What a difference a year makes…or does it? That’s the sentiment of many frustrated hotel industry executives, not to mention the general population at large, as we still try to make our way out of this pandemic and back to ‘normal’ so to speak.
In fact, we enter this holiday weekend with many eerie similarities to last year as COVID numbers spike yet again in many areas of the country so it’s easy to get caught up in thinking we haven’t made any progress both in terms of hospitality and on the overall health front. But a closer look would suggest otherwise and that there is indeed some reason for optimism.
Not only are TSA numbers increasingly steadily suggesting that pent-up demand is poised to spur a wave of leisure travel in the coming weeks and months, but actual industry numbers are moving in the right direction for the first time in a long time.
According to STR, occupancy exceeded 45 percent in February, its highest level since October despite heavy winter snow storms and challenging weather. Furthermore, in the week ending March 13, STR reported the best results since the pandemic began with U.S. hotel industry RevPAR of $53.45—a decline of only 15.8% from the same week in 2020.
Most industry followers believe as the weather heats up so too will many of the occupancy and RevPAR numbers, similar to last year’s summer spike. And to be sure the continued acceleration of the pace of vaccinations provides more hope that by summer a good portion of the population will not be at risk and can travel freely.
Nevertheless, as group bookings continuing to lag with no end in sight, picking up incremental international business remains critical for the growth and profitability of the industry and to ensure a recovery. As such, there has a been a call from a number of industry associations for the Biden administration to open the U.S. borders back up for international travel by May 1. However, that time frame is looking more and more unrealistic now as Europe, in particular, continues to struggle to contain the virus. France, for example, implemented yet another strict lockdown just within the last 24 hours.
So clearly the challenges and hurdles for a full recovery still remain very much in front of us. But for many this holiday season is about rebirth and rising, and with any luck this can mark the beginning of just that for the lodging industry, and for the overall population as well.