CHART: The percent of hotel rooms booked two weeks before Labor Day dropped dramatically from 41% in 2019 to 14% this year. SOURCE: Amadeus 

By CBJ News Staff

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released an analysis on the economic and human struggle of the hotel industry six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions of employees still furloughed or laid off and travel demand lagging far behind normal levels.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Four out of 10 hotel employees are still not working.
  • Almost two-thirds (65%) of hotels remain at or below 50% occupancy, which is below the threshold at which most hotels can break even and pay debt.
  • Consumer travel remains at all-time low, with only 33% of Americans reporting they have traveled overnight for leisure or vacation since March and just 38% saying they are likely to travel by the end of the year.
  • Urban hotels are suffering the most and facing collapse with cripplingly low occupancies of 38%, significantly below the national average.
  • COVID-19 has left hotels in major cities across the country struggling to stay in business, resulting in massive job loss and dramatically reducing state and local tax revenue for 2020 and beyond. 

Hotels in the Corridor have not only been hurt by the pandemic, but also are facing a fall without Iowa Hawkeye football

Angela Harrington, the entrepreneur behind the Hotel Grinnell and The Highlander, said the football cancellation “adds insult to injury.” The 97-room hotel opened July 4 weekend after a $5 million top-to-bottom renovation, and has endured days when the number of guests could be counted on two hands. The facility’s ballroom and other rentable spaces have sat empty with the event business “evaporating overnight.”

Meanwhile, a staff of 40-50 across both hotels has dropped to about 15 post-pandemic.

“The loss of football is terrible,” Ms. Harrington said. “But the 40,000-foot view is that [lost] weekends of home football games pales in comparison to the catastrophic impact of the pandemic for what is now six months.” CBJ