A Shot In The Arm For Hospitality

By Dennis Nessler | February 25, 2021

On the heels of the FDA’s positive review of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. lodging industry is feeling decidedly optimistic about the prospects of increased travel and accelerated demand for hotel rooms in the coming months.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine has been proven effective at preventing moderate and severe cases of COVID-19, according to an analysis of the trial data published by the FDA yesterday. The vaccine was proven to be 85 percent effective overall in preventing severe disease, including throughout countries with newly emerging variants.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine—made in partnership with Janssen Pharmaceuticals—is given in a single shot, while the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer require two doses. In addition, the Johnson & Johnson shot only requires basic refrigeration for storage.

The company is expected to file for emergency use authorization from the FDA in the coming days. Johnson & Johnson noted that it’s ready to begin shipping the vaccine immediately and can deliver enough doses by the end of March to enable the vaccination of more than 20 million Americans. Furthermore, according to the company, it is on pace to deliver 100 million single-dose vaccines within the U.S. during the first half of 2021.

A handful of prominent owner/operator hotel executives, as well as the head of the leading hotel association, spoke out about the potential upside of the latest development in the war against COVID-19.

Chip Rogers, president/CEO, AH&LA, told Hotel Community Forum.

“The hotel industry recognizes the importance of vaccination to jumpstarting travel again. Nearly half of Americans say that their comfort traveling is tied to vaccination in some way. We’re pleased that a third vaccine option may soon be available and the effect that could have on ramping up vaccination efforts. Hotels stand ready to partner with local, state, and federal officials to offer hotels as locations for efficient, timely distribution of vaccines. The sooner we can get more people vaccinated, the sooner we can start bringing back travel and jobs and rebuilding our industry,” he stated.

The AHLA has released a number of statistics from its most recent “State Of The Industry” report which provide further evidence of Rogers’ point. For example, nearly half of consumers, 48%, see vaccine distribution as key to travel. Furthermore, 11% indicated they will feel comfortable staying in a hotel when vaccines are available to the general public and 20% said they will feel comfortable when a majority of Americans have been vaccinated.

Chris Green, president/CEO, Greenbelt, MD-based Chesapeake Hospitality, offered his perspective.

“I think the ability to accelerate vaccinations and the benefit of a single dose that does not have to be refrigerated is extremely promising for the travel industry as a whole. The success rate and the lower mortality rate with this new vaccine is also extremely encouraging. Quite frankly, it doesn’t surprise me when you put the world’s best scientists on task. I’m extremely excited about it,” he said.

Brad Rahinsky, President & CEO, Atlanta-based Hotel Equities, reinforced the point.

“The recent FDA approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is another milestone that will aid in bolstering consumer confidence around travel. With Johnson & Johnson’s scale, production capacity and ability to expedite delivery, there is a clear path forward to mass vaccination access for the American public sometime in Q2,” he said.

Rahinsky went on to add, “That’s great news for our nation and great news for the hospitality industry.”

Daniel del Olmo, president & COO, Denver-based Sage Hotel Management, pointed out that the company canvassed roughly 10,000 of its customers earlier this month to gauge their sentiment on travel. He explained that the respondents indicated they were “eager to travel” and that “having a vaccine is crucial to us feeling comfortable and secure.”

Del Olmo continued, “What we’ve heard is the more availability and greater widespread the distribution is the momentum is going to kick in, particularly around the summer months.”

He further discussed the potential impact of a vaccine on the company’s workforce.

“We’re strongly recommending to each and every one of our associates that they receive it. We’re stopping short of mandating it, of course, but we’re making all the information available so people have everything they need to make the right decision,” said del Olmo.

Plato Ghinos, president, State College, PA-based Shaner Group, noted that he was “hopeful for the fourth quarter and 2022” as he commented specifically on the vaccine. “These are all positive developments as 1.3 million vaccinations per day might get us to great numbers by the summer,” he said.


Dennis Nessler

Dennis Nessler brings more than 28 years of editorial experience, including some 17 years in the hospitality industry. He covers the industry editorially but moderates various high-level panel sessions at hospitality events and frequently conducts one-on-one interviews with C-level executives.

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