relief, the hotel industry has not. We need Congress to pass the bipartisan Save Hotel Jobs Act so hotels in the hardest hit regions, especially urban markets, can retain and rehire employees until travel demand, especially business travel, comes back to pre-pandemic levels.”

“Hotels are the only segment of the hospitality and leisure industry yet to receive direct aid despite being among the hardest hit,” according to the AHLA. As a resulte, AHLA and UNITE HERE, the largest hospitality workers’ union in North America, have joined forces to call on Congress to pass the bipartisan Save Hotel Jobs Act introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Charlie Cris, D-Fla.

Schatz said of the bill introduced in late April, “The pandemic has left millions of hotel employees out of work and many more struggling to get by with less hours. They need help. Our bill creates a new grant program that will bring back hotel jobs, pay workers, and help our economy recover.”

As of April, the hotel industry had reported more than 4 million lost jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the unemployment rate was nearly 20%, according to Schatz.

In Fort Wayne, hotel occupancy for May rose to 60%, below the pre-COVID-19 average of 74%, but a continuing climb from the low of 23% in March 2020.

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