One of the phrases we hear most often in the lodging industry when discussing performance is it’s a market-by-market proposition. Regardless of the metrics that are being discussed and at what point we’re at in the cycle, hoteliers know conditions can vary greatly from market to market based on a number of factors like new supply, demand generators, and local economic conditions.
The reality is that phrase now has a broader and more far-reaching impact within the U.S. lodging industry as it relates to the ongoing pandemic. Not only do different cities and states within the country have varying levels of positivity when it comes to the virus with some spiking and some on the decline, but each have their own levels of vaccinations as well.
Furthermore, different levels of restriction and guidelines exist at the state level with some mandating quarantines for inbound travel. Maryland, Ohio, Washington and Connecticut, for example, have recently lifted their quarantine requirements for domestic travel (many states still have rules for international travelers); they instead ask visitors and residents to follow CDC travel guidance, according to AARP.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are among the states that still have quarantine rules, but are now exempting those who have been fully vaccinated. Furthermore, a city can have its own quarantine rules, separate from its state’s. AARP notes that Chicago, for instance, has strict quarantine rules for travelers but Illinois does not.
This brings with it its own set of challenges, particularly for large national hotel companies. Ron Pohl, COO, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, provided some perspective during last week’s BITAC Virtual Symposium.
“Our country isn’t opening up consistently. We’ve seen in Texas where they’ve removed all restrictions and there are other states that are following that so you’re trying to accommodate two different types of travelers in this environment,” he said.
Pohl continued, “Once you get the vaccine you feel like you’re bulletproof and you can just go out there and travel and do whatever but at the same time there’s a lot of the country that hasn’t yet and is still very concerned. So we’ve got to take two different approaches as an organization.”
Not only is it a moving target for hotel companies, but for guests as well. The uncertainty of which states require what has no doubt made some reluctant to travel or take a chance on making plans only to be forced to cancel them if regulations change. The more hotels can do to inform and educate travelers and put them at ease the more likely they will be to book.
With any luck by the time the busy summer season hits, most, if not all, of these state and local restrictions will be a thing of the past but until then it’s yet another challenge in what has been one of the biggest challenges the industry has ever seen.