Slow Season Coming Fast
By Dennis Nessler | November 18, 2020
As challenging as things have been for the lodging industry since March and the outbreak of the coronavirus, we might very well be on the verge of the most challenging period yet.
For starters, the virus is spiking again nationally and projected by many of the so called ‘experts’ to be just the beginning of a massive second wave at a time when most hotels are entering their traditional ‘slow season.’ Not to mention many property owners have exhausted any forbearance or other type of loan forgiveness that they might have been granted previously limiting their ability to survive.
On top of those issues, it seems consumers are not at all eager to hit the road and travel for the upcoming holidays, according to a recent AH&LA (American Hotel & Lodging) survey. As anyone who follows politics can attest, polls can be sometimes be deceiving, but in this case the data can certainly provide a window into how consumers are feeling.
The survey—which was conducted earlier this month and canvassed some 2,200 adults nationally—revealed that 72 percent of Americans are not expected to travel for Thanksgiving and 69 percent are unlikely to travel for Christmas.
However, that’s just the beginning. Additional findings indicated that only 32 percent of respondents have taken an overnight vacation or leisure trip since March. Furthermore, 44 percent say their next hotel stay for vacation or leisure travel will be a year or more from now or they have no plans to staying a hotel.
Similarly, business travel doesn’t look a whole lot better. For example, only 8 percent of Americans indicated that they have taken an overnight business trip since March, and just 19 percent of respondents who are currently employed expect to travel for business within the next 6 months. Furthermore, sixty-two percent of employed Americans have no plans to stay in a hotel for business.
All of these numbers, of course, underscore the need for federal aid for the lodging industry in the form of another stimulus package, which the AH&LA has very publicly advocated for, along with AAHOA (Asian American Hotel Owners Association) and other associations. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any relief in the offing anytime soon.
The Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, are further digging in on the $2.4 trillion proposed package, while Republicans and majority leader Mitch McConnell have maintained $500 billion is sufficient. Most observers agree that it’s highly unlikely a deal will be struck by the end of the 2020.
Right now, immediate relief is needed for hoteliers and the political situation remains very much in flux as rumors persist that President-elect Biden will be effectively shutting down the economy if and when he does actually take over. I know this is a hotly debated topic but I personally believe the economy and businesses need to remain open. The effects of unemployment, foreclosures, no school, etc., are far outweighing those of the virus in my opinion.
But despite all the aforementioned challenges, there is plenty to be thankful for as we approach this holiday season. Time and time again this industry has shown its resilience and commitment to serving and this crisis is no different. And the news is not all bad. Two recent vaccine announcements from Pfizer and Moderna, respectively, have resulted in stock market rallies and particularly impacted hotel stocks, including large companies such as Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Wyndham.
Just when those vaccines are actually rolled out and distributed and people feel comfortable traveling again is anyone’s guess. But in the meantime as an industry we need to give thanks to all the hoteliers out there fighting to keep the lights on and do so with the knowledge that there are better days ahead.