It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has damaged most, if not all, industries in the U.S. but the impact on the hotel and lodging industry looks a little different than others.
As a whole, the industry in Colorado has been crippled by safety restrictions imposed because of the virus’s spread. On Sept. 10, the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association (CHLA) surveyed 53 member hotels and found that the economic fallout from COVID-19 has decimated aspects of the industry.
However, unlike other industries, the larger chains are being affected more than the locally owned ones.
“Larger hotels that host events are dying,” said Amie Mayhew, president and CEO of the CHLA. “For some of them, 60 to 90% of their revenue comes from those meeting spaces and they can’t fill them with indoor capacity restrictions. They’re designed to hold maybe a thousand people and you can socially distance them, but indoor capacity is in the low hundreds.”
The surveyed hotels, which ranged in size from 15 rooms to 1,501, reported losing a collective $659,982,541. Furthermore, that damages the income from the state’s lodging tax, leading to a loss of $19,139,493, according to the survey.
Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said that lodging tax revenue is down significantly and estimated the loss of revenue is even worse.
“It’s a scary time to be in the industry,” she said.
But some of the smaller inns and motels, especially those in Mesa County, have been able to soften the impact of the virus.
The Spoke and Vine Motel in Palisade, 424 W Eighth St., is only in its second year of operation.
Jody Corey, who co-owns Spoke and Vine with her husband, said that adapting to virus restrictions has been easy. They replaced their breakfast lounge with room service and will virtually send guests their room number and access information. Because it is a motel, there are no interior hallways to deal with, either.
“At one point, we only had six reservations over two months. But now, we’re selling out weekends and most weeknights,” Corey said. “We’ve always been dedicated to cleanliness and we’re hearing that’s why people are coming back right now, because they already trust us.”
The Mesa Inn, 704 Horizon Drive, has seen similar success.
Sarah Urena, assistant general manager at Mesa Inn, said business is down about 25%, which she considers to be a victory given the circumstances.
Most of the people who stay are sightseers who are just passing through the state, she said.
“Business has improved drastically lately. We’re not as far behind as we thought we were,” Urena said. “You have a little bit of guilt because you’re doing well while other businesses are really struggling.”
One rallying cry for the industry has been a demand for more federal aid.
Through September, about 19,518 hotel jobs have been lost in Colorado, and another 35,859 could be lost without further congressional aid, according to a report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The number of hotels that either close or are foreclosed could also surpass 1,200, the report shows.
Mayhew said there’s massive uncertainty in the industry that supports to that grim projection.
“There’s no end in sight,” she said. “The industry really needs more stimulus money to keep it going.”
Schwenke reiterated Mayhew’s point, and said grant money is the best route because it wouldn’t need to be repaid. If hotels can survive until spring 2021 and an effective COVID-19 vaccine is distributed, then hotels can make the most out of their prime season — April through October.
Until relief comes, people such as Urena are doing what they can to help each other out.
“We have some pet rooms but also don’t allow cats. So if we’re full or someone has a cat, I’ll direct them to locally owned hotels to stay at. I’ll also push guests to go to Enzo’s or some other restaurants I know need the business,” she said. “We need to keep things local and keep people open. Help your neighbors, check on them.”